STATEMENT OF JEFFREY K. TAYLOR, ASSISTANT DIRECTOR, OFFICE OF LEGISLATIVE AND CONGRESSIONAL AFFAIRS, NATIONAL PARK SERVICE, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON NATIONAL PARKS, OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND NATURAL RESOURCES, CONCERNING S. 2880, TO DESIGNATE THE FORT BAYARD HISTORIC DISTRICT IN THE STATE OF NEW MEXICO AS A NATIONAL HISTORIC LANDMARK.
September 19, 2002
Mr. Chairman, thank you for the opportunity to present the Department of the Interior’s views on S. 2880. This bill would designate Fort Bayard Historic District as a National Historic Landmark and would authorize the Secretary of the Interior to provide technical and financial assistance for protecting the Landmark.
The Department recommends that the bill be amended to direct the National Park Service to conduct additional research to evaluate whether Fort Bayard is eligible for National Historic Landmark designation. National Historic Landmarks designated by the Secretary of the Interior share two essential qualities: they are places that illustrate a nationally significant theme, trend, event, or person, and, they retain a high degree of integrity, that is, authenticity, to the period in which the property was significant.
Authorized by the Historic Sites Act of 1935 (Public Law 74-292) and regulated under 36 CFR Part 65, the National Historic Landmarks Program has an established and time-tested process for nominating properties of exceptional importance in illustrating or interpreting the heritage of the United States. This process includes an evaluation by the National Park System Advisory Board to ensure that designated historic places possess the highest level of significance and historical integrity. Because of this important evaluation process it is extremely rare for a National Historic Landmark to be designated through legislative action. It is also rare to authorize financial assistance to a single non-NPS site; it would be more appropriate to apply for funding through the Save America's Treasures grant program, which is well suited for historic properties such as this one.
Located in southwestern New Mexico, Fort Bayard illustrates several important chapters in American military history and the settlement of the southwestern United States. From 1866 to 1899, Fort Bayard functioned as an Army post while its soldiers, many of them African-American, or Buffalo Soldiers, protected settlers working in nearby mining districts. The area was later developed by the U.S. War Department as a general hospital for use as a military sanatorium.
Fort Bayard Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on July 7, 2002 at the state level of significance. In transmitting the nomination to the National Park Service in May 2002, the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office requested the opinion of the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places regarding the potential for the property to have national significance. Upon listing the property, the Keeper of the National Register concurred with the State Historic Preservation Office that, from the documentation presented, there no longer remains enough of the pre-1922 facility in order to justify a national level of significance as the first Army TB hospital. Much of the pre-1922 complex was destroyed and replaced with larger and more modern facilities when the Veterans Administration assumed administrative responsibilities in 1922.
This assessment concurs with an earlier opinion developed by National Park Service Historian, Robert Utley, that although Fort Bayard was a “key outpost” in the Apache Wars from the 1860s through the 1880s, “expansion and modernization of the Veterans Hospital has obliterated much of Old Fort Bayard” (Fort Bayard, National Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings, 1958).
In its review of the documentation this summer, the National Register recommended that the State Historic Preservation Office consider evaluating the property’s national significance for its association with the post-1922 Veterans Administration proposed development of the sanatorium as “the largest institution of its kind in the world.” At present, we do not have enough information to evaluate the national significance of the Veterans Administration’s use of the facility. For these reasons, we urge that S. 2880 be amended to direct the National Park Service to conduct a study of Fort Bayard to determine if it qualifies for designation as a National Historic Landmark.
We would be happy to continue working with the New Mexico State Historic Preservation Office to evaluate the property’s potential national significance during the post-1922 Veterans Administration period. This work would ensure that the site receive the appropriate level of historic recognition.
Mr. Chairman, this concludes my prepared remarks. I would be pleased to answer any questions you or other members of the subcommittee may have.