MAINTENANCE AND STABILIZATION
The south wall of the barn looked like it was going to collapse. Kevin McKibbin, Superintendent, decided to have it torn out and rebuilt before the barn fell down. His solo initiative did not go unnoticed by SWRO, and very soon indeed McKibbin and two men from Santa Fe were sitting on the pile of stones that had once been part of the barn wall, scratching their heads and trying to figure out just what they were going to do next. The men from SWRO suggested to McKibbin that it would have been a good idea if he had just numbered the stones. Then the stones could have been replaced more or less in the places from which they had been removed. Clearly, their sensibilities were stung by McKibbin's seemingly cavalier attitude toward the "integrity" of the barn wall. 
McKibbin knew little about the stabilization of historic structures. He had seen a problem and he decided to fix it before a disaster might occur. But now, as far as the barn wall was concerned, there was nothing to be done but put it back the best way they could. To that extent, then, part of the Hubbell Trading Post is, as Kevin suggested, more K. McKibbin than it is J.L. Hubbell.  But that was not the only time that exigency has taken precedence over integrity at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Site. Nor is the barn wall the only wall at the trading post that has been in danger of falling down.
When the Park Service assumed responsibility for the site, the west wall of the trading post and the wareroom looked like it was on the verge of falling down. John Cook got funding from the Regional Office. He called Charlie Voll, who was then in charge of the Ruins Stabilization Unit for the National Park Service. "Each rock was numbered and then photographed and then taken down and a new foundation put in and each rock put back according to its number in the photograph. So you have that whole west wall from the laundromat section to the door coming out of the bullpen...all redone. Charlie Voll took them down stone by stone and put them back stone by stone. That violates the dickens out of the Historic Preservation Act which was passed in 1966, but we didn't have all the rules and we didn't have all the knowledge we have today. I'm glad we did it because it will last forever It's been done right. We could never do it today. We did some things back then, we plastered the chicken coop because the rain was just washing it away. It would take six months to process the forms...today to get it done." When the Cooks moved down to Hubbell Trading Post in 1966 they took money out of their own pockets in order to paint the interior of the Manager's Residence so that it would be habitable. And they painted it themselves. 
Like many old structures in the rural Southwest, the buildings at Hubbell Trading Post are made of local materials and to a great extent from the very ground they stand on. (Some of the rock may have been "mined" from Wide Reed Ruin.) The rock was set up with adobe mud. Adobe bricks were probably made on site. Clay and sand and straw was---and is--the usual recipe. Adobe mud was mixed in a pit with hoes and the bare feet of the workers. It seems unlikely that J.L. Hubbell was out there stomping around in a mud pit, but it is likely that any structures on the site were designed by him. The buildings are not unlike many old structures one can find in New Mexico. New Mexican's of Don Lorenzo's day were accustomed to do for themselves; he could have learned any of the necessary skills when he was young. Today, people who build with adobe refer to the material as "forgiving," the building process itself as "labor intensive." A strong back and the ability to endure pain are easily as important as skill.
One of the "problems" with adobe is that it is vulnerable to the effects of wind and water, a case of earth to earth and dust to dust. A roof leak next to a wall can be disastrous. Running water will cut through adobe right before your eyes. Water must be kept away from adobe. Roof integrity is absolutely necessary, and that wasn't easy with the materials available in remote areas in the early part of this century.
They started with a shallow rock foundation. Some people, although not the Hubbells, would start with a shallow foundation of adobe bricks. Foundations of adobe brick are still used in rural Mexico. The foundation didn't have to be absolutely level because the walls would be of the same material as the foundation, climbing right out of the ground. However, accurate levels could be fixed with a hose with water in it. You put one end of the hose at one intended corner, the other end of the hose in the opposite corner, and then you run water into the hose. The water will attain an absolutely accurate level at each end of the hose. You pound in a stake, put a pencil mark on it at the water level. Then you move the ends of the hose to the other two corners of the foundation. Yes, it was possible to make a building plumb, level, and square without using sophisticated equipment. As the walls went up, you did what you could to protect them from sudden rainstorms.
