We are very excited to be working on a project at Mesa Verde National Park! In cooperation with the Mesa Verde Museum Association, the National Park Service, and History Colorado, we just began work on a Historic Structure Report for the Far View Visitor Center. I recently had the pleasure of going to Mesa Verde to attend the project kick-off meeting. We are fortunate to be working with a great group on this unique project!
The building was constructed as part of the National Park Service’s Mission 66 program. The program was federally sponsored, and was in place from 1956-1966. The programs’ goals were to be implemented by 1966, the 50th anniversary of the National Park system. Efforts undertaken under the program included improving deteriorated and dangerous conditions in National Parks nationwide which were the result of a visitor boom following World War II. Under the program, the National Park Service sought to add modern conveniences within the parks, educate the public, and standardize the National Park experience. The concept of a visitor center, now a staple of National Parks nationwide, came about under this program. Designers during this time embraced modern, contemporary structural forms, a stark contrast to the rustic buildings previously found in the National Parks.
Visitor Centers constructed during the Mission 66 era were usually prominently sited on major roads within the parks and were recognizable as structures associated with their specific park. Typically, expansive views were provided from the visitor centers, providing views of nearby natural and cultural resources. The Far View Visitor Center exemplifies all of these characteristics.
The Far View Visitor Center was dedicated in 1968, and is one of the last Mission 66 visitor centers to open. The cylindrical shape of the building was intended to evoke the form of a kiva, a Puebloan ceremonial structure found throughout the park. From the deck of the building, an impressive visa of the mesa is visible. The visitor center is sited on the main road through the park, across the street from other amenities such as the Far View Lodge and the Far View Terrace Cafe and gift shop.
The visitor center was closed in 2012, upon completion of a more modern visitor center, located at the entrance to the park. The building is currently vacant. Part of the Historic Structure Report will include a study of possible uses for the building, including early discussions with a possible user for the building!