Cor­ner­stones in 30th year

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - HOME - By Paul Wei­de­man

It’s not un­usual to see peo­ple work­ing on scaf­fold­ing at San Miguel Chapel at the cor­ner of Old Santa Fe Trail and E. DeVar­gas Street. It’s just nor­mal up­keep on an adobe build­ing that dates back three or four cen­turies. But be­cause of a legacy of care­tak­ers, the church is not just a sur­vivor but it’s in great shape. Chief among those keep­ing San Miguel fit in re­cent decades is Cor­ner­stones Com­mu­nity Part­ner­ships. “We’ve been work­ing there for about three weeks on rou­tine mud-plas­ter­ing,” Jake Bar­row said on June 10. “The church is owned by St. Michael’s High School and we think we should do a vol­un­teer project there ev­ery year.”

Bar­row is the di­rec­tor of Cor­ner­stones, an or­ga­ni­za­tion now 30 years old that helps com­mu­ni­ties in the Amer­i­can South­west re­pair and main­tain their sig­nif­i­cant adobe build­ings.

“Cor­ner­stones be­gan in the late 1980s be­cause churches were fall­ing down,” Bar­row said. “It took off like wild­fire, be­cause peo­ple re­ally wanted it. Th­ese adobe tra­di­tions were alive in New Mex­ico for 400 years, right into the 20th cen­tury, and they’re so sig­nif­i­cant to our cul­tural her­itage.”

To­day, many com­mu­ni­ties still need help and Bar­row ad­mit­ted, “It’s a never-end­ing chal­lenge, and ever since the 2009 fi­nan­cial col­lapse, it’s been dif­fi­cult to get our foot­ing back. We’ve been hold­ing our own, tak­ing turns swim­ming and tread­ing water and swim­ming, butwe haven’t been able to of­fer the kind of as­sis­tance we re­ally like to.”

Since the be­gin­ning of 2016 Cor­ner­stones has en­gaged in six projects us­ing 127 vol­un­teers for a to­tal of 1,833 vol­un­teer hours. And the or­ga­ni­za­tion has trained 66 in­di­vid­u­als for 1,866 hands-on hours.

Cor­ner­stones is all about hands-on. Ma­te­ri­als and tech­ni­cal know-how are ev­ery­thing. For adobe plas­ter­ing at San Miguel Chapel, for ex­am­ple, do­nated clay comes from a ranch in the Po­joaque area. “We go chip out the clay with vol­un­teers. It’s like rock— you have to take it out­with a pick — and it’s the best, won­der­ful color and pure clay. We only use that for plas­ter­ing, not for mak­ing adobes. We want the best at San Miguel. We’re crush­ing that stone to powder and we run it with water in a Walker pug­mill and it com­pletely hy­drates it. It’s a won­der­ful ma­te­rial and we mix it in the pro­por­tion 2 clay to 5 con­crete sand.

“I know you can add horse ma­nure or cac­tus juice, but we haven’t done much of that. Some­thing I do want to try— be­fore the Span­ish came and in­tro­duced sun-dried adobe bricks, the Na­tive Amer­i­cans were build­ing with pud­dled earth. That’s a re­ally good tech­nique be­cause you’re only han­dling that ma­te­rial once. You’re not mov­ing the adobes around again and again.” Bar­row and adobe ex­pert Pat Tay­lor have been want­ing to get a pud­dled-adobe project go­ing “so we can see about re­viv­ing that tra­di­tion.”

The Cor­ner­stones story be­gins in 1986, when New Mex­ico Com­mu­nity Foun­da­tion chair­woman Su­san Herter hired Nancy Arnon to lead an ef­fort to save en­dan­gered mis­sion churches in North­ern New Mex­ico. Sam Baca was hired to man­age the com­mu­nity pro­gram of the pro­gram they called Churches, Sym­bols of Com­mu­nity, and Ed Crocker was the first tech­ni­cal di­rec­tor. In 1987, Arch­bishop Robert F. Sanchez reestab­lished the Com­mis­sion for the Preser­va­tion of His­toric New Mex­ico Churches and th­ese two or­ga­ni­za­tions col­lab­o­rated, part­ner­ing with com­mu­ni­ties. In 1991, Tay­lor be­gan the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s her­itage youth-train­ing ini­tia­tive with a sub­stan­tial project at a Doña Ana church.

In 1994, ar­ti­cles of in­cor­po­ra­tion were filed for Cor­ner­stones Com­mu­nity Part­ner­ships as an in­de­pen­dent or­ga­ni­za­tion, and the mis­sion was ex­panded to in­clude sec­u­lar com­mu­nity build­ings.

To date, Cor­ner­stones has helped at 376 sites, in­clud­ing 14 in Santa Fe. “When we help,” Bar­row clar­i­fied, “it’s ev­ery­thing from a tech­ni­cal site visit to a full-blown on­site pro­gram that lasts years. The pre­cept has al­ways been: What ex­actly do you need, and how canwe help you?”

Do peo­ple ever call Cor­ner­stones and sim­ply ask, “Can you fix our church?” “They do,” Bar­row said. “We re­cently got an inquiry from Vil­lanueva. My re­sponse was, Get a com­mit­tee go­ing of in­ter­ested peo­ple. Get some­thing go­ing there. When you get your en­ergy go­ing and you have a dream and you have some ideas aboutwhat you want to do, let’s talk. We’ll try to see what we can dowith part­ner­ing.”

