South Falls Historic District Entry Sign with the South Falls Lodge in the background, Silverton OR
The early development of Silver Falls State Park can be credited to several of the New Deal programs. A significant portion of the land for the park was purchased by the Federal Resettlement Administration (RA) c. 1935, and developed for recreational use through the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) between 1935 and 1942. During that period, a distinction was made between Silver Falls Park, which was accessible to the public, and the area designated as the Silver Creek Recreation Development Area (RDA), which was a special federal program designed to allow urban youth access to nature in a camp setting while at the same time reclaiming depleted lands from farmers and reforesting it for those camps. In 1948, the two areas were united as Silver Falls State Park and turned over to the State of Oregon for management.
The portion of Silver Falls State Park originally developed for public use occupies the northwestern portion of the current park’s boundaries as shown on the map below. The South Falls Historic District is at the heart of the Silver Falls Day Use Area today.
By 1935, the Resettlement Administration’s purchases along with land previously acquired by the State of Oregon amounted to 1258 acres. That year, CCC workers from CCC Camp Silver Creek constructed a 12×29 feet-long log comfort station. During 1936 – 1937, they undertook construction of a 33×54 feet-long stone community kitchen. The stone for the community kitchen came from a local quarry. Today those two buildings are referred to as the Nature Store and Community Kitchen respectively, and they contribute to the character of the South Falls Historic District with their rustic design and natural setting among the native fir.
In 1940, the CCC workers built the stone and timber-framed South Falls Lodge using a design developed by State Park employee J. Elwood Isted and approved by the National Park Service. As noted in a National Register of Historic Places Nomination Form, the lodge is the largest and most elaborately finished of all CCC-constructed buildings in the park as well as being the better-preserved of two major examples of Depression era stone architecture in the Oregon State Park system. The one and a half story building measures 65 x 112 feet with the principle facade facing toward South Falls and a stone veranda wrapping around the north and west sides of the building. The interior’s massive stone fireplace with timber mantle shelves and the dining room ceiling opening to the rafters are among the noteworthy elements of the design. Myrtlewood furniture designed by Margery Hoffman Smith of the Oregon Arts Project (WPA), the interior designer responsible for work at Timberline Lodge, extends the impression of quality associated with the park’s development. Works Progress Administration (WPA) workers executed the craftsmanship, producing 25 tables, 82 chairs, 11 wall and fireplace benches, and a large dining room bureau. A number of the original pieces of furniture are still on site or available in storage.
A small garage, to the northeast of the South Falls Lodge, was also constructed by CCC workers. It is currently used as a theater for educational programs.
Landscaping for the South Falls Day Use area further contributes to the quality of the district. Among the first projects undertaken by the CCC in improving the park is the stone wall at the top of South Falls. While providing a measure of safety at the overlook, the stone wall also appears to be a “natural” extension of the basalt it stands on and, thus, conforms to the National Park Service’s rustic aesthetic and reflects the agency’s role in supervising the development of this state park.
"Silver Falls State Park Concession Building Area - Silver Falls State Park," National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form. Submitted: May 16, 1983. https://heritagedata.prd.state.or.us/historic/index.cfm?do=v.dsp_siteSummary&resultDisplay=45785
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