Historic Structure Report: CCC Buildings
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Included in this study area are the 31 CCC buildings in Frijoles Canyon in the residential, maintenance, administrative, lodge, and campground areas, and the fire lookout and entrance station on the entrance road. The landscape features in the immediate vicinity of the residential, administrative, lodge, maintenance, and parking areas are included. Excluded from this study are the campground and the entrance road and their surrounding landscape features. The boundaries of the national historic landmark district are stated in the nomination form in appendix E.

All the elements of the built environment exemplify a southwestern interpretation of the rustic design ethic. The landscape (figure 10) is one of the primary unifying characteristics of the national historic landmark district. The development is a geographical area that possesses a significant concentration of historic landscape features typical of the CCC era.

Figure 10. Evolution of the canyon landscape.

The components of the landscape include natural features; circulation systems; vegetation; drainage systems; topography and grading; the constructed elements of buildings, walls, walkways, and the like; site furniture; vistas; the spaces between the buildings; and patterns of spatial organization. This study focuses on only the vegetation, drainage, and some of the constructed elements.

The general location for the Frijoles Canyon development was determined by such factors as the availability of water, the location of the cultural resources, politics, and physiographic features. The site development in the canyon was divided into four principal use areas: the campground, the lodge and administrative area, the maintenance area, and the residential area.

The region's dramatic and significant geomorphology serves as a backdrop for the Bandelier building site in Frijoles Canyon (figure 11). The canyon's 400-foot vertical north face of exposed rock and niches relates to activity within the Jemez volcanic field where recent events, geologically speaking, have left deposits of silicic tuff and pumice, which give the region much of its unique character. This porous tuff that underlies much of the Pajarito Plateau is a pyroclastic igneous rock composed of fragments of ash and gas-rich rock material broken and deposited through volcanic action. This abundant and easily worked stone was used for many of the region's prehistoric structures, as well as the historic ranch, Forest Service, and CCC buildings. For the latter, the bulk of this stone was quarried and cut on the mesa at the current amphitheater site and transported to the canyon valley. The valley itself was cut over the years by the flow of Frijoles Creek toward the Rio Grande, and it was beside the creek that the historic buildings were built.

Figure 11. Looking northeast, 1940s, showing geologic character of cliff face.


The primary access for vehicular traffic was the entrance road. Secondary circulation systems included paved pedestrian paths linking the four use areas.

The paved entrance road that was initially constructed in 1934 (over much local protest) as a gravel road made a tremendous impact in terms of opening up the park. That the road was well received is evidenced by this excerpt from a 1934 "Southwestern Monuments Monthly Report": [1]

Letter from M.O. Evenstad, acting custodian to Boss, . . . 'widening of the road from a 12-foot truck trail standard to the 22-foot width must be credited entirely into the CWA program and makes the road a real highway. As a safety factor, the wider road is very important, especially along the cliff side where the road drops off into the canyon. A 12-foot road there would have been far from safe, especially for people not familiar with the road. The maximum grade along this part is only eight percent. We are rather proud of this road, both from its appearance and its utility, and the fact that it gives the public a way of getting into the canyon without resorting to a tiresome walk up and down the trail.'

Initially this entrance road passed underneath the portal between B-2 and B-9, crossed the creek, and extended to the guest ranch and overnight campground farther up the canyon. Historically, visitors stopped their cars at B-2 and checked in with the monument staff. This practice had ceased by the time the entrance station (B-26) was constructed in 1940.

The original parking spaces were along the perimeter of the buildings and along the curbed sidewalk near the rito. A central planted island screened the visitors' view of the principal buildings as they approached from the entrance road (figures 12-14).

parking island
Figure 12. The parking island in the background, late 1931. Note the heavy massing of evergreen trees in the island and in the foreground of the warehouse building, B-3.

parking island
Figure 13. The parking island looking south, late 1930s. The island has been planted and stone cutted.

Figure 14. A portion of the site plan prepared in 1939. A copy of the entire plan can be found in appendix C.

Two small paved parking areas were to the east of the dining room and within the maintenance complex of B-3 through B-6, both shielded from public view by masonry walls integrated with the adjacent buildings.

