The River of Sorrows:
The History of the Lower Dolores River Valley
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The pages which follow represent the efforts of an Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) team. Comprised of seven students, trained in architecture and history, and supervised by John White, Associate Professor of Architecture, Texas Technological University, the HABS team worked 12 weeks during the summer of 1981 in order to record the Lower Dolores River Valley's history before the valley was inundated by the Bureau of Reclamation's McPhee Reservoir. The project was sponsored by the Bureau of Reclamation and administered by the Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the National Park Service.

HABS conducts a nationwide program of documentation and publication projects which focus on historic and architectural sites and structures. Highest priority is given to those sites threatened with destruction. In many cases, this documentation, deposited in the Division of Prints and Photographs in the Library of Congress, may be the only lasting record of a site's existence.

The summer team was greatly assisted in their research by the previous work of others, most important of whom was Duane Smith, Professor of History at Fort Lewis College, Durango, Colorado. Two years earlier, Smith produced a solid historic overview of the river valley for the Bureau of Reclamation.* His overview provided the necessary historical framework to guide the team's specific research topics and the national perspective by which to evaluate the significance of individual sites.

*In 1979 the Bureau of Reclamation retained the university of Colorado to produce a historical overview of the Lower Dolores River valley. The University in turn, contracted with the consulting firm of centuries Research, Inc., of Montrose, Colorado, of which Duane Smith was a member to do the actual preparation of the manuscript.

The project was vastly improved by the unselfish cooperation of numerous others. The project was conducted under the overall supervision of Katherine Cole, Chief, Division of Cultural Resources, Rocky Mountain Regional Office, National Park Service. de Teel Patterson Tiller, Chief, Branch of Project Review and Technical Assistance, spent considerable time proofing the manuscripts while Pat Kisling, Division Secretary, typed the many drafts. Project funding was provided by the Bureau of Reclamation, Upper Colorado Regional Office. Wayne Prokapetz, Regional Archeologist and Judy Kenyon, Staff Archeologist with the region provided technical assistance at various stages of the project. Tom King, Project Archeologist with the Bureau's Cortez office worked closely with the summer team, ensuring that the research compiled by previous consultants was readily accessible. Robert Righter, Professor of History, University of Wyoming, Robert Z. Melnick, ASLA, Professor of Landscape Architecture, Kansas State University, and Don Stevenson, AIA, provided the academic and professional review of the manuscripts and architectural drawings. Correction of the HABS drawings for this publication was done by J. Keith Everett and James A. Caufield, Architects, National Park Service, Rocky Mountain Regional Office. Special thanks should be given to Alex Young, Chief, Division of Personnel, Rocky Mountain Regional Office of the National Park Service, who made hiring of the team a reality.

The four essays are supplemented with photographs taken during the summer of 1981 by Jet Lowe, Photographer with the Historic American Engineering Record, a division within the National Park Service. The historic photographs of McPhee are from the Robert Orr Collection, copy prints courtesy of Gordon Chappell, Regional Historian with the Western Regional Office of the National Park Service and the Colorado Railroad Museum, Golden, Colorado.


John White, Associate Professor of Architecture, Texas Technological University.

Student Architects:
Debra Brown, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Deborah Hurst, Washington University
David Insinga, Virginia Polytechnic Institute
Steven Wiesenthal, University of Maryland

Student Historians:
Linda Dishman, University of California at Davis
Maureen Gerhold, Pennsylvania State University
Lisa Mausolf, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

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Last Updated: 01-Feb-2008