Once the walls reached a certain level, the vigas (roof beams) were set in place. Most of the beams at Hubbell Trading Post are large; a lot of people would have had to be on hand to raise them. The vigas in the trading post buildings are all ponderosa pine and come from the magnificent stand of ponderosas between Ganado and Window Rock. According to the dendrochronology report by William J. Robinson,  over 400 "primary" vigas were counted in the Hubbell home, the trading post, and the barn. If the vigas in the other structures are added, the total would increase to over 500. Considering that they were all cut by hand and moved by horse and wagon, the vigas alone represent an astonishing amount of work. The bark would be removed from the vigas-at least in the home-before they were set in place. The vigas would be more or less evenly spaced, and then the wall would be built up to enclose them. The ceilings in such rural houses would be either rough-cut boards or latillas. Latilla ceilings are formed by laying branches side by side on top of the vigas. The chicken coop at Hubbell Trading Post has a latilla ceiling. Latilla ceilings were installed in homes where sawed lumber was unavailable or in cases where that was all the people could afford. The ceilings in the Hubbell home are made of boards. (Latilla ceilings are still used in some Southwestern homes, but only because the builder was striving for a rustic effect.)
Straw and the bark that had been stripped from the vigas would then be spread across the boards, or latillas, and then a roof of about six inches of earth would be spread over the straw and bark. Modern roofs have been constructed over most of the original earthen roofs at Hubbell Trading Post.
It is easy to understand why at least a little dirt might tend to sift down through the straw and bark, and between the boards or latillas, and finally into the living space below. And it does. Some people would tack up squares of canvas to the vigas to form a solid ceiling. In the days when rusticity was not considered chic, many board and viga ceilings were hidden, either by canvas, or, when they became available, patterned metal ceilings. There is no evidence that either canvas or metal ceilings were ever used at Hubbell Trading Post. The ceilings in the Hubbell home were used as a place to tack up Indian baskets. Merchandise hung from the ceilings in the trading post. Or more baskets. Or almost anything, including helmets from World War I.
Local, natural materials were used in the buildings at the trading post. The building methods were simple. But the structures are extremely vulnerable to the elements. Wind and rain take their toll. The house has to be plastered periodically with more adobe mud, and every two years or so the earth on the barn roof must be replaced. In the August, 1991, issue of National Geographic  there is a photograph of Ailema Benally, Cultural Interpreter, leaning against a wall of the rug room. The wall is water stained, and up near the ceiling it looks as though the paint has quite washed away. The ceiling is water stained. A critical observer might think that the trading post is falling apart, that the National Park Service isn't doing its job. Since that photograph was made, the trading post and the Hubbell home have been reroofed, and that wall Ailema Benally is leaning against has been repainted.
When the NPS took over at Hubbell Trading Post, all of the buildings were in a very sad state. Repair work there has gone on ever since, and the repair work, as a problem at the trading post, is described as "chronic." There is always something that needs attention, "niggling little things." 
To document everything that has gone wrong, or could go wrong, would take too much space. The cyclic maintenance schedule first worked on when Doug McChristian was superintendent has been superseded by the NPS Maintenance Management System, a computerized work scheduling program wherein every known or anticipated maintenance activity is programmed for the year. The computerized program is adjusted quarterly.
However, a few of the problems for which future administrators should be on the qui vive were listed by the trading post's present superintendent, Charlie Wyatt, and the present maintenance mechanic, Jim Hodges:
It should be noted that site maintenance people are often hampered by the lack of "as constructed" drawings and specifications, as well as operation and maintenance manuals. The site is also hampered to some extent by having a small maintenance crew. The specialists who might be available at a larger park are absent at Hubbell Trading Post. The maintenance people at the trading post must be able to do electrical work, plumbing, operate heavy equipment-whatever-while at the same time have a feeling for preservation. This calls for intelligent and talented people who have some insight into, for example, what somebody might have been thinking about while they were jury-rigging a repair job in 1937. The maintenance people at the trading post are faced with construction techniques and materials that now stretch back a hundred years. The general goal of the maintenance and stabilization is to hold the line on the appearance of the trading post at 1967. Generally speaking, it is very important that a repair person at Hubbell Trading Post not proceed unless he or she is aware of what the object under consideration looked like at that time. So far, the NPS has been successful in maintaining the general 1967 look and feel of the site for the past twenty-five years, and during that time the site has undergone some significant stabilization projects as well as the usual day-to-day maintenance.