Landscape Structures and Related Features

All the buildings were constructed in the southwestern pueblo revival style with characteristic design elements, including battered stone walls, vigas, portals, parapet roofs, canales, and small changes in level to reflect the local topography. Masonry walls, portalled patios, flagstone walks, terraced courtyards, indigenous vegetation, and rock outcroppings integrated the various buildings into a unified complex. Primarily in the cabin and canyon court areas, rock ledge retaining walls created terracing that further accentuated the site's topography (see figure 14). Although this terracing gave the site much of its endearing quality, it also imposed certain limitations in terms of handicapped accessibility.

Early photographs show that the complex had a strong pueblo character in its geometric massing, scale, and texture. As viewed from the parking area, the cabin-hotel development area had a particularly unified massing, largely because of the foreground portal wall, which visually blended the buildings into one (see figure 15).

Figure 15. Conjectural site map, 1941. (click on image for an enlargement in a new window)

The built features, which included masonry walls, portals, patios, flagstone walks, gates, courtyards, and site furniture such as lighting fixtures, picnic tables, and signs, were all elements that helped to unify the building complex. The use of local stone, wood, and mud plaster typified CCC construction techniques at Bandelier. The result of this work was a naturalized environment harmonious with the setting and cultural resources.


The underlying intent for the vegetative plantings at the site was based in the rustic design ethic. Landscape architects concentrated on using native plant materials in a fashion that made the development — both the buildings and the vegetation — seem as natural as possible in the setting. At Bandelier, the landscape men planted large confined areas like the parking island and the campground area in a manner that mimicked the surrounding vegetation. The CCC men restored large open fields.

Native grasses were transplanted from the mesa top to provide a ground cover around the visitor center and in the cabin courtyard. Originally, indigenous grasses and vegetation were planted and gave a much stronger regionalism to the developed area. In addition, these grassed areas were top dressed with forest duff and strategically placed boulders. This landscaping provided a harmonious introductory image to visitors' contact with the park's prehistoric Indian culture in addition to a sympathetic site relationship with the buildings.

The vegetation that existed in the canyon when the landscape architects and CCC workers arrived included indigenous yucca, shrubby plants, grasses, and vines. Cottonwoods, ponderosa pine, and box elder trees lined the valley floor along the creek.

That the vegetative character appealed to early NPS officials is indicated from the following quotation taken from the July 1933 "Southwestern Monuments Monthly Reports" [2]:

On June 20 Ben Thompson and George M. Wright, Chief of the Wildlife Division, made an inspection of Bandelier. We were accompanied on this trip by Mr. Pinkley and Mr. Vint. We were guided by the ranger in charge Ed Rogers. The following observations bear on the development of this monument: The luxurious growth of box elder wood, alder willow, and other trees and shrubs which fairly buries the stream of cool water in Frijoles Canyon is perhaps the greatest charm of Bandelier certainly the factor that will contribute to the comfort and pleasurable relaxation of visitors above all else.

After buildings were completed, plantsmen were detailed to revegetate the building sites. From 1934 to 1940 the CCCs carried on this planting program. Occasional lists of plant quantities and information have surfaced, and from these we can visualize the planting operation. As soon as a portion of the building construction was completed, the grading and planting started immediately; thus a continuing effort (four months per year) toward planting was taking place for the entire seven-year span. Plants were primarily transplanted from native surroundings. During April 1940, large numbers of seedlings were obtained from a local nursery of the Soil Conservation Service (SCS) (appendix C). These seedlings were not natives, but all could survive Bandelier's conditions and many exist today. The exact numbers and species of plants transplanted into Bandelier are not known, but a reasonable estimate of the number of trees and shrubs planted is in the hundreds.

Usually an estimated 100 trees and 150 shrubs were transplanted annually. During an efficient month, however, three crews with good hauling equipment could plant as many as 220 trees and 160 shrubs. This planting effort was broad in scope, covering not only the headquarters area but also the entrance road, stable, residential area, campground, the old CCC camp area, and the old hotel area.

