Established as a national park in 1917, just one year after the National Park Service was founded, Mount McKinley National Park was centered on the towering, 20,320-foot Mount McKinley. The 2,200 square miles of the park included the crest and northern slope of the Alaska Range, and at the time was the United States' second largest park, second only to Yellowstone. Advocates also hoped that the park would protect the local populations of caribou and Dall sheep, threatened by the imminent completion of the Alaska Railroad, and would encourage tourism to the central part of Alaska.
The park was expanded to 3,030 square miles in 1932. In 1938 the National Park Service built a two-story, flat-roofed hotel; it burned in 1971. The park's name was changed to Denali in 1980, in recognition of the Native name for the mountain, and the park was expanded to 6 million acres. The first national park in Alaska, Denali has always been one of the more accessible, located directly on the Alaska Railroad. Encompassing such vast expanses of wilderness, Denali has been seen as the essence of Alaskan national parks.
While the architecture is truly secondary to the natural splendors for which the park was founded, Denali's buildings illustrate an evolving Rustic style. Buildings in the park harmonize with the landscape through siting, indigenous materials, unobtrusive sizes, and an openness to the outdoors.
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