Na­tional Park Ser­vice Build­ing

Home - Santa Fe Real Estate Guide - - SOTHEBY'S INTERNATIONAL REALITY - By Paul Wei­de­man

The sign at the front en­try of the his­toric Na­tional Park Ser­vice build­ing on Old Santa Fe Trail says, “Build­ing ac­cess by ap­point­ment only.” That’s a new sit­u­a­tion for the adobe of­fice build­ing that has long also been a cul­tural re­source open to the public. It for­merly had a su­per­in­ten­dent, a trained uni­formed staff, a gen­eral man­age­ment plan, a cul­tural land­scape plan, an in­ter­pre­tive plan, ex­hibits, brochures, and an ac­tive pro­gram of public ed­u­ca­tion, ac­cord­ing to a brief­ing pa­per pre­pared by Jerry L. Rogers.

Rogers is a for­mer Na­tional Park Ser­vice (NPS) as­so­ciate direc­tor for cul­tural re­sources and South­west re­gional direc­tor. He is one of a group of peo­ple con­cerned about the fact that the grand court­yard struc­ture, built from 1937 to 1939 by the Civil­ian Con­ser­va­tion Corps (CCC), is now for the most part closed to the public. Lo­cal preser­va­tion­ist Alan “Mac” Wat­son said this ad-hoc group has met with staff from New Mex­ico’s con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tion. The group’s idea to have the build­ing de­clared a na­tional his­toric site or a na­tional mon­u­ment with dis­plays about the CCC and Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion was taken up by the Santa Fe City Coun­cil.

On Oct. 8, the city’s gov­ern­ing body adopted a res­o­lu­tion to that ef­fect and for­warded it a week later to Gover­nor Su­sana Martinez. The res­o­lu­tion also sup­ports main­tain­ing the NPS build­ing’s cur­rent staff of ap­prox­i­mately 70 em­ploy­ees.

Asked in mid-De­cem­ber about the build­ing’s sta­tus, James Doyle with the Na­tional Park Ser­vice In­ter­moun­tain Re­gion of­fice in Den­ver said, “We have no plans of shut­ting the build­ing down or re­duc­ing staffing. With re­gards to keep­ing the build­ing open to public, that’s al­ways been our goal. It’s a his­toric build­ing with some his­toric ar­ti­facts in­side. But we had prob­lems with the re­li­a­bil­ity of the se­cu­rity ser­vice, so sans any se­cu­rity, we had to tighten down ac­cess. It’s still open for tours, but you have to call. We hope af­ter the first of the year at some point to be able to re­open to the public.

“There have been moves to re­des­ig­nate it as the South­west Re­gional Of­fice as it used to be but that is be­yond our abilty; Congress has di­rected us how to op­er­ate. But this is a key op­er­a­tional build­ing. We have im­por­tant staff there that do both re­gional and na­tional work for the Park Ser­vice, so it’s an im­por­tant re­source for us.”

At 24,000 square feet, the Park Ser- vice’s for­mer South­west Re­gional Of­fice is prob­a­bly the largest adobe of­fice build­ing in the coun­try, ac­cord­ing to the files at the His­toric Santa Fe Foun­da­tion (re­searched by HSFF vol­un­teer Deb­bie Lawrence). The ma­jor work force came from CCC Camp #833 based in Santa Fe. The Works Progress Ad­min­is­tra­tion was re­spon­si­ble for art­works and other fur­nish­ings. The city res­o­lu­tion notes that “The CCC and WPA of­fered mean­ing­ful em­ploy­ment and cul­tural up­lift to mil­lions dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion.” Among the other CCC ac­com­plish­ments in this area were the rock lining along the Santa Fe River through the city, the lodge and shel­ters at Hyde Park, and Ban­de­lier Na­tional Mon­u­ment’s roads and dozens of build­ings, and the fur­ni­ture in­side those build­ings.

Most of the 200 work­ers on what the city’s res­o­lu­tion calls an “out­stand­ing ex­am­ple of in­sti­tu­tional adobe ar­chi­tec­ture” were men aged 17 to 23 from His panic fam­i­lies in the area. For $30 per month, and room and board, the men hand-mixed and formed more than 280,000 adobe bricks for the walls that are be­tween two and five feet thick. They also hand-peeled the pine vi­gas and made heavy, in­tri­cately carved fur­ni­ture for the of­fices.

