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Almost Yesterday: Giant City State Park Dedication

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It seems like almost yesterday that The Lodge at Giant City State Park near Makanda, Illinois wad dedicated. The date was Sunday, August 30, 1936, and approximately 20,000 people attended the ceremonies featuring comments from Illinois Governor Henry Horner.

Giant City State Park was a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) project which came out of the first weeks of the Franklin Roosevelt New Deal program designed to combat the Great Depression of the 1930s.

Sometimes called "The Tree Army," or "The Soil Soldiers," by 1942 more than 3.2 million young Americans planted two and a half billion trees, built six and a half million control dams, fought forest fires, build road side parks, and constructed roads, bridges, reservoirs, levees, cabins and lodges in state parks and national forests.

Three CCC units were assigned to Giant City State Park with one of the companies, number 696, staying at the park from 1933 to 1942, to build a lodge and cabins that would attract tourists to scenic and historic southern Illinois. A special emphasis of the project was to establish a facility that reflected the regional. Local sandstone and woods were used to construct the lodge, with huge oak logs, hewn on the site for beams and pillars. The doors, floors, and shingles were made of wood from local suppliers, and a local blacksmith completed the necessary metal work.

The men of Company 696 also constructed the furniture for the lodge and cabins, and were soon commissioned to build furniture for other Illinoi parks.

The total cost of the Giant City Lodge was $106,000 but public response necessitated expansion. Today, over two million people annually visit Giant City State Park, a shining achievement from the dark days of the Great Depression.

It seems like almost yesterday.

Frank Nickell is a history professor at Southeast Missouri State University.
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