Indiana’s First CCC Museum

The ribbon cutting was also a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Indiana State Parks.

CCC veteran Otis Stahl and Glory-June Greiff at the museum opening on July 31, 2016.
The ribbon cutting was also a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of Indiana State Parks.
Photo Credit: Eric Grayson

Thirteen of Indiana’s 24 current state parks were developed or improved by New Deal agencies. Pokagon State Park, in the lake-filled glacial moraine of the far northeast corner of the state near Angola, is the only one listed virtually in its entirety in the National Register of Historic Places.

For years Pokagon has gone all out to celebrate its Civilian Conservation Corps heritage, with good reason. It had the longest continuous CCC presence of any of Indiana’s parks. Company 556, initially formed in the fall of 1933 to do several projects at Indiana Dunes State Park on Lake Michigan, established Camp SP-7 at Pokagon the following year. The ambitious development program for Pokagon included reforestation, landscaping, road building, and construction of numerous outdoor recreational facilities. The CCC boys hewed local timber and split native glacial stone to construct buildings that harmonized especially well with the local environment, following the guidelines created by the National Park Service for state parks.

The former gatehouse was built by the CCC using native materials.

Pokagon Historic Gatehouse Pocket Museum
The former gatehouse was built by the CCC using native materials.
Photo Credit: Glory-June Greiff

Nearly all the park’s present landscaping and buildings–the saddle barn, shelterhouses, much of the group camp, the beach and bathhouse, overnight cabins, and the old gatehouse–are the work of the CCC, which remained in the park until January 1942.

Veterans of Company 556 began an annual reunion at Pokagon in 1953, always the last Sunday of July. This year, not only was the 63rd annual reunion held, but also the dedication of the CCC Gatehouse Pocket Museum, housed in the former gatehouse standing at the north side of the entrance. Styled, typically, like a tiny English cottage, it is built of brick and glacial stone trim with a massive fireplace chimney.

Woodcock served as a stonemason in the park. His dream was to establish a CCC museum at Pokagon.

Museum display honoring the late Roger Woodcock.
Woodcock served as a stonemason in the park. His dream was to establish a CCC museum at Pokagon.
Photo Credit: Glory-June Greiff

“Pocket museum” is an accurate term; essentially it is no more than a single exhibit celebrating the work of the CCC here and in other of Indiana’s parks, a wonderful reuse for the old but charming gatehouse that stood idle all these years. The majority of the artifacts on display are those of one man, Roger Woodcock, who died in 2007. Roger was the man behind the annual reunions, the man who funded the National Register nomination for the park’s two-story shelterhouse and, later, who partly funded the nomination for the entire park. His story, which I recorded more than 25 years ago, is archived at the Indiana Historical Society. A photograph of Roger, nearly life-size, watches over the exhibits with pride.

Glory-June Greiff is a public historian based in Indianapolis. She has been researching the work of New Deal for 35 years.

4 comments on “Indiana’s First CCC Museum

  1. Cheryl Hurst

    You say only 13 Indiana State Parks. In my research, I learned the CCC helped or built 14 of Indiana’s State Parks and were involved in at least 5-6 State Forests, as well. These are the state parks I found were assisted by the CCC.
    The employees of the CCC helped make 14 Hoosier State Parks what they are today, either from scratch or by adding to the infrastructure of these great recreational areas: Brown County, Clifty Falls, Fort Harrison, Indiana Dunes, Lincoln, McCormick’s Creek, O’Bannon Woods (formerly known as Wyandotte Woods ), Ouabache, Pokagon, Salamonie Lake, Shakamak, Spring Mill, Turkey Run, and Versailles State Parks in Indiana.
    Tell me which you disagree with and why?

  2. Glory-June Greiff

    Salamonie Lake is not a state park, but a state recreation area. The CCC was long gone before it was developed. The property on which the CCC worked was the Salamonie River State Forest, which is a separate property administered by the Division of Forestry. Incidentally, I wrote the National Register nomination for the Hominy Ridge shelterhouse and picnic grounds within that state forest.

    • Glory-June Greiff

      Oh, and actually the CCC worked in every one of our state forests with the exception of Greene-Sullivan (which the WPA developed) and Owen-Putnam and Selmier, which came into the system after the New Deal era. You will find major studies and surveys I conducted in the 1990s on the New Deal’s work on state recreational lands in documents on file with the Division of Historic Preservation and Archaeology.

  3. Glory-June Greiff

    I bumped into this again and see that I did not answer fully. Of the state parks you list, Fort Harrison did not even come into the system until the late 1990s. (At the time of my several projects, it was not even state property.) It was not, therefore developed by the CCC, although there was a CCC camp there and some of that remains in place. O’Bannon Woods was formerly known as Wyandotte Woods for a time, a state recreation area and within the larger Harrison-Crawford State Forest. At the time of the New Deal, the property was simply a state forest (one of 12 that the CCC or WPA developed). It was not until 1974 that Wyandotte Woods State Recreation Area was carved out of the state forest. It became a state park in 2004 in honor of and following the death of Governor Frank O’Bannon. Years before he had introduced legislation attempting to make the proeprty a state park. Incidentally, Ouabache was formerly Wells County State Forest and Game Preserve and did not become a state park until 1962.

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