CCC and the Lodges
The CCC gets to work in the park
With the 1930s came the Depression and the rise of the Civilian Conservation Corps to create jobs. During this time, they made many improvements in the park and left a lasting mark on the landscape. Many of the buildings they constructed in the 1930s are still in use today.
They laid out public camps and picnic grounds, several sturdy bridges, and picturesque stone towers for the fire lookouts on Black Elk Peak (formerly Harney Peak) and Mount Coolidge. They built two major visitor centers, the Peter Norbeck Visitor Center and the Wildlife Station Visitor Center, that demonstrate their skill and unique design patterns. The CCC also built four dams that set up a future of water recreation at the park: Legion, Stockade, Center, and Horse Thief.
And they made sure to follow in Senator Norbeck’s footsteps: All improvements were carefully considered to avoid introducing anything that would spoil the park’s primitive charm.
In 1913, several American Legion Posts and a house leased the area around Galena Creek and several cabins were built. In 1932, money was raised to move the house to higher grounds and a dam was built by the CCC to form Legion Lake. The Lodge was later purchased by the state and added to the Custer State Park Resort. Today, the lake is a water stop for many of the wildlife in the Park.
At the base of Mount Coolidge, C.L. Jensen, a pioneer and executive of the Bell Telephone Company, built a log-cabin lodge from local timber in the late 1920s. It was named after the symbol of that company: a blue bell. His son, Governor Leslie Jensen, inherited Blue Bell Lodge and sold it to the park in 1935.