2008 Architectural Tour Revisited: Bandelier National Monument

 

In 2008, the New Mexico Architectural Foundation conducted its annual tour in commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of the New Deal and the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). In addition to a visit to the Old Santa Fe Trail Building, participants toured CCC Historic District at Bandelier National Monument.

Bandelier National Monument protects over 33,000 acres of rugged canyon and mesa country as well as evidence of a human presence going back over 11,000 years. Petroglyphs, dwellings carved into the rock cliffs, and standing masonry walls pay tribute to a culture that still survives in the surrounding communities.

The monument received its designation in 1916. Then, in 1933 the CCC arrived to make improvements when the only way in was by foot or horseback via a mile-long switchback trail. At that time, George and Evelyn Frey were the area’s only residents and the family ran a small lodge serving intrepid visitors to the nearby cliff dwellings.

Over the next eight years, the CCC would build 31 Pueblo Revival-designed structures at Bandelier —the largest collection of CCC buildings at any national park.  Among their accomplishments are the current visitor center, a new lodge, miles of trails, and the road on which visitors now drive into Frijoles Canyon, the centerpiece of Bandelier National Monument.

Designed by National Park Service architects and landscape architects, this group of buildings provides a complete development with architectural unity. Architect Lyle Bennett had worked on several other park service and CCC buildings in the Southwest and was well schooled in Pueblo Revival style. His design at Bandelier was intended to give the appearance of a small southwestern village wrapped around three sides of a central wooded plaza. The fourth side of the plaza is a green strip bordering the stream known as El Rito de los Frijoles.

Additional lodge units and the monument’s residential and maintenance areas were built off the main plaza. The lodge units were accessed by a series of flagstone pathways that led up from the lodge lobby through small courtyards and patios that stepped up the hillside on several levels and that were planted with native vegetation.

The buildings and the spaces between the buildings created a strong sense of place still evident today. This sense of place, with its New Mexican flavor, is primarily due to the thoroughness of design – from the landscape architecture that is inseparable from the building architecture, down to the interior design details.

For decorative finishes, the older, skilled workers taught the CCC enrollees tinwork, furniture making, carpentry, carving and masonry. Most ceilings were peeled vigas, supporting aspen latillas in perpendicular or herringbone patterns. The furniture for each of the buildings included desks, beds, wood boxes, and chairs. Another Spanish colonial design element was the painted and punched tinwork that made for unique light fixtures, mirrors, and switchplates.

In 1987 the NPS designated the Bandelier National Monument a CCC Historic District to ensure preservation of the unique structures and the legacy of the men who built them.

Sources:
National Park Service
Architecture in the Parks
Bandelier National Monument Museum
Living New Deal

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