Pattison State Park – Superior WI

City:
Superior, WI

Site Type:
Parks and Recreation, Shelters, Bathhouses

New Deal Agencies:
Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), Work Relief Programs

Started:
1936

Completed:
1942

Quality of Information:
Very Good

Marked:
Yes

Site Survival:
Extant

Description

In 1936, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) set up camp at Pattison State Park in Superior, Wisconsin. Pattison State Park was named for Martin Pattison, a wealthy Superiorite who had purchased the land in 1918 and gave it to the state in order to preserve its resources. The land became a state park in 1920. At Camp Pattison, the Corpsmen of Company 3663 would improve the park from a miniscule natural area to the expansive work of conservation it is today.
During its construction, the men of Camp Pattison transformed the park by clearing out and building trails and bridges, renovating the lake by building the beach and digging a new channel, installing a new water and sewage system, transplanting trees for landscaping purposes, building picnic areas, and lookouts to the waterfalls that the park holds. Most of the work the young men put in was done with hand tools. They built two major buildings: the park shelter and the bath house. These buildings were built of stone, which corps men used chisels and 14 pound sledge hammers to break the rock into perfectly shaped stones. These men would consider shaping four stones a day as good work. The shelter building contains a large meeting hall, a concession area, and restrooms. The bath house contains changing rooms, restrooms, and lifeguard quarters. These buildings are still used by visitors today, holding many gatherings and events in the large hall of the shelter.

Corpsmen dug and built a new channel on the south side of the lake at Pattison State Park. Along with the river channel, the men worked by hand to craft a new swimming beach at the park. Over 5,000 yards of sand were transferred by hand from the shores of Lake Superior onto trucks which brought the sand to the park. The men worked in two shifts to finish both the river channel and the beach, starting in May 1936 and finishing by July of that same year.

At Camp Pattison, the corpsmen were offered opportunities in education. Training at the academic and vocational level was offered to the men of the camp. Although not fully supported by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, the camp pursued efforts in educating the men outside of the occupational training they were receiving on site. About 95% of the enrolled companies took the opportunity for education. Corpsmen who couldn’t read or write entering their work at Camp Pattison would leave with those skills. 90% of men working towards earning their eighth grade diploma were successful and those working towards their high school diploma received them from Superior Central High School or Gordon High School. Men were offered the ability to attend courses at the Vocational school on evenings and Saturdays; they were able to take correspondence courses from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and earn credits from Northland College in Ashland, WI. Some men were able to attend class at the Superior State Teachers College during the day and return to camp to work as night guards.

Corpsmen enjoyed free time on and off camp once all the work was done. Along with education, recreational activities were also made available. The camp housed a reading room where members were able to study books, newspapers, and magazines. Many members took advantage of the great natural recreation at Camp Pattison, by enjoying the beach they had built as well as the natural pools formed by the waterfalls. There was a recreation building on site that included pool and ping pong tables, it housed a large hall for film screenings and dances, as well as a canteen for the mens’ personal needs. The canteen sold everything from toiletries to cigarettes. Many men would choose to walk into the town of Superior for more activities. Some men chose to hitchhike the 15 miles; however, it was frowned upon. Corpsmen were provided transportation into town once a week where they would be dropped off at the YMCA. While in town, many made use of the YMCA facilities, went to the movie theater or roller rink, or just spent time lounging around town.
While at camp, corpsmen had the opportunity to participate in sports. As for recreational sports, the men were able to practice fishing, archery, horseshoes, ice skating, and skiing. There were also team sports at camp. Basketball and baseball teams competed against other local teams, as well as teams from other CCC camps. Boxing was another important sport at Camp Pattison, boxers from Company 3663 brought back several Golden Gloves championships. There was even a field day organized in Superior for members of CCC camps in northern Wisconsin. More than 1,000 CCC members participated that day. Events included a parade and general track and field events.

Along with the building of the park and recreational activities, corpsmen found themselves a part of emergency relief work. In August 1936, corpsmen were pulled from their work to fight forest fires that threatened the area south of Pattison State Park. In March 1938, a flood on the Black River forced corpsmen to use hydraulic jacks to open the sluice gates to prevent the flood from wiping out the dam that was built years earlier.

In 1942 as the United States involvement in World War II increased, corps men were enlisting in military service. By March 1942, the CCC camp at Pattison State Park was closed. Both the bathhouse and shelter buildings that were built by the corpsmen of Camp Pattison are still standing and used by visitors today. There is signage of the CCC work that built the shelter at the south side of the shelter.

Source notes

Semo, John V. “The Story of Camp Pattison” Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources accessed: https://p.widencdn.net/paxjor/Pattison_Story-of-Camp-Pattison_PR-282

Apps, Jerry. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Wisconsin; Nature’s Army at Work. Wisconsin Historical Society Press, 2019

The Daily Tribune, “Superior Boxing Team - 17 Strong - Arrives for Golden Gloves” Feb. 15, 1938. From Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/243300793/?terms=%22pattison%22%20%22CCC%22&match=1

The Rhinelander Daily News, “Forest Fires Menace Northern Wisconsin” Aug. 08, 1936. From Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/11845841/?terms=%22pattison%20state%20park%22%20%22ccc%22&match=1

Green Bay Press-Gazette, “Flood Waters Sweep Odanah” page 8. Mar. 23, 1938. From Newspapers.com. https://www.newspapers.com/image/187372192/?terms=%22pattison%20park%22%20%22WPA%22&match=2

Site originally submitted by Ella Hunter on January 14, 2024.

Location Info


6294 WI-35
Superior, WI 54880
Douglas County

Coordinates: 46.53672, -92.11991

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