John Cook and Charlie Voll had the west wall of the trading post torn out and replaced in 1967. Kevin McKibbin had the south wall of the barn stabilized in the early 1970s. Those two jobs were noted earlier in this chapter, and another of the early projects already mentioned elsewhere was the rehabilitation of the Manager's Residence in 1970 (although more work would be done on it later). The complete north wall of the trading post was taken down in 1970, a new concrete footing added, and men reconstructed. Before and after photographs show the remarkably fine job that was done. 
The Mid-1970s Barn Debacle
The "horrible Hubbell barn"  was the subject of a lot of attention during the 1970s. The wretched earthen roof has been a constant source of despair as it continues to blow away, wash away, and leak. However, in a continuing effort to maintain the site as it appeared in 1967, the NPS has fought back with---sometimes apparently misguided---ingenuity. During Kevin McKibbin's day they "went through all kinds of things on that barn roof. We finally got it where we thought we had it fixed when we put foam on it and colored the foam brown and that stuff hadn't even dried when we had a wind that put it all out in the parking lot."  Well, if the foam wouldn't cling on its own, they would first tack down some chicken wire and then lay the foam on the chicken wire. That should hold it. And it did, for a time, but the winds nibbled at the foam, and when Tom Vaughan was superintendent large chunks of the "alien material' came plopping down in the parking lot.  (Almost everything falls in the parking lot because the winds are usually westerlies.) In 1978 the barn roof was stabilized with lightweight concrete and soil cement decking. However, earth still blows off the roof, and every year or so it has to be put back there.
It was mentioned in Chapter IX, Special Events and Public Relations, that a beam in the barn fell during the mid-1970s restoration work and came very close to causing injuries. The NPS was involved in a two-year project on the barn, and that first year, according to Tom Vaughan, was an "unbelievable nightmare"  fraught with difficulties that included "...personnel matters, personality conflicts, poor communication, cultural conflicts, and perhaps even aspects of Navajo nationalism." 
The primary source of the troubles may have been the project supervisor, a person who, it turned lacked the necessary skills for the work. It was said of him that he was a highly competent art conservator who must have had the "...requisite broad philosophical outlook necessary for any restoration of any historic object,"  but that his "...background in restoring barns was exceedingly limited."  He had little experience when it came to working with stone walls and heavy timbers, so if the workers were having close calls with disaster, that may be a clue as to the origin of the personality and cultural conflicts (many of the workers were Navajo). Other problems plagued the project. One of the Anglo workers was arrested by the Navajo Police when he attempted to drive a Navajo to a bootlegger. A government vehicle was virtually destroyed when the operators parked it at a bar---" a horrible place to be"  -- that is just outside the Navajo Reservation on the road to Gallup. A good deal of the barn nightmare occurred during Tom Vaughan's first year as superintendent of the trading post. As he said about the first year of the barn project, "God, if I'd only known then what I know now."  For Tom, becoming superintendent at Hubbell Trading Post was partly a matter of training by trauma.
One of the "cultural" problems encountered on the barn project had to do with the work schedule imposed by the Anglo workers. The Anglos lived far away, so they decided that a ten-days-on, four-days-off schedule would give them plenty of time to get home for a visit. Unfortunately, after years of adapting to the usual white man's week of a five-days-on, two-days-off schedule, the change proved to be unmanageable for the Navajo, disrupting family and community activities for many of them. At the end of four days off, some Navajo would not return to continue with the work. It was noted that a project supervisor must have "...the ability to recognize the legitimate problems inherent not only in cultural and social differences, but in such simple matters as the lack of telephones at workers' homes." 
