April 14, 2019. If you’ve been to a National Park, you may have seen structures that resemble Lilac Way features. Designed by Landscape Architect Arthur Nichols, the seven roadside parks on Lilac Way included quirky beehive-shaped fireplaces, stone picnic tables, and rustic signage. Nichols was inspired by a unique and new style known as National Park Service (NPS) Rustic or, as it’s more affectionately known by NPS staff, ‘Parkitecture.’
The photo above shows Lilac Way’s rustic Blazer Park entrance sign in the 1940s, so similar to the Zion National Park entrance sign at right.
This labor-intensive rustic style used materials native to the region, and structures were built by hand. Created during the Great Depression in the late 1930s, the Lilac Way parks were built as one of Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Works Progress Administration (WPA) project. From 1934-1941, the Minnesota Department of Highways (now MnDOT) joined with FDR’s WPA program to build 12.5 miles of Highway 100. Soon known as Lilac Way, it remains historically significant as one of Minnesota’s largest federal relief projects.
Federal highway allocations required that at least 1% was used for roadside improvements.
Lilac Way’s handcrafted Parkitecture included
- limestone beehive-shaped fireplaces
- Fred Flintstone-type picnic tables with benches
- flagstone pathways
- ponds with surrounding rock gardens
- rustic signage
- National Park Service – Parkitecture, the NPS Rustic Style
- National Park Service Parkitecture
- National Park Service Parkitecture – Gateways
- The Cultural Landscape Foundation – Arthur Nichols