Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis



First Advisor

Thomas Lekan


Clingmans Dome Observation Tower sits on the highest point in Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It was constructed in 1959 as part of a ten-year project called Mission 66. Although Mission 66 is a critical component of National Park history, most people are unaware it happened. This thesis will use criticism of Clingmans Dome Observation Tower to demonstrate that critiques of Modern architectural style within the National Parks was a proxy for conflict about interpretations of wilderness and how National Parks should be used. The architectural style from this era is called Park Service Modern, and it was widespread and controversial. Conservation groups, like the National Parks Association, criticized modern designs in the parks because they believed the style did not harmonize with the scenery and purpose of the parks. This paper will show how negative opinions about Park Service Modern were tied to fear of park development. The aesthetic preference of conservationists is not in and of itself connected to the sustainability of the designs and materials, but, rather, it is connected to the representation of urban spaces in wilderness. By looking at the design, construction, and response of Clingmans Dome Observation Tower, within the context of park architectural history and the concept of wilderness at the time, it is clear that the contention over architectural style in the parks is rooted in a disagreement over the use and purpose of the National Parks. Clingmans Dome Observation Tower sits at the crux of the conflict: accessibility and wilderness.

Included in

History Commons