The barn project was completed...with a new supervisor on the job.
Other Stabilization Projects 
1982 - Surface and groundwater drainage system installed between Trading Post and Home, with root cellar connection. Downspouts are tapped in. Drained in front of home and across compound to the Pueblo Colorado Wash west of Guest Hogan. The drainage is an attempt to preserve the shallow footings of the Home.
Manager's Residence was stuccoed and roofed, and insulation was added to the "ammo box" addition (much of the wood in this addition is from salvaged World War II boxes). Stuccoed with tinted soil cement, and false roof decking replaced and mineral roofing installed.
Doors and Windows of the Trading Post that were rotting with age were rehabilitated by Tony Esparza, a cabinetmaker of Gallup, New Mexico.
Home Porch was re-anchored to the home at roofline. The flooring was taken up, structural support added, and flooring replaced. Screens replaced, roofing renewed, and porch was painted.
1983 - Visitor Center Vigas. All exterior viga ends replaced.
1984 - Sheds and Corrals. Deteriorated posts and rails replaced.
Bunkhouse. West wall dismantled, foundation poured, and wall replaced in original configuration.
1985 - Bunkhouse. South wall dismantled, foundation poured, wall replaced.
1986 - Bread Oven. Brick dome reset dry over polystyrene. Stone walls re-pointed.
1988 - Barn Roof. Solid cement decking of 1978 removed. Liquid rubber membrane applied over lightweight concrete decking after spot repair of decking. Soil placed over membrane. That is, soil right out of the fields is now used. Test panels of other material are being tried out over the Blacksmith Shop. Reportedly these test panels are of Rhoplex and possibly other materials. The test panels are an attempt to find a suitable roof for the barn that will still allow it to look as it did in 1967.
The stabilization projects for Hubbell Trading Post are by no means completed. For example, plans are afoot to somehow rehabilitate the Guest Hogan so that it can once again be used. And all of the monumental but delicate structures will continue to suffer the lashing of the elements as the seasons pass. There will always be work to do at Hubbell Trading Post, which still looks as it did in the early part of the twentieth century mainly because---in later years---the Hubbells did not have the money for any grand refurbishing. For the American people of today that was fortunate. Hubbell Trading Post was like a classic car that had gotten into seedy condition but still had all of its original parts. Keeping it going has been a lot of work. As Kevin McKibbin said, "Trying to maintain the integrity of the trading post and keep it from falling into ruins... was a challenge." 
Threats to the Site (Of Fire, Flood, Prairie Dogs, and the Plague)
Dani Cook was the first to see the flames coming out of the laundromat. John Cook was already in bed for the night, and Mrs. Cook was about to retire when she just happened to look out the window and saw the fire. The Ganado Fire Department was called. John and Dani Cook aroused Dorothy Hubbell and the three of them rescued the Burbank paintings and some other valuable items from the trading post. If it hadn't been for that fortunate glance out the window, the trading post could have been more badly damaged than it was. 
The fire department did manage to put out the fire, and the laundromat was put totally out of action, eliminating the necessity of the NPS having to evict the business when they assumed responsibility for the trading post. An investigation into the cause of the fire revealed that it may have been started by the combustion of stored dirty rags. 
The memory of the fire has remained as a warning of what is possible. (John Cook said that his daughter still has bad dreams about the fire; from her vantage point in the Manager's Residence, the flames looked as though they could have been threatening her.)  The Hubbell home, the trading post and its wareroom, the curatorial offices and storage, the barn, and the visitor center are now completely outfitted with sprinkler systems; and every building is generously supplied with fire extinguishers that are checked periodically. With the precautions now being taken, it doesn't seem possible that any of the more important structures could be a total loss in the event of fire.