The planting technique improvised by these men varied from park to park. The slip blade technique developed at Mesa Verde National Park did not apply without shallow bedrock, and the bare root or loose ball techniques of the East were not successful.

The preferred transplanting method at Bandelier was to move the tree with the ball frozen. Following selection of a tree within 5 miles of the site, the tree would be partially dug and root pruned in spring, then left to root heal until winter. After the tree ball was frozen, a belt of chain harness was slipped over the ball and pulled tight, and the ball was hoisted from the ground with a truck crane. Trees with root ball diameters of up to 3 feet were moved. The expedient field techniques developed by these plantsmen were very successful, judging from the low plant mortality. Many of the trees remain today along with many volunteer trees and shrubs.

In addition to transplanting natives and planting seedlings, the landscape crews had to deal with occasional infestations of insects attracted to the weak, newly planted pines. A concerted effort was established in May 1939 to eradicate exotic plants such as silverleaf poplar, Lombardy poplar, and peach trees. This task indicates that an underlying philosophy existed, defining both acceptable and unacceptable plants for Bandelier.

The foremen also followed instructions to plant vegetation in the traditional styles seen in the surrounding culture, such as framing entrances with native plants or adding vegetation at the bases of walls to soften the architectural lines.

Research on this project uncovered no actual plant lists or planting plans for this developed area. Although lists may have existed, most of the work probably was done under verbal direction from landscape architect Jared Morse, forestry foreman James Fulton, and a landscape foreman named Mr. Blinks.


Drainage was a designed element of the Frijoles Canyon landscape. Causes of drainage problems included sheet wash from downpours, spring runoff, and creek flooding in the steep-walled canyon, all of which forced the designers to take proper drainage into account.

Any drainage philosophy is usually driven by facility-siting techniques (or vice versa). Because this facility was placed on a southwest-facing talus slope, the techniques of draining the site were to use a major upslope diversion ditch, depend on percolation of runoff into porous soil, develop sheet surface drainage around buildings and across parking areas, and (for trapped water) install an occasional subsurface to drain to the creek (see Existing Storm Drainage map in "Existing Conditions" section).

A major drainage diversion swale was installed on the steep and loose soils upslope of the highest tier of buildings in the cabin area. Periodically, the creep of the slope filled the ditch and caused debris flow and maintenance problems (see memo, appendix B). High on the mesa top, other diversion ditches were cut into the soil to divert major storm runoff away from this building complex.

Foundation drains were not shown on the original design drawings and no evidence of their use was apparent, at least not for the upper tier of buildings. Because of the side slope of this building complex, surrounding sheet surface drainage was used very effectively. Positive drainage from the building masses was designed as part of the building siting. The original intent was to drain from fiat roofs through canales to sloped courtyards. At some point, water in the courts found a drop inlet that either tied into a major drainpipe or opened into the parking area. Parking and road surfaces were designed to drain toward Frijoles Creek.

Curbing around the parking controlled the sheet drainage and directed the water to small drop inlets to finally fall into the creek. Minimal underground drainage lines are apparent on the original plans. A major 24-inch trunk line originates at a catch basin at the south end of the diversion ditch and serves as a trunk line for minor tributary lines and for draining surface water from the service area. This line also leads directly into the creek.

site plan
Figure 16. A portion of the 1939 site plan. The entire plan can be found in appendix C.

mesa top
Figure 17. The 1940 view from the southwest side of the mesa top, showing the entire complex. Note the size and shape of the parking area. Planting in the island is complete.

site plan
Figure 18. The 1940 plan for the west side of the cabin courtyard (drawing 315/2049A, sheet 1). Note the careful detailing of rock ledges.

site plan
Figure 19. The 1940 plan of the east side of the cabin courtyard (drawing 315/2049, unnumbered). See the step and ledge detail in the upper right corner.

northeast facade
Figure 20. The northeast facade in the 1940s, showing an interesting study in shadows contrasting with the rugged cliff face.

northeast facade
Figure 21. The northeast facade in 1988, showing heavy growth of trees hiding buildings and cliffs.

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Last Updated: 08-May-2005