A Place in Time spotlights a significant cultural resource - a district, site, building, structure or object - entered in the National Register of Historic Places.
Loleta Recreation Area, Elk County. Pensylvania State Historic Preservation Office / Photo by Amanda Hinkel

Loleta Recreation Area, Elk County. Pensylvania State Historic Preservation Office / Photo by Amanda Hinkel

Upon his inauguration on March 4, 1933, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt set about combating the economic crisis of the Great Depression with his New Deal program of economic reforms and public work projects. One of the most popular programs established that year was “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), which was part of the Emergency Conservation Work (ECW) Act.

Under the CCC, single young men between the ages of 18 and 25 were hired to perform conservation work. The program was a true collaboration between federal government agencies: The Department of Labor handled recruitment, the Department of the Army clothed the recruits and supervised the camps, and the Department of the Interior (National Park Service) and the Department of Agriculture (Forest Service) provided the projects. Along with free room and board, the recruits were paid $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to support their families.

In Pennsylvania, CCC recruits undertook forest fire prevention and suppression work, tree planting, recreational development, rodent control, and plant disease management. They also worked on the Allegheny National Forest. A July 1936 article from Forest Leaves, the journal of the Pennsylvania Forestry Association, details the work undertaken on the forest. Recruits established “many miles of telephone line . . . between ranger stations, lookout towers, guard stations, and Civilian Conservation Corps camps” to aid in the fight against forest fires, improved and maintained “many miles of rural roads,” constructed “considerable mileage of automobile trails,” and reforested “land burned over many years ago.”

Pennsylvania recruits also built several recreational facilities in the forest, including the Loleta Recreation Area (known at the time as the Loleta Forest Camp) in Elk County. Loleta had been originally established in the 1890s as a lumber town with a saw mill, a broom handle factory, a shingle mill, two boardinghouses, a school, a general store and a post office. At one point it numbered 600 residents. By 1913, however, all the surrounding forests had been clear-cut and the town was abandoned. Still, nearby inhabitants continued to swim at the town’s millpond, even though it had become dangerous from logs and other debris. When the federal government purchased the land as part of the Allegheny National Forest in 1923, the locals petitioned for Loleta to be made safer for recreation. In 1933 they got their wish when the CCC began repairing the millpond’s splash dam.

From 1933 to 1937 the CCC constructed two dams to form the swimming pond, created a sand beach on the northeast corner of the pond, and built a log bathhouse, three log picnic pavilions (one has been removed), and two wooden footbridges (one crossing Millstone Creek and the other over Sugar Run). They also planted trees and improved the landscape. The structures were all designed in the Rustic Style of architecture, pioneered by the National Park Service to blend in with the landscape and the local historic context of the area.

Only four years after the Loleta Recreation Area was completed, as World War II came to Europe and Asia, many members of “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” joined the U.S. Army. Because the CCC camps were run by the Army, recruits had been trained with military order and discipline and could easily transition to military life. In addition, the officers who ran the camps had gained practical experience in overseeing raw recruits, making their job much easier as the Army ranks swelled for war.

Loleta Recreation Area was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on November 24, 2015, for its architecture and its significance as an entertainment/ recreation area.


Recent listings in the National Register of Historic Places include Buick Motor Co. Building, Philadelphia; Cornplanter Grant, Elk Township vicinity, Warren County; Delbar Products Inc., Perkasie, Bucks County; Franklin Carpet Mill, Philadelphia; Gotham Silk Hosiery Co., Philadelphia; International Harvester Co. Building, Philadelphia; Lawrence Park Historic District, Erie County; Joseph Knapp Hotel and Store, Clover Township, Jefferson County; Sellers Hall, Upper Darby Township, Delaware County; Waverly Garage, Philadelphia; and Wilkinsburg Historic District, Allegheny County.


Keith Heinrich has worked as a historic preservation specialist coordinating the National Register Program for the western part of Pennsylvania at PHMC’s State Historic Preservation Office.