Return to the Visitor Center, go out the front door, and follow the sidewalk to your left. Once you leave the sandstone surface of the porch area, the stone sidewalk is CCC work. Go up the stairs or ramp, (which are recent additions) into the patio by the Gift Shop door. Ahead