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Identification:

Preferred Structure Name:
Furnace Creek Museum
Structure Number:
FC270
Other Structure Name(s):
 
Other Structure Name(s)
1. 
Furnace Creek Visitor Center
Park:
Death Valley National Park
Historic District:
 
Historic District
1. 
Furnace Creek Visitor Center Historic District
Structure State:
California
Structure County:
Inyo
Region:
Pacific West
Cluster:
Pacific Great Basin
Administrative Unit:
Death Valley National Park
LCS ID:
823626
 
Historical Significance:

National Register Status:
Determined Eligible - SHPO
National Register Date:
05/11/2010
National Historic Landmark?:
No
Significance Level:
Local
Short Significance Description:
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center historic complex was determined eligible at the local level under criteria A and C; period of significance 1959-1960.
Long Significance Description:
The Furnace Creek Visitor Center Historic District is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) at the state level under Criteria A and C for its association with the National Park Service’s (NPS) Mission 66 Program. The period of significance is 1959-60, which corresponds to the dates of construction and official opening of the Visitor Center Complex. Designed by NPS architect Cecil Doty, the visitor center reflects the NPS’s interpretation of modern architecture and landscape design widely prevalent across the United States at the time. The complex is highly intact and remains an excellent example of modern architectural design within the state of California.

Significant under Criterion A, the Furnace Creek Visitor Center Historic District is associated with events that have made significant contributions to the broad national patterns of American history, specifically, with the NPS’s Mission 66 Program. Mission 66 played a critical role in the modernization of the NPS and, in particular, Death Valley National Park.1 During this era of NPS development, the monument received funding for projects such as the Furnace Creek Visitor Center, new campgrounds, telephones, reliable electricity, improved roads, and upgraded water systems. These upgrades not only helped modernize the park unit and provide public access and amenities, but also helped promote the status of the monument within the park service

Significant under Criterion C, the Furnace Creek Visitor Center Historic District embodies the distinguishing characteristics of the Mission 66 visitor center property type and mid-century modernist architecture and landscape design in the park service. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center at Death Valley National Park remains as one of the best and most intact examples of a visitor center complex within the state of California associated with the Mission 66 Program. The Furnace Creek Visitor Center Historic District is one of seven existing Mission 66 visitor centers in California. The other existing visitor centers include the Cabrillo National Monument Visitor Center, the Joshua Tree National Park’s Oasis Visitor Center, the Yosemite Valley Visitor Center, the Happy Isle Nature Center (at Yosemite National Park), and the Grant Grove and Lodgepole visitor centers at Sequoia & Kings Canyon National Parks. The Mission 66 visitor center at Lassen Volcanic National Park has since been demolished.
 
Construction Period:

Construction Period:
Historic
Chronology:
 
Physical Event
Begin Year
Begin Year AD/BC
End Year
End Year AD/BC
Designer
Designer Occupation
1. 
Built
1959
AD
1960
AD


 
Function and Use:

Primary Historic Function:
Museum (Exhibition Hall)
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. 
Museum (Exhibition Hall)
Current
 
Physical Description:

Structure Type:
Building
Square Feet:
10736
Material(s):
 
Structural Component(s)
Material(s)
1. 
Roof
Asphalt
2. 
Foundation
Concrete
3. 
Walls
Concrete
4. 
Walls
Glass
Short Physical Description:
The Museum is an irregularly shaped building with three primary spaces (exhibit wing, lobby, and auditorium). A varied roof line and profile provide visual demarcation of the functional areas within the building.
Long Physical Description:
The Museum is an irregularly shaped building with three primary spaces (exhibit wing, lobby, and auditorium). A varied roof line and profile provide visual demarcation of the functional areas within the building. Starting from the east, the exhibit area is contained within a double-height, single-story flat-roofed masonry building form oriented with the longitudinal axis running north/south. The east, south and west elevations are solid masonry walls of split-face CMU laid in a stack-bond pattern. The lobby is connected to the north end of the west wall of the exhibit wing. The long south facing wall consists of floor to ceiling fixed aluminum-frame windows across the entire length and provides views out across the landscape toward the Panamint Range in the distance and into the forecourt. The north wall of the lobby, faces the courtyard and provides public access to the outdoor space. The auditorium is connected to the west end of the lobby space. Most of the auditorium forms the west edge of the courtyard with only a small portion extending south beyond the connecting lobby area. The auditorium has a gabled roof with open eaves that expose steel rafter tails. The height of the ridge beam rises from south to north. Each rafter is supported on the exterior wall by a pilaster that consists of a square tube column enclosed in reinforced split-faced block with mortared cavities. The east elevation of the auditorium, which faces the main courtyard, features several large, sliding doors. The space immediately outside the sliding doors is a covered outdoor seating area with an adjacent covered colonnade that leads north to the Administration Building. The public restrooms are located at and connected to the south end of the auditorium by an open ended covered hallway that features steel vertical louvers. The south wall of the restroom is a solid CMU wall, while the east and west elevations exhibit a recessed wall with a small rectangular slider window set high in the wall plane. Both walls are finished with cement plaster painted off-white. These elevations also feature a row of vertical enameled metal louvers that create a screen in front of each wall. The row of louvers aligns with the end of the perpendicular CMU walls.



The main entrance to the Museum has an L-shaped lightly framed and colored roofed colonnade over the entry walkway that runs along the west side of the exhibit wing and the front of the recessed lobby area. The freestanding side of the colonnade opens onto a small forecourt. The large expanse of windows in the lobby face out onto this area at the north side and a low CMU wall laid out in a saw tooth or a zigzag pattern in plan defines the southern edge of the forecourt area. The covered walkway extends well beyond the low wall and the exhibit wing to create a free-standing covered entry colonnade. The colonnade has a flat built-up roof finished on the underside with enameled steel panels and original light fixtures. A series of frames spaced approximately 16 feet on center that consist of slender, square metal-tube columns, and a small steel I-beam support the roof. The columns, like the louvers, originally were painted blue-green; they are now painted off-white. The forecourt is an “outdoor room,” or extension of the lobby space defined by the exterior walls and covered walkways of the Museum and a low, approximately 3-foot high CMU wall laid out on its southern edge in a saw tooth or a zigzag pattern in plan. The concrete wall along the southern edge of the forecourt creates a partially enclosed feeling within the small courtyard, but still allows views toward the Panamint Mountain Range from the forecourt and from the lobby.