Lounging in the 60s

Mission 66 in Rocky Mountain National Park


1956 - 1968 - Mission 66 Period in Rocky Mountain National Park 

1956 - 1960 - Initial Mission 66 Infrastructural Repairs

1960 - Beaver Meadows Entrance Station Construction - first Mission 66 structure

July 16, 1965 - Completion of Alpine Visitor Center

1965 - 1967 - Beaver Meadows Visitor Center construction

1967 - 1968 - Completion of Kawuneeche Visitor Center



By the 1950s, the need for park improvements had been increasing every year. Environmental conditions in Rocky Mountain National Park rapidly deteriorated in the decade following World War II and soon earned a prominent place in Bernard DeVoto’s controversial 1953 Harper’s Magazine article, “Let’s Close the National Parks” (DeVoto, 1953). The park never shut down, but DeVoto’s criticism drew attention to Rocky's dire condition. Its pristine natural areas were gradually being destroyed as a result of their popularity. As with many other parks throughout the United States, Rocky Mountain National Park needed immediate maintenance and improvements to its roads and structures if it was to survive.


Early Mission 66 Improvements in Rocky Mountain National Park

Although Mission 66 eventually gained widespread criticism within the National Park System for its modern architectural aesthetic, its relationship with Rocky Mountain National Park’s natural wilderness philosophy unfolded with steady caution (Carr, 2007). The project’s emphasis on improving park functionality and efficiency did not necessarily contradict the park’s preservationist agenda. The National Park Service did not immediately alter the landscape as it did elsewhere in the country, but instead spent three million (of an initial nine million dollar budget) repairing and updating water and sewage systems (Allaback, 2000). Aside from road repair (particularly on Trail Ridge Road), these discrete structural modifications composed the bulk of early Mission 66 activities in Rocky Mountain National Park during the late 1950s. In addition, the Park Service attempted to promote natural restoration efforts through extensive land acquisition. By 1963, the park had gained an additional 11,000 acres of territory and planted 7,000 new trees (Buchholtz, 1983; Bzdek, 2010).

Mission 66 Architectural Structures


In 1960, the Beaver Meadows entrance station was constructed, becoming the first official Mission 66 building to be built in Rocky Mountain National Park (Allaback, 2000). More structures followed, primarily replacing and standardizing the previous, rustic park architecture. The most prominent buildings to come out of Mission 66 in Rocky Mountain National Park were the three visitor centers: The Alpine Visitor Center, Kawuneeche, and the famous Beaver Meadows Visitor Center. These structures formed the backbone of Mission 66’s efforts to streamline mobility and enhance park experiences for guests. Their elegant modernist designs and contemporary furniture heavily evoked 1960s fashions, but were intended to redirect visitors' attention outwards to the park itself. In Rocky Mountain National Park, these buildings provided visitors with centralized gathering areas and, along with updated roads, greatly improved access throughout the entire park (Carr, 2007). With clear focal points for congregation, park planners hoped to reduce the destruction and traffic caused by unguided, guest wanderings.

Related Objects to Explore

Oak Bench; Two-Seat Oak Bench

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