Cor­ner­stones is cur­rently wait­ing for word on a sig­nif­i­cant grant from the Catholic Foun­da­tion, but the agency also pur­sues grants for par­tic­u­lar projects. “We did a lot at the Santo Domingo Trad­ing Post. We had hun­dreds of vol­un­teers work­ing down there and we raised around $100,000 in grants from five or six dif­fer­ent or­ga­ni­za­tions. For ex­am­ple, the Na­tional Trust for His­toric Preser­va­tion gave $10,000 for re­pairs. The Chamiza Foun­da­tion gave $7,000 for Ri­cardo Caté to work on mu­ral restora­tions. The Na­tional Park Ser­vice’s Route 66 Cor­ri­dor Preser­va­tion Pro­gram gave two grants to­tal­ing over $30,000 to do an as­sess­ment at the out­set and for restora­tion of the painted façade and an oral-his­tory project at the pue­blo.”

An in­creas­ing prob­lem is that his­toric adobe build­ings al­ways need work, but many of the com­mu­ni­ties’ con­cerned res­i­dents and many of those with skill in earthen ar­chi­tec­ture are older and many of the young peo­ple have sought ca­reers else­where. Times have changed.

Com­mu­ni­ties “have not been call­ing us as they used to do,” ac­cord­ing to a re­cent Cor­ner­stones ap­peal let­ter. “What we dis­cov­ered is that once a com­mu­nity had com­pleted its ma­jor restora­tion, they no longer thought about us as a con­tin­u­ing re­source. Over the years the mud plas­ters have weath­ered [and] th­ese ag­ing com­mu­ni­ties are gen­er­ally un­able to gather the en­ergy and re­sources to main­tain rou­tine mud­ding.”

“Cor­ner­stones ini­tially helped re­store churches by re­mov­ing ce­ment stucco, fix­ing roof­ing and drainage, re­pair­ing adobe walls, and ap­ply­ing tra­di­tional mud plas­ter,” Bar­row told Home. “To ac­com­plish this, we had the sup­port of the board of direc­tors, founders, friends, donors, grantors, and vol­un­teers. Th­ese trea­sures sur­vive to­day as a re­sult. We need to pro­tect this in­vest­ment by be­com­ing avail­able once again to th­ese com­mu­ni­ties and help­ing

to or­ga­nize mud­ding days and en­joy­ing a com­mu­nity home-made Norteño lunch. We are call­ing this ef­fort the En­jar­radores Chal­lenge.” The ref­er­ence is a gen­der-neu­tral vari­a­tion on what was once the do­main of skilled women plasterers, the en­jar­rado­ras.

“The new idea in­cludes rais­ing money to hire a small team of high-school-age peo­ple as a core group in the com­mu­nity to do the heavy lift­ing, the scaf­fold­ing, the mix­ing of ma­te­ri­als, and then bring in vol­un­teers. And we’ll have one leader who’s an ac­com­plished adobero, for ex­am­ple Don Sena from Santa Fe. We’re do­ing this at three lo­ca­tions this sum­mer: La Sala in Gal­is­teo, San Rafael Church in La Cueva, and San Miguel here in Santa Fe.”

The or­ga­ni­za­tion is now work­ing with $15,000 from do­na­tions and is seek­ing $35,000 to en­sure a suc­cess­ful sea­son. The two-year goal is to raise $250,000. The 2016 project list in­cludes the fol­low­ing items:

• Work­ing with vol­un­teers to make adobe bricks and an horno at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors in Au­gust.

• As­sist­ing with adobe preser­va­tion in Dixon’s La Sala Fi­lantrop­ica project.

• As­sist­ing with the es­tab­lish­ment of an adobe-mak­ing yard at Santo Domingo Pue­blo.

• As­sist­ing with as­sess­ments at Alam­ogordo’s Immaculate Con­cep­tion Church.

• Hold­ing mud-plas­ter­ing work­shops on mis­sion churches in Mora County in Septem­ber.

• Par­tic­i­pat­ing in the Arch­bishop’s Com­mis­sion for the Preser­va­tion of His­toric New Mex­ico Churches.

• Hold­ing her­itage work­shops and tra­di­tional skills train­ing at La Ba­jada and the McDon­ald Ranch mu­se­u­mat White Sands Mis­sile Range, as well as at the Ari­zona and Cal­i­for­nia fa­cil­i­ties Hubbell Trad­ing Post Na­tional His­toric Site, Joshua Tree Na­tional Park, and Mo­jave Na­tional Pre­serve.



Cor­ner­stones at work on the San Miguel Chapel in 2011


Vol­un­teers mak­ing adobe bricks at the Gal­is­teo La Sala project

Com­mu­nity of Agua Fria mud-plas­ter­ing the vil­lage’s adobe en­trance mon­u­ment walls, which were built by stu­dents in the Build­ing Trades and Tech­nol­ogy Depart­ment at Santa Fe Com­mu­nity Col­lege

Cor­ner­stones vol­un­teers break­ing up clay rock for mud-plas­ter­ing job

As­sess­ment of La Ba­jada stone re­tain­ing walls

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