Arizona Historic Preservation Partners Celebrate National Historic Landmark Status of Painted Desert Community Complex

January 17, 2017

PHOENIX - On January 11, 2017 the US Department of the Interior announced 24 new National Historic Landmarks, one of which is located in Arizona. The Painted Desert Community Complex at Petrified Forest National Park is the newest addition to the 45 other properties designated as National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) in Arizona. The Arizona State Historic Preservation Office(SHPO), a division of Arizona State Parks and Trails, together with its partners the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Modern Phoenix, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation are excited to share the news of the new Landmark status of the Painted Desert Community Complex, which was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. 

"The Painted Desert Community Center at Petrified Forest National Park has been a labor of love for representatives of the Arizona non-profit groups who have visited the site numerous times, advocated for its restoration and Landmark status, and communicated progress to Arizona's preservation community and the public at large. We appreciate the work of Superintendent Brad Traver and the National Trust for Historic Preservation for pulling us all together to help move the project forward,” said Jim McPherson, President, Board of Directors, Arizona Preservation Foundation. 

Arizona State Historic Preservation Officer, Kathryn Leonard, echoed Mr. McPherson’s praise of National Park Service (NPS) efforts to restore the National Register-listed property to grandeur befitting its Landmark Status. “The Park Service’s dedication to resources to this building represents exemplary stewardship as well as a positive investment in heritage tourism for Arizona. The restored Desert Complex, now a National Historic Landmark, will provide yet another important destination for visitor’s planning their northern Arizona itinerary.” Petrified Forest National Park is located off of Interstate 40, approximately 260 miles east of Flagstaff. 

The Painted Desert Community Complex serves as the park’s headquarters and is the largest project of the Parks Service’s decade-long Mission 66 program, intended to modernize park facilities by its 50-year anniversary. Designed by renowned architects Richard J. Neutra and Robert E. Alexander in the International Style, the complex contains the many park headquarter functions including a new property type—the visitor center. The complex contains over 20 buildings, sites, and structures. Neutra, one of the top architects of the modernist movement, completed plans for the complex in 1958. Construction was accomplished between 1961 and 1963. 

Over the past few years there has been an effort by the Arizona Preservation Foundation, Modern Phoenix, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, among others, to help the park rehabilitate some of the properties at the complex. American Express and the National Park Service provide financial assistance for some of these projects.

For information about Arizona State Parks and the many recreational, historical and cultural programs call 1-877-MY-PARKS or visit AZStateParks.com. For more information about the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office, visit AZStateParks.com/SHPO.

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