Filed Under Tyler, Texas

Tyler State Park

During the Great Depression of the 1930s, President Franklin Roosevelt joined with Congress to create a public relief program called the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Designed to provide jobs and stability for young men across the country, the CCC enrolled single, unemployed men between the ages of 18 and 25 in a variety of construction projects. For their work building roads, trails, dams, and firebreaks, the men received housing, food, and $30 a month ($25 of which had to be sent home to their families).

Between 1933 and 1941, the CCC assisted the Texas State Parks Board with the development of roughly fifty Texas state parks. Dozens of CCC units contributed to this park-building effort, including Company 2888, which began construction on Smith County’s Tyler State Park in 1935. The plan for Tyler State Park, designed by Ben K. Chambers and Joe C. Lair, called for the CCC to build a mess hall, water tower, boathouse, and more. The most daunting task that Company 2888 encountered was the construction of a 90-acre, man-made lake at the heart of the park. In order to build the lake, the workers had to clear substantial brush and debris, and then construct an 850-foot earthen dam. Another challenge facing the CCC was the threat posed by wildfires in the mid-1930s. Therefore, in 1936 and 1937, Company 2888 built fire breaks along the periphery of the park to defend against potential devastation.

In addition to the masonry work, dam construction, and brush clearing that Company 2888 performed, the men of the unit also found time to host dances, attend educational classes, and learn vocational trades. Smith County became a home-away-from-home for the men, and they made acquaintances with local people in the region. It was an enjoyable and rewarding time for everyone involved in the CCC, and many of the men remembered the experience for the rest of their lives.

When Tyler State Park officially opened in 1941, visitors marveled at the recreational opportunities the new site offered. Among the park's features still standing today are its original boat house, combination concession building, and bath house. In the 1970s, a flood destroyed a large portion of the park, but the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department rebuilt and modernized the damaged area. The park was reopened in 1975 and remains well-known for its prairie-style buildings, an architectural style not seen in other parks. With an array of outdoor activities and cabins, park goers today are able to enjoy the natural beauty of Tyler State Park.

Images

Bath House, c. 2008 This scenic view can be found at Tyler State Park in East Texas. This photograph reveals the Tyler State Park bath house resting upon the park's lake. The architecture was inspired by the Prairie Style popularized by Frank Lloyd Wright, according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Source: John Chandler for the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Tyler State Park in 1940 The Civilian Conservation Corps played an influential role in designing and building many state parks in Texas. Tyler State Park was built with the help of Company 2888. This aerial view shows the expansive tract of land the park sits on. One of the most attractive features of the park is its lake, which is surrounded by over 11,000 heavy stones that were transported by the CCC. Source: National Archives
Blueprints for Tyler State Park's Combination Building The following photograph was taken in 1940 and shows the original design plans for the park's combination building. The building's chief architect was Joe. C Lair, who designed the layout in the above photograph. Although the building burned down in 1990 it was later rebuilt. Source: Texas State Library and Archives
Civilian Conservation Corps Company 2888 Constructs the Park's Intake Tower The intake tower pictured above was built in 1940 by a portion of Company 2888's crew. The purpose behind the 43-foot tall structure was to control the water level of the park's lake. The structure was built with an iron gate at its base which can be raised or lowered to meet the demands of the lake's water supply. Source: National Archives
Layout for the Caretaker's Group, c. 1940 The above architectural design was also drawn by architect Joe. C. Lair. This aspect of the park was constructed throughout 1940 and "fits well within the natural park setting," according to the Texas Parks and Wildlife website. Source: Texas Parks and Wildlife
Workers New to the CCC Receive Training in Tyler This photograph from 1938 shows new CCC workers receiving on-the-job training from LEM's (Local Experienced Men). The LEM's were able to transition CCC Companies into their new roles as construction workers building state parks. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, dungaree work clothes, like those worn by workers in this photograph, were standard-issue uniforms for CCC crews. Source: National Archives
Tyler CCC Company Poses for a "Safety First" Photograph It was reported that in two years of construction on Tyler State Park the CCC workers were able to avoid any work-related injuries or accidents. This photograph draws viewers closer to the history of the park by showing some of the CCC workers who helped create it. Source: National Archives

Location

Metadata

Kollin Fields, “Tyler State Park,” East Texas History, accessed September 30, 2022, https://easttexashistory.org/items/show/71.