The Rabideau Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp is located in northern Minnesota, six miles south of Blackduck. The nation’s 4,500 CCC camps were the key component in the success of the CCC program, creating the mechanism for executing its conservation initiatives and providing the setting for the rejuvenation and training of the young men who participated in the program. But CCC camps were never considered permanent facilities and were typically destroyed or dismantled after a camp closed. Of the thousands of camps that operated across the United States, only a few remain. The Rabideau Camp is representative of the design and organization of CCC camps built nationwide and is a rare example of a CCC camp property type. It remains one of the best preserved of the few surviving camps in the United States.
The camp lies within the Chippewa National Forest, under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Forest Service. Situated on a picturesque tract of land comprising over 100 acres, the camp’s fifteen structures are sited on a low rise between Carl’s Lake and Benjamin Lake and include a mess hall, infirmary, recreation hall, education building, quarters for U.S. Army and Forest Service officers, and barracks buildings for the CCC enrollees. Typical of CCC camp architecture, these structures are generally large, rectangular wood frame buildings covered with low-pitch gable roofs. Located in long parallel rows, the buildings feature shiplap siding and multipane casement windows. The camp’s original unpaved road system forms a central loop that provides convenient access to the structures.
CCC camp buildings were built to U.S. Army guidelines and specifications and, as a result, camps built throughout the country exhibit a certain uniformity. However, the design and layout of the camps varied according to location, available building materials, and terrain. A typical camp housed 200 enrollees (young men between the ages of 18 and 25) and often included as many as twenty buildings. CCC enrollees at the Rabideau Camp were involved in a variety of conservation projects, all supervised by the U.S. Forest Service. Work projects involved nearly all aspects of forest management including tree planting, timber stand improvement, firefighting, surveying, trail building, fire tower construction, and erosion control. The camp also developed recreation areas and was involved in the construction of the Blackduck Ranger Station.
The camp remained in operation from 1935 to 1941, when the nation’s attention turned toward the war effort. The camp sat quietly during the war, although several CCC camps on the Chippewa National Forest were used to house German prisoners of war. It was a fortuitous day for the Rabideau Camp when representatives from the Department of Civil Engineering of the University of Illinois at Urbana visited the Chippewa National Forest in August 1945 with the hope of finding a suitable facility for use as a summer surveying school for university students. The university selected the Rabideau Camp for its summer school and later added a program for the Department of Forestry. The university continued its summer programs at the camp until 1973. CCC alumni also held an annual reunion at the camp for many years.
In 2006, the Rabideau CCC Camp was designated a National Historic Landmark. Today visitors may tour the camp in the summer months, fully experiencing the CCC camp environment in a highly evocative and unaltered historic setting.
Anderson, Rolf T., “Rabideau Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp,” Beltrami County, Minnesota. National Historic Landmark Places Inventory-Nomination Form, 1976. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.