Rockefeller Memorial

 

smoky mountainsRockefeller Memorial -- President Theodore Roosevelt dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park on September 2, 1940 at this spot. On September 2, 2o09, the park was rededicated.

To thank the Rockefeller family for its assistance in establishing Great Smoky Mountains National Park, a memorial was proposed for Newfound Gap. Planning for the memorial began in January 1936, and in July, Thomas Vint, the Park Service's chief landscape architect and Director Cammerer, visited the Smokies to discuss the memorial with the park's landscape staff. As a result of the meeting, it was agreed that the memorial should be placed "on the State line on a slight elevation above the parking area on the north side," which would have placed it near the large rock cut in Newfound Gap.1


To pay for the construction of the Rockefeller Memorial, in April 1937, the North Carolina legislature passed a measure stating that it would appropriate $10,000 for the memorial if Tennessee did the same. Tennessee matched this appropriation in May.2

In December 1937, Park Service Director Cammerer wrote Superintendent Eakin that the memorial "cannot be constructed unless acceptable to us and Mr. Rockefeller," who wants the memorial to be "of the simplest possible form." Cammerer suggested having an "expert" visit the park and make "recommendations" for the memorial. He suggested Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., who has "oftentimes been employed by Mr. Rockefeller" and had a long association with the Park Service. Lastly, the memorial should not be built "until the park has actually been established and fully completed.3

On April 5, 1938, Henry Hubbard of the Olmsted Brothers landscape architecture firm met with park officials on the placement of the memorial. At this time, the memorial was to include "two informal terraces with the memorial plaque between the two levels" and was tentatively sited on the state line at the east end of the Newfound Gap parking area where it is located today.4

Preliminary work for the memorial was begun in January 1938 by Henry Rice, Jr. who was probably not with the Olmsted firm as it was noted by Superintendent Eakin that final "details" still had to be "settled" with the firm. The actual work on the memorial itself began in February. In April, Thomas Vint, now Chief of Planning for the Park Service, and Henry Hubbard of Olmsted Brothers, were in the park to inspect the memorial. 5

The Rockefeller Memorial was completed in September 19396 and included a plaque which reads:

For the permanent enjoyment
of the people
this park was given
one half by the people and states
of North Carolina and Tennessee
and by the people of the United States of America
and one half in memory of Laura Spellman Rockefeller by the
Laura Spellman Rockefeller Memorial
founded by her husband
John D. Rockefeller.


Superintendent Eakin noted that the memorial was built with funds donated by North Carolina and Tennessee and was "supplemented by CCC work.7
It was from the memorial that President Roosevelt officially dedicated Great Smoky Mountains National Park on Labor Day, September 2, 1940 to a crowd of 10,034 people in Newfound Gap.


1
Superintendent's Monthly Report, July 1936; GSMNP.
2 J. R. Eakin, Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, to the Director, National Park Service May 20, 1937; Roads, Box 1; Right of Way-Jurisdiction, Tennessee, 1937, File 5; GSMNP.
3 Arno B. Cammerer, Director, National Park Service, to J. R. Eakin, Superintendent, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, December 12, 1937; Land Acquisition, Box 15; Correspondence, 1937, File 15; GSMNP.
4 Superintendent's Monthly Report, April 1938; GSMNP.
5 Superintendent's Monthly Report, April 1939; GSMNP.
6 Superintendent's Monthly Report, September 1939; GSMNP.
7 Superintendent's Monthly Report, July 1939; GSMNP.

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