Sunday, June 30, 2013

Civilian Conservation Corps stonework at Gooseberry Falls State Park - Part III

On my recent blogcation I slipped away for a day to Gooseberry Falls State Park, on the North Shore of Lake Superior, to continue documenting the outstanding stonework created by the CCC in the 1930s.  Today we'll take a tour of the "campground area" away from the falls.

The state of Minnesota does not charge a fee for viewing the Falls and hiking the trails, but the campground area requires purchase of a day pass.  The first building one encounters is the unobtrusive Ice House.

For modern campers an ice house is no longer relevant; it presumably now serves in some storage capacity.  My interest of course was in the stonework...

...which like that in the rest of the park makes use of the variety of stone available in the region, and shows evidence of the remarkable skill these young men acquired while working with their Italian stonemason supervisors.  The stones are huge, and given that size the amount of cement is modest, attesting to lots of work pre-shaping the stones to nestle into one another and to square the corners of the structure. 

A skilled stonemason will tell you that his wall should remain standing even if all the cement magically disappeared.

Just down the road is the Campground Shelter (see the top photo of this post):

I suspect the knowledge that the shelter would be visited way more often than the Ice House resulted in this building displaying some of the most colorful and visually attractive stonework of the campground.  

Again, these are huge blocks.  Someone with more experience than me may be able to estimate the weights, but it was a monumental task way more challenging than building with bricks. 

The inside walls of this shelter (and the other buildings) have stone walls that exhibit a magnificence not often encountered in public toilets.  This large structure required almost 7,000 man-days of labor and over $4,000 for materials.

Finally, a hat tip to Flickr user Monica for discovering from a conversation with a park ranger that the pattern of the stones above the arch of the shelter is intentionally arranged as a set of "mushrooms."  Some other stones in park building walls are also whimsically arranged or decorated, as for example a "Martian" face crudely carved with drill bits.

A latrine further down the road shows the same careful work:

As does the handsome Ladyslipper Lodge:

This was the first shelter built (in 1935), intially open to the weather and not enclosed until four years later.  It was originally outfitted with seven cast iron cook stoves for the use of campers and visitors.  Its completion used 3,200 man-days of work and cost about $2,000 for materials.

At the end of the campground there is one final shelter, appropriately named the Lakeview Shelter because it sits on a bluff with a view to the northeast across 250 miles (!) of water.*

Built using about 3,900 man-days of work, and again about $2,000 for materials, this shelter has been in continuous use for 75 years, hosting reunions, graduation parties, and weddings.

The final building, closest to the waterline, is the little "pumphouse"

I like the way this humble little building got lots of attention from the young CCC men, with a nice variety of stone and tight joints.  The view of the window in the photo below emphasizes the thickness of the walls in all of these structures.

And this last one, being the closest to the water and most frequently wetted with spray, has the most abundant growth of lichen.

I realize this part of the tour has been a little repetitive.  The next (final) installment - after I get the photos curated - will be more interesting, featuring the non-building structures of the campground (benches, fences, water fountains, stairs, and picnic tables).

*This is an amazing lake.  If you go three miles offshore from the campground, the lake is as deep as a 70-story skyscraper, and the 3,000,000,000,000,000 gallons of water in it would cover all of North and South America a foot deep. 


Part I - the Falls and the massive stone concourse (the "Castle") near the viewing area.
Part II - the Visitor Center and water tower.
Five posts about CCC stonework in other locations (scroll down past the Gooseberry Park entries).


  1. Took myself out to the lakeshore to photograph CCC stone work for you
    The cabin was constructed in 1936 by the Civilian Conservation Corps and is made with natural stone.
    Skater's Cabin, Tongass National Forest, Juneau, Alaska

    I put a few photos up:

  2. Thank you, Anne!

    I haven't been out to any CCC sites this summer, so I was happy to get your email with the links.

    I'll plan to post the pix some time after this weekend. I'll plan to put them in TYWKIWDBI rather than this blog because they'll get more viewers at the other location.