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Identification:

Preferred Structure Name:
Painted Desert Visitor Center, Admin, & Apartments
Structure Number:
PD251
Other Structure Name(s):
 
Other Structure Name(s)
1. 
PD251F Apartment F
2. 
PD251G Apartment G
3. 
PD251H Apartment H
4. 
PD251A Apartment A
5. 
PD251B Apartment B
6. 
PD251C Apartment C
7. 
PD251D Apartment D
8. 
PD251E Apartment E
Park:
Petrified Forest National Park
Historic District:
 
Historic District
1. 
Painted Desert Community Complex
Structure State:
Arizona
Structure County:
Apache
Region:
Intermountain
Cluster:
Colorado Plateau
Administrative Unit:
Petrified Forest National Park
LCS ID:
266299
 
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Entered - Documented
National Register Date:
04/15/2005
National Historic Landmark?:
No
Significance Level:
Contributing
Short Significance Description:
The Painted Desert Community Complex District is significant under Criterion A for its assoc. with Mission 66, Criterion C as an example of Neutra & Alexander’s architectural design, and under Criterion G for its recent period of significance (1961-1965).
Long Significance Description:
The Painted Desert Community Complex Historic District is nationally significant under Criterion A for its association with Mission 66 and under Criterion C as a unique and noteworthy example of Richard Neutra’s and Robert Alexander’s architectural design. The Painted Desert Community Complex represents Neutra’s and Alexander’s distinctive approach to wind-swept desert design and is one of only two properties their architectural firm completed for the National Park Service as part of the Mission 66 initiative. The significance of this property was first described in Sarah Allaback’s Mission 66 Visitor Center theme study. The initial plans for a Mission 66 headquarters complex were proposed in 1957, Neutra’s and Alexander’s preliminary design was submitted in 1958, construction began in 1961, the property was formally dedicated in 1963, and construction was fully completed by 1965. Thus, the period of significance is 1961-1965. Given the recent period of significance, the Painted Desert Community Complex is also to be evaluated under Criterion G.
 
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Historic
Chronology:
 
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year AD/BC
End Year
End Year AD/BC
Designer
Designer Occupation
1. 
Designed
1960
AD
1961
AD
Richard Neutra & Robert Alexander
Architect
2. 
Built
1961
AD
1962
AD
Kealy Construction Co.
Other
3. 
Altered
1975
AD
1975
AD
NPS

4. 
Altered
1988
AD
1988
AD
NPS

5. 
Rehabilitated
2004
AD
2004
AD
NPS
Other
 
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
Visitor Contact (Visitor Center)
Primary Current Use:
Visitor Contact (Visitor Center)
Structure Contains Museum Collections?:
Yes
Other Functions or Uses:
 
Other Function(s) or Use(s)
Historic or Current
1. 
Single Family Apartment
Historic
2. 
Single Family Apartment
Current
3. 
Auditorium
Current
4. 
Museum (Curatorial) Storage
Historic
5. 
Clinic (Dispensary)
Historic
6. 
Administrative Office (HDQS)
Historic
7. 
Comfort Station (Latrine)
Current
8. 
Museum (Curatorial) Storage
Current
9. 
Administrative Office (HDQS)
Current
10. 
Comfort Station (Latrine)
Historic
 
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
Building
Volume:
20,000 - 2,000,000 cubic feet
Square Feet:
15500
Material(s):
 
Structural Component(s)
Material(s)
1. 
Walls
Plywood/Particle Board
2. 
Framing
Steel
3. 
Roof
Asphalt
4. 
Roof
Metal
5. 
Other
Metal
6. 
Walls
Stucco
7. 
Walls
Concrete
8. 
Foundation
Concrete
9. 
Walls
Glass
10. 
Walls
Sandstone/Brownstone
Short Physical Description:
Two-story bldg w/ adjacent apt wing, constructed of concrete block, steel, & glass on concrete slab foundation. Borders central plaza on S & E. Aluminum sash windows & doors. Original open-air terraces were enclosed at a later date.
Long Physical Description:
The Administration Building/Visitor Center is a two-story, rectangular building with a flat roof set on a poured concrete foundation, some structural steel framing, concrete block walls with commercial storefront, and interior frame walls. The original flat roof was initially covered with composition roofing material. A pitched metal roof was installed over the flat roof in 1989, extending the roofline over the second-floor terrace that overlooks the plaza. The west façade is dominated by a blind concrete block wall, on which the words “Painted Desert Visitor Center” appear. The west façade features a recessed aluminum frame glass storefront system on the first floor, which is the approach path objective for visitors, and three plate glass windows on the second floor with a cantilevered terrace that projects northward, visually separating the first and second stories. The balcony wall wraps around the west façade and is clad with stucco. The north façade originally featured a full-length window wall with aluminum mullions on the first floor, above which is a cantilevered poured concrete terrace. The second story featured a bank of aluminum slider windows with accompanying fixed sash transoms atop a stucco wall. Projecting from the roof and down the north façade are steel I-Beam supports, characteristically called “spider legs,” and often used by Richard Neutra as an architectural element rather than a structural element. The east façade abuts the Apartment Wing and is pierced by a recessed entry with a metal door and a bank of aluminum frame slider windows on the first story. The second story originally contained a viewing terrace with a corrugated metal wall and roof that was supported by metal support beams. This terrace was enclosed 1986-87. The second story’s east façade was originally pierced by a large sliding glass double-door and a single metal door. The south façade is a blind concrete block wall, except near the southwest corner, where three metal doors pierce this façade, two allowing access to the men’s and women’s restrooms and one providing access to first-floor offices and storage.

The 5,296 sq.ft. first floor originally consisted of a Visitor Center lobby with informational exhibits and displays. Restrooms are accessible from the exterior south façade. The naturalist’s office was included in the first floor plan, as was the ranger office, first aid station with adjoining restroom, a collection room, work room, dark room, two janitorial closets, and several additional closets. The lobby was bisected in 1975 when an auditorium was installed at the east end of the lobby. Originally, the visitor information desk was located on the south side of the lobby, but in 2000, the desk was moved to its current position along the north wall. The 4,117 sq.ft. second story contains a double-loaded corridor with administrative offices for the superintendent, assistant superintendent, and secretary, all of which have north-facing views of the central plaza. Additional spaces were prepared as the construction office, library-conference room, restrooms, mechanical room, two storage rooms, and a fire safe vault. The original office configuration was altered sometime in the late 1970s, when additional office space was created by moving interior walls.