Much of the earth for the adobe bricks came from the ex­ca­va­tion for the build­ing. Foun­da­tion stone was quar­ried near Canyon Road. Pon­derosa pine logs for vi­gas and cor­bels came fromthe CCC camp in Hyde Me­mo­rial State Park. Flag­stone for the floors in the lobby and con­fer­ence room, and for the paving un­der the court­yard portáles, came from a Pe­cos ranch.

NPS ar­chi­tect Ce­cil Doty de­signed the build­ing in the Span­ish-Pue­blo Re­vival style that jibed nicely with the Park Ser­vice’s de­vel­op­ing “rustic” de­sign aes­thetic. Doty’s skill in what is some­times called “parki­tec­ture,” ex­er­cised on nu­mer­ous vis­i­tor cen­ters and other NPS build­ings, was learned from NPS ar­chi­tect Her­bert Maier, who hired him in the early 1930s. The style em­pha­sizes a re­la­tion­ship to lo­cal ar­chi­tec­tural tra­di­tion and the use of lo­cal ma­te­ri­als in har­mony with the sur­round­ing land­scape. For the Santa Fe job, Doty tai­lored his de­sign to lo­cal prece­dents with help from his con­struc­tion fore­man, artist Car­los Vierra.

Fund­ing came from the WPA Fed­eral Art Project for art­works in­clud­ing ce­ramic ves­sels by Maria and Ju­lian Martinez of San Ilde­fonso Pue­blo, Lela Gu­tier­rez and Eu­lo­gia Naranjo of Santa Clara Pue­blo, and Agapita Quin­tana of Co­chiti Pue­blo; paint­ings by Vic­tor Hig­gins and E. Boyd; nearly 50 rugs, most Navajo-made; etch­ings by Gene Kloss; and lith­o­graphs by B.J.O. Nord­feldt. The Park Ser­vice’s re­gional land­scape ar­chi­tect, Har­vey Cor­nell, de­signed the site and court­yard.

For 56 years, be­gin­ning in 1939, the Old Santa Fe Trail Build­ing served as the re­gional head­quar­ters for the Na­tional Park

Ser­vice. In a re­cent guest col­umn in The New Mex­i­can, for­mer State Mon­u­ments direc­tor José Cis­neros said the South­west Re­gion of the Na­tional Park Ser­vice was abol­ished in 1995, “vic­tim to a re­or­ga­ni­za­tion.” Cis­neros said that a his­toric site or na­tional mon­u­ment des­ig­na­tion “may be worth some con­sid­er­a­tion,” but he fa­vors “the larger ef­fort to re­store the build­ing to its for­mer func­tion as a Re­gional Of­fice by restor­ing the South­west Re­gion to its po­si­tion as the most his­toric re­gion in the Na­tional Park Ser­vice.”

In Novem­ber, Nancy Meem Wirth, a life­long neigh­bor of the Old Santa Fe Trail Build­ing, wrote that she was “de­lighted” with the City Coun­cil’s rec­om­men­da­tion. The prac­ti­cal ef­fect of its clo­sure, she stressed, “has been to de­prive our com­mu­nity of a cul­tural and aes­thetic re­source that we have long val­ued.”

A month ago, in an­other guest piece in the news­pa­per, Jerry Rogers said the old build­ing “sim­ply must re­main the fun­da­men­tal el­e­ment of our com­mu­nity life and her­itage that it has been for decades. He de­scribed it as “na­tion­ally sig­nif­i­cant for its ar­chi­tec­ture, for its as­so­ci­a­tion with the na­tional park idea, and as an ar­ti­fact of the His­panic cul­ture whose his­tory is in­ad­e­quately rec­og­nized in the United States.”

Rogers wrote that the 1906 An­tiq­ui­ties Act “au­tho­rizes the pres­i­dent to cre­ate na­tional mon­u­ments from places in the public domain that meet ex­act­ing cri­te­ria of sig­nif­i­cance. The Old Santa Fe Trail Build­ing is in the public domain and meets th­ese cri­te­ria.”

The Na­tional Park Ser­vice cel­e­brated the build­ing’s 75th an­niver­sary this sum­mer. About the move to cre­ate a CCC/WPA mu­seum there, James Doyle said, “We cer­tainly wouldn’t op­pose that. How­ever Congress di­rects us to op­er­ate the build­ing, we will.”

PHO­TOS BY PAUL WEI­DE­MAN

Na­tional Park Ser­vice Build­ing, Santa Fe, 1965, by The Santa Fe New Mex­i­can cour­tesy Palace of the Gov­er­nors Photo Ar­chives (NMHM/DCA) Neg. no. 025831

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