An architectural study of the "primitive huts" found along the Appalachian Trail offers an opportunity for insight into a bygone era in which social works projects—such as New Deal programs that formed the Civilian Conservation Corps—and the need for modest backcountry shelters helped construct the world’s most popular recreational footpath through the heart of Appalachia. Since its initial completion in 1937, the Appalachian Trail has been extensively relocated, rebuilt, and reallocated from private to publicly owned land. Anchoring this 2,100+-mile footpath is a network of approximately 250 trail shelters. These little bits of architecture represent an enduring conceptual, communal, and constructive by-product of a social experiment in regional development envisioned by Benton MacKaye, implemented by Myron Avery, and endlessly maintained by volunteers, hiking clubs, and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. Yet precious little attention has been devoted to cataloging the role these shelters have performed for the trail community historically, experientially, or socially. The changing cultural landscape of Appalachia, coupled with challenges posed by encroaching development and extensive overuse, suggest urgently the need to establish an architectural record in order to sustain both the purpose and the meaning of the Appalachian Trail’s primitive huts.

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