Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts Redesignation Act
STATEMENT OF DR. STEPHANIE TOOTHMAN, ASSOCIATE DIRECTOR, CULTURAL RESOURCES, PARTNERSHIPS, AND SCIENCE, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SENATE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2923, TO REDESIGNATE THE SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL HISTORIC SITE AS THE “SAINT-GAUDENS NATIONAL PARK FOR THE ARTS,” AND FOR OTHER PURPOSES.
JUNE 15, 2016
Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to present the views of the Department of the Interior on S. 2923, a bill to redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts,” and for other purposes.
The Department cannot support S. 2923 unless amended in accordance with this statement.
S. 2923 would redesignate the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire, as the “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts.” We understand the desire to have a park’s name reflect a park’s purpose, assets, or characteristics more precisely than simply “historic site.” However, “National Park for the Arts” would be a unique designation within the National Park System. The National Park Service (NPS) is trying to avoid the further proliferation of non-standard designations in order to bring more consistency to national park names. We could, however, support redesignating the site as a “national historical park”.
There are presently 28 different designations for units of the National Park System. This large number of types of unit designations, including national park, national monument, national preserve, national historic site, national battlefield, national military park, national recreation area, and more, create public confusion as to what properties are managed by the NPS and diminish the NPS identity. The NPS is in the process of completing an updated National Park System plan, which we hope to release later this year. The plan is expected to address the naming conventions for national park units with the aim of ultimately reducing the number of different types of designations. The creation of a singular, unique designation for one park would be inconsistent with that effort.
Authorized in 1964, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site preserves the home, studios, gardens, and artwork of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), the greatest American sculptor of the Gilded Age. During his career, Saint-Gaudens completed a variety of important monuments and memorials around the country, many of them, like the Robert Gould Shaw Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts, the Sherman Monument and Farragut Monument in New York City, and the Standing and Seated Abraham Lincoln monuments in Chicago, Illinois, memorializing heroes of the Civil War.
Saint-Gaudens began his association with Cornish, New Hampshire, in 1885 when he and his family began using the property that today comprises Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site as their summer residence. The presence of the famous sculptor in Cornish attracted a variety of other artists to the area, forming the Cornish Colony of Artists, one of the earliest examples of an unplanned artist colony in the United States. The colony included painters, sculptors, authors, poets, playwrights, musicians, architects, and many other artistic disciplines, and during the presidency of Woodrow Wilson, served as the summer White House.
In addition to the Saint-Gaudens estate, Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site also includes the Blow-Me-Down Farm, historically the social hub of the Cornish Colony, which was added to the park via a donation from the park’s partner group, the Saint-Gaudens Memorial, in 2010. This addition expanded the park’s interpretive themes beyond Augustus Saint-Gaudens and his work to include the full range of artists and artistic disciplines, as well as the historical impact of the Cornish Colony.
Generally, National Park System units designated as national historic sites tell a discrete story or contain a small number of historic resources related to that story. National Park System units designated as national historical parks have a greater diversity of historical resources and interpretive themes and may be spread out over non-contiguous lands. The addition of the Blow-Me-Down Farm to the park in 2010 added new historical resources and interpretive themes to Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site. This increased scope provides a basis for supporting redesignating this park as a national historical park. The name “Saint-Gaudens National Historical Park” would incorporate the word “park” into the title, to more closely associate the site with the NPS, and it would better reflect the broad historical context and resource diversity found at this park, while conforming to naming conventions for National Park System units.
In addition to amending S. 2923 by substituting “National Historical Park” for “National Park for the Arts”, we recommend deleting section 3(b)(3). Section 3(b)(3) provides that laws or rules that are applicable solely to units that are designated as national parks shall not apply to “Saint-Gaudens National Park for the Arts.” This provision is not only unnecessary, it is also confusing and misleading. Even if the name is not amended to redesignate the unit as a “national historical park,” it would not be a “national park” but rather a “national park for the arts” which would be a unique designation, different from a national park.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony. I would be happy to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.