Ocmulgee Visitor Center

Ocmulgee National Monument

Client: National Park Service

Scope of Services: Historic Structure Report

A Paleo-Indian civilization thrived here as early as 9,000 B.C. During the Early Mississippian period, mounds and earth lodges were constructed before the area was abandoned. Extensive archaeological investigations during the 1930s prompted a drive for protection and on-site interpretation

The 1938 initial design of the Visitors Center was executed by National Park Service architect James T. Swanson. The question of how an Art Moderne style building was chosen can probably be attributed to the fluidity of building form and mound-like characteristics attainable with this architectural vocabulary; in addition, this style, uncluttered by classical references, allowed easy incorporation of the incised pottery patterns of the Indian culture into the building’s frieze. The bigger question of how the design received the approval of agency superiors is more perplexing. The building was a watershed decision for the Park Service; until that time, new park facilities were either rustic or borrowed extensively from historical precedents of the locale. This building stood out with its rounded stucco and concrete form and stark aluminum trim. Not everyone was pleased. A noted reviewer declared it “the supremely ugly museum” and recommended building a mound over it. In time, this building, the first of the new day of design, gained acceptance and was even appreciated.

JKOA prepared an Historic Structure Report to assess and herald the importance of this building, encourage the preservation of contributing design features, and guide the restoration of the building to its original appearance.

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