Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Billings and McKenzie County, North Dakota. The park was named for the former president, who sought solitude here after the death of his wife and mother. Roosevelt’s several visits influenced his conservation policies during his presidency. #nps #nationalparks #roosevelt #northdakota #midwest via Instagram

Theodore Roosevelt National Park. Billings and McKenzie County, North Dakota. The park was named for the former president, who sought solitude here after the death of his wife and mother. Roosevelt’s several visits influenced his conservation policies during his presidency. #nps #nationalparks #roosevelt #northdakota #midwest via Instagram

Victory Garden Comes Alive at FDR Home

Alice Waters, a distinguished food activist, chef, and Californian restaurateur, recently told the Poughkeepsie Journal:

“I just think it’s the greatest idea: that a vegetable garden comes back to life.  Maybe it will inspire a movement, like it did way back then.”

She was speaking of the Victory Garden at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site, located in Hyde Park, New York. “Eleanor’s Victory Gardens were terribly important to everybody in this country at one point.”

The World War II Victory Garden: Investing in what Nourishes

During the 1940s, Victory Gardens fed both the bodies and the spirits of the war-weakened country. Family and community gardens helped ensure an adequate food supply for both civilians and troops, and government agencies and private citizens worked together to share land, experience, and seeds. 

The context may have changed over time, yet the gardens are still an important part of the country’s landscape.

The Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Conservancy is a non-profit organization that has partnered with the National Park Service (NPS) to restore historic landscapes of the site and promote the legacies of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt.  One important aspect of the Roosevelts’ lives was the commitment to food sustainability and farming. Both were actively involved in those issues, from the soil level up to the branches of politics. The garden will help illustrate that legacy, while also encouraging conversation about these topics in our modern context.

Returning to the Garden

The nearly two-acre vegetable garden at the Roosevelts’ home fed the family even before the era of World War II Victory Gardens. As Franklin moved to different locations, his mother continued to send produce from the garden. In 1948, it was paved over to create a parking lot, which remained until 2004. Since the removal of the parking lot, the area has been maintained as a large grass field.

In 2009, The Cultural Landscape Report Treatment Plan for Springwood called for reestablishment of the Roosevelts’ Home Garden. Through a new partnership with the Roosevelt-Vanderbilt Conservancy, the garden will be reconstructed based on the Roosevelts’ meticulous notes and diagrams of what they grew, helping ensure that the site reflects its historic character and use. A single-managed garden will allow for crop arrangements similar to what existed historically.

The Conservancy and the NPS plan to have the Victory Garden fully operational by 2016, in time for the National Park Service centennial.

Why Build a Garden?

The interest in reconstructing the Home Garden extends far past simply acknowledging its historic role.

The garden begins to take root not long after a 14-hour documentary by Ken Burns, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” was aired on PBS this past September, expanding public interest in the personal and political lives of Franklin and Eleanor.  Additionally, interest in the garden reconstruction is nurtured by support of the Slow Food movement, turning attention to the importance of knowing where food comes from and how it connects us to our sense of place.  Slow Food USA, an advocacy group committed to protecting community, culture, and environment through the pleasures and process of food procurement, serves as a consultant on the project. 

These contemporary sources of inspiration – a documentary, a reconstructed historic garden, a food movement – help form tangible connections between the past, present, and future of the landscape.

The Home Garden at the Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site will be used for educational programming. With care, the value of the Victory Garden and the significance of its associations though history will continue to produce well into the future.

This Saturday, October 18th, is International Archaeology Day.  Every year on the third Saturday of October, archeology organizations around the world host programs and activities in celebration of archeology and the thrill of discovery.

To mark the fourth International Archaeology Day, the National Park Service joins the Archaeological Institute of America and other professional organizations, states, and local municipalities to offer events this weekend and throughout the month.

From urban archeology to island archeology, the there is something for everyone.  Park visitors can see highlights of the archeological collection at Minute Man NHP, hear how archeologists at the Southeast Archeological Center explore the Civil War through archeology, participate in special tours at Tumacacori NHP, and more. Through activities like guided tours, simulated digs, and classroom demonstrations, International Archaeology Day provides interactive ways to explore what’s under the surface.

National Register Criteria for Evaluating Significance

There are four evaluation criteria in identifying properties for the National Register. Criteria D recognizes those that have “have yielded or may be likely to yield information important in history or prehistory.”

Archeological resources can be a contributing feature of the historic significance of cultural landscapes. Archeology itself can also shape the landscape.

Agate Fossil Beds National Monument; or, “Home is where you hang your bones”

As an example of these human connections to the land, we visit Agate Fossil Beds National Monument (NM) in Western Nebraska. The park unit preserves the Red Cloud Campsite, an annual Native American campsite adjacent to the Agate Springs Ranch. The camp is associated with Lakota Sioux Leader Red Cloud and his relationship with James Cook. Camp use and the interactions between Native Americans and the Cook Family are documented in historic photographs and archaeological evidence.  

