Franklin Roosevelt created the Civilian Conservation Corps. The "CCC
boys" were to perform desperately needed conservation work on the
nation's forests and farms. In September the Illinois State Park
System was granted six CCC camps. One of these, Company 1674, was to
be stationed at Black Hawk.
1933 to 1935 a camp of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was
located at Black Hawk. Camp Black Hawk employed
more than two hundred veterans of the First World War. In exchange for clothing,
room, board and a dollar a day, the CCC men created much of the site as it appears
camp was located at the park's west end where the prairie and the park office
are found today. It consisted of six barracks, a mess hall, and kitchen, an
infirmary, bath house, and two latrines. The shower and toilet facilities at
Camp Black Hawk made it among the most advanced camps in the nation.
During the eighteen months they were stationed at the site, they built
six miles of hiking trails, trail structures,
parking lots and two picnic shelters; planted thousands of trees and wildflowers;
and constructed two-thirds of the present-day lodge.
The lodge was designed in 1933 by state architect Joseph F. Booton. It
consisted of a museum building, a restaurant and kitchen, and a lounge. The
structure was to be built in phases, starting with the museum. Ground was
broken in May 1934 and work progressed throughout the summer. In October the
men began construction of the restaurant and the kitchen (the present East
Room). This building was completed in June 1935.
were very low since the CCC performed the lion's share of the labor. The
buildings were constructed of native limestone quarried at LeClaire, Iowa. The
quarrying, facing, and transport of the stone was done by the CCC. The oak used
for the hand-hewn trusses and doors was donated by a private citizen. The CCC
boys cut the trees, then hauled them back to the camp and treated them. The
ironwork found on the doors and trusses was forged in a small machine shop found
at the camp.
In May 1935 the old
colonial-style inn was razed. The foundation, however, was left intact. The
architect's plans called for the new lounge to be built atop the foundation of
the old inn.
The state requested
additional funds from the CCC administration for the construction of the
lounge. The request was denied. In July 1935, Company 1674 was relocated to
Decatur, Illinois. Camp Black Hawk was abandoned.
Finally in 1941, the
state appropriated $80,000 for the construction of the lounge. It was built by
a private contractor. The project also included construction of a covered
walkway to connect the three buildings and provided for completion of the
interior of the restaurant so that, at long last, it could be opened.
The new lounge, built
on the foundation of the old inn was constructed of limestone veneer. It was
surrounded by open terraces on three sides. The Works Projects Administration (WPA)
provided the furniture, rugs, and draperies. The two murals in the lounge were
painted by WPA artists and donated by John Hauberg.
The new Watch Tower
Inn was formally opened and dedicated on July 19, 1942. Eight years after its
beginning, the building complex was finally complete.
The Watch Tower Lodge
has seen many changes over the years. In 1968 the walkway was enclosed as were
two of the open terraces. In 1978 the restaurant was closed. Today the lodge
is used by public groups as meeting space. In 1983 the building was nominated
to National Register of Historic Places.