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Horace P. Albright Training Center Listed to National Register of Historic Places: A Training Icon Stands the Test of Time
Historic Preservation Blog from PreservationDirectory.com -
Contributed By: National Park Service

Grand Canyon, AZ – In an excellent twist of good judgment, Horace P. Albright Training Center was officially listed to the National Register of Historic Places on September 30, 2013. The only National Park Service (NPS) training center in the West and located within the boundaries of Grand Canyon National Park, the Center is a state significant Historic District exemplifying simple, practical, modernist design of the Mission 66 Era.  

The facility, a single story building with administrative offices and classrooms, and five two-story  student dormitories is the first and only non-residential or visitor facility of the Mission 66 era to be listed.  Due to careful restoration in 2006, the Center retains a high degree of quality workmanship exhibiting the utilitarian design of a rapidly expanding National Park Service of the 1960’s.  It is listed under criteria for architecture, education, community planning and development and as an example of the funding and construction strategy of the Mission 66 Era.     

The Center serves as the primary training location for new employees, as it has since the 1960’s when it hosted ‘Ranger Operations.’ From that early curriculum to today’s Fundamentals courses, the Albright Training Center has welcomed as many as 700 new employees annually allowing them to immerse in Grand Canyon operations while testing best practices shared in the classrooms.  

Often criticized in comparison to the more romantic rustic architecture of the park service, Mission 66 modernist style has found respect in today’s current era of tight budgets.  Modernist architecture utilized new inexpensive materials and labor saving techniques, many of which were developed by the military during WWII. The assemblage of materials became the focus of the designs. The flexibility of modern architectural design dictated open interiors and expansive circulation allowing for easy adaptation to new laws and mandates such as ADA, unforeseen in the ‘50s.   The Albright facility is listed for its architectural integrity revealing these quintessential attributes of Modernism style interpreted within the Mission 66 Era of 1955-1966. 

The Center was designed by NPS architect Cecil J. Doty, a preeminent Mission 66 practitioner-, who also designed a majority of visitor centers of this time including Grand Canyon, Joshua Tree, Olympic and Colorado National Monument.  As stated in Chapter 6 of the NPS treatise Mission 66 Visitor Centers  by, Sara Allaback:

“... Doty's designs were modest and utilitarian. As if in response to (NPS) Director Wirth's greatest aspiration for his construction program—the creation of structures subordinate to the park landscape—Doty designed many unremarkable buildings. And yet, while much of the contract architect’s work appears dated, Doty's buildings often achieve a kind of timelessness. Perhaps most important to the Park Service, his designs are sensitive to the site and historical context without being cheap rustic imitations or modernistic spectacles.”

The Albright Training Center is operated by the Learning & Development office within the Directorate of Workforce Relevancy and Inclusion based in Washington DC.

Posted: January 20, 2014
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