Today, the camp landscape contains no built structures, but the setting and its relationship to the ranch are significant. Additionally, the site may contain archeological resources that provide information about the movements and living habits of prehistoric and historic people.

A structure known as the Bone Cabin was established several miles east of the Agate Springs Ranch around 1908, laying claim to the paleontological resources of the area. Harold Cook, rancher, paleontologist, and son of James Cook, filed a homestead claim for the land in 1908 in order to gain legal ownership of the land and protect the natural resources of the Agate Springs Fossil Quarries. The cabin, windmill, and other structures at the complex housed members of his family before they moved to the nearby Agate Springs Ranch; after that, it served primarily as a field research and storage facility during scientific exploration of the area.  

The National Park Service has preserved the Bone Cabin as an interpretive landscape, and the Cook Collection showcases the numerous gifts that were received by the Lakota Sioux. Together, these resources speak of the remote Nebraska plains, the fossil buttes, the changing influences and traditions that indigenous peoples experienced due to westward expansion, and the human activities that tie these elements together.

Archaeology helps us to understand the human past and the historic actions that have left a material record on the landscape. It it fitting that a celebration and discovery of this process be active and connected to the landscape. 

What will you uncover on International Archaeology Day, 2014?

At Home in Arthurdale

The National Park Service’s Teaching with Historic Places (TwHP) program has launched its 157th lesson plan: Arthurdale: A New Deal Community Experiment.

This latest publication explores Arthurdale, West Virginia, an experimental farming community founded during the American Great Depression.

The town represented different things to different people. To First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who championed subsistence homestead communities for struggling Americans, Arthudale was a humanitarian project and a social experiment. Politicians saw it as fodder for the debate over the role of government during economic crisis. To residents, it became a home and refuge, lifting them from a poverty-plagued mining town to a place with education, work, and comforts like indoor plumbing.

The planned community of Arthurdale was a product of the New Deal. As one of the first of the homestead communities built by the federal government, it provided homes, jobs, and a cooperative community to families affected by the Great Depression. The first houses were completed in early 1934, with residents arriving in the summer of that year.

Features of the original design are still evident today.  The road system, community center, cemetery, and sewage system are still intact.    

The TwHP Lesson

Using maps, text, and photos, students will assemble an image of life in Arthurdale during this period of United States history. Students will be able to:

  • Describe the impoverished Appalachian mining town that Arthurdale’s homesteaders left;
  • Explain Progressive-era theories about communal work, school, and rural life they tested at their new home;
  • Critically assess the New Deal Homestead Project to argue whether Arthurdale was a failure or a success; and 
  • Identify New Deal projects or programs that affected their own region.

The lesson plan was written by Angela Sirna, as a graduate student at West Virginia University, and edited by Teaching with Historic Places staff.  The NPS TwHP program uses properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places to bring the significance of historic sites alive in classrooms across the country and supports the teaching of history, social studies, civics, and other subjects.

The lesson is currently featured on the TwHP homepage.

The direct link is at Arthurdale: A New Deal Community Experiment.

Many people provided advice and assistance in the preparation of the lesson plan. Please feel free to share this with educators of U.S. History, economics, politics, and sociology!

Learn more:

Are you looking for a hands-on opportunity to explore preservation maintenance training?

The National Center for Preservation Training and Technology (NCPTT) is seeking candidates for a full-time, six-month historic landscape intern. This individual will assist with the development of a landscape preservation maintenance workshop conducted in partnership with the Olmsted Center for Landscape Preservation. Other duties include assisting in video production of recorded workshop sessions.

The NCPTT is located on the campus of Northwestern State University of Louisiana in Natchitoches, LA. Find more details about the application process, the internship position, and the National Center for Preservation Technology and Training at the link above.


On October 9, 1888, the Washington Monument opened to the public for the first time.

The 555-foot-tall marble obelisk was completed in two phases of construction: one private (1848-1854) and one public (1876-1884). At one point, the monument stood partially finished, and construction halted for two decades. It was dedicated on February 21, 1885, and was the highest building in the world for a few years, until the Eiffel Tower in Paris was erected in 1889.

In 2011, the monument was damaged by an earthquake and closed to the public for repairs. It opened once more in May 2014.


How well do you know your surroundings?

Cultural landscapes often tell more than one story. Land use, design and reconstruction, historical events, and preservation efforts reflect and affect each other. Sometimes there is cohesion; other times, some unexpected feature calls out loudly. 

As we move deeper into the month of surprises and disguises, we introduce a series of posts with this mood in mind. 

Throughout October, we’ll be sharing some of the unusual, unexpected, and particularly delightful features of park cultural landscapes around the United States. 

You will see images from the past and shapes of present-day landscapes. See if you can guess the mysteries behind the forms, and - as always - please share some of your own unusual discoveries.  

Take a second look around with us: there’s always more than first meets the eye!