In any case, as long as flammable materials are kept to a minimum in the buildings, it is not likely that a fire will get out of control; the beams and boards out of which the ceilings are made are so thick that it would probably take a long time for them to burn through, especially if the fire is at the same time being suppressed by the sprinkler system. The fire alarms and sprinkler system are now considered adequate, and the burglar alarms are also adequate (the first burglar alarms and sprinkler systems came in the 1970s). With good systems, and with the manager's residence generally occupied, the trading post should be immune from a disastrous loss either by fire or burglary. But other dangers do remain, among them flooding.
It is thought that during a 100-year flood water might reach the library (root cellar) but that it would not likely get into the other buildings. As far as is known, flood water in the past has not reached any of the structures. But the Pueblo Colorado Wash, like so many nearly dry streams in the Southwest, can become an impressive sight in the event of heavy rains upstream. Unless one has witnessed the event, it's difficult to believe how quickly, and to what extent, an arroyo or stream bed in the Southwest can fill with fast-moving water, mud, and debris. Once seen, it's not hard to understand why people are lost in arroyos during summer rains. Past rains that have filled the Pueblo Colorado have caused erosion around the bridge pilings at the entrance to the site, destroyed parts of the Anasazi ruins along the wash, and destroyed gabions installed in the wash to protect the ruins from damage. Gabions installed in the 1970s were redone in the 1980s.
It is thought that more work is needed in the wash to protect the ruins and the banks of the Pueblo Colorado. Rain in the desert can be whimsical, nothing here, a flood just over there, and often destructive, sometimes dangerous, but when you live in the desert you dare not ask the rain to stay away. And now that the fields are, except for sparse native growth, barren, heavy summer rains cause some erosion in the fields. An effort to recreate the terrace borders would slow down some of that runoff, and the remedy may be as simple as making some passes along the terrace edges with a border disc, a farming implement (towed by a tractor) used to separate fields that are being irrigated.
A border disc raises a border of earth, and the height of the border is determined mainly by the size of the equipment being used. Borders to stop rain runoff would not have to be high, but they do have to be fairly high in order to hold back irrigation water, which can be four to six inches deep. The Hubbell farm used to be entitled to 400 acre feet of irrigation water per year, but that was when they were farming the entire area. To visualize an acre foot of water, just think of a football field with a foot of water on it. Close enough. Now visualize 400 of those. But the point here is that a lot of the present erosion in the fields could be controlled with some simple tractor work. Trespassing animals that stripped the vegetation, hastening erosion, used to be more of a problem than they are now since the 13,000 feet of fencing around the site has been renewed.
The Navajo Reservation is "open range." Not only can this cause extra hazards along the highways, it can also be something of an irritation when the site's fences are broken and sheep, goats, horses, and cattle get into the fields. The animals have to be chased out, the fences repaired. Wandering animals are part of the cultural scene on the reservation and in order not to be regarded as the neighborhood spoilsport, one has to put up with it. Apart from occasional large animal intruders, the site has a resident population of between 900 and 1200 prairie dogs.
The scampering rodents live in communities all over the site, doing their part to denude the fields. Also, and most ominously, the prairie dogs can carry bubonic plague, a disease transmitted by fleas. Dead prairie dogs should not be touched. The population fluctuates, possibly as the plague carries them off. Then the population tends to grow again.
Site employees help to control the size of the prairie dog population by killing some of them with a .22 rifle (after hours, so that visitors are not offended by the activity). The dead prairie dogs are left to be dealt with by carrion-eating creatures and other natural elements. The prairie dog problem would be eliminated to a large extent if only the fields could be farmed. If the creatures are constantly being disturbed by people, machinery, and irrigation, they will soon move on to what in a prairie dog's eyes are greener pastures.
But people themselves are a threat to the site. With the burgeoning population of the Navajo, more house sites are needed, and there are no zoning controls on the reservation. It will be necessary in the future to have sharp diplomatic skills in order to avoid what might be ugly intrusions in the vicinity of the trading post. The local people have to be made aware that whatever adversely effects the historic site may also be detrimental to the entire community.
Pot hunters could be a problem, as they are in much of the Southwest, and although the site is small enough so that a pot hunter might be detected quickly, they remain a potential threat. In the past, the Navajo have disturbed site ruins in search of Anasazi bones for use in their ceremonies.  Although certainly extremely rare, such intrusions have to be considered in a general plan for protecting the site.
Visitation has increased to the point where that in itself is something of a threat, but this of course is not an exclusive problem with Hubbell Trading Post. The trading post store takes most of the brunt of the invasion, the tours through the house being limited to fifteen people per tour, four to six tours per day. And not every tour has its allowed total of fifteen people. As with any site or park, the NPS has to learn to cope with the citizens who would see the trading post; they're the ones who are paying for it.
Roads and Bridges.
Up until the early 1980s, it was possible that there would be days when just getting from the paved highway into the historic site could be a memorable "interpretive experience" for visitors. When the entrance road dissolved into a stretch of adobe mud with ruts a foot deep, the visitors could experience for themselves what it was like to drive around on the reservation before its roads were paved. The road has been well ditched, and it was stabilized with a chemical to make it almost entirely impervious to rain and snow. The parking lot was also stabilized. There are NPS personnel who regret the passing of the historic scene---tourists down to their trannies in the mud  ---- but as far as the visitors are concerned, that is a learning experience most of them would just as soon skip; few modern motorists know what to do with a vehicle that is hung up in twelve to sixteen inches of mud. The bridge at the entrance had a new deck installed in 1991.
The entrance road was a section of the main highway through this part of the country. If you were going west, you came down the road heading straight for the trading post, and there was a gasoline pump just outside the front door of the store if you needed fuel. Then the road turned right and went north and crossed a bridge over the Pueblo Colorado Wash. That bridge was removed by the NPS for safety. It was too expensive to maintain and its removal restricted access to the historic site. A photograph of the trading post taken by either Bill Brown or John Cook from Hubbell Hill in May of 1966 shows the simple wooden bridge with peeling white paint. When the main road bypassed Hubbell Trading Post, there was little real need for that extra entrance to the site.
There used to be an informal road that went along the wash after a bridge on the road to a settlement known as Lower Ganado was temporarily washed out. The road along the wash was never designated as a road, but people in the neighborhood used it for a time...until the NPS closed it, an act which caused some bitter feelings to erupt.
The informal road became a problem for the NPS because a bootlegger lived down at the end of it, and there was a lot of traffic to his house on Friday and Saturday nights. Littering along the trail to the bootlegger's den caused site personnel extra work, gasoline was stolen from Park Service vehicles, and some disorderly persons were a nuisance. The bootlegger himself didn't seem to be a danger,  but the extra traffic was a worry mainly because of the valuable museum collection. The burglar systems were not as good as they are today, and there were a lot of false alarms. Juin Crosse was the superintendent at the time, and she was living in the manager's residence with the alarm system: "We spent a lot of time at night out with the police searching the house..."  Not having control over the traffic on the historic site property became an intolerable situation.
Juin Crosse had meetings with the local Chapter and with Tribe administrators in Window Rock in reference to the unauthorized traffic. Since the bridge had been put back in, she wanted to stop the use of vehicle trails through site property. The county authorities agreed to maintain the main road so that the people who were then driving through the historic site would not really have to do so. The local Chapter then agreed that the NPS should have the right to close the road and that the historic site's neighbors who had gotten accustomed to using it should go back to driving on the county road, now that the county had promised to maintain it. Fences went up across the informal road the same week Juin Crosse transferred to Fort McHenry National Monument.
And that left Kent Bush, who became acting superintendent, with just a "whole bunch" of unhappy citizens who had gotten accustomed to driving through the site.  Until Kent got everybody together and sitting down and talking sense, he had to listen to threats against historic site, himself, and his family.  Kent: "You haven't lived until you've closed a road on the Res."  Using his own quickly developed and sharp diplomatic skills, Kent managed to get the community settled down. Roads, trails, and bridges are no longer such a critical issue at Hubbell Trading Post.
Last Updated: 28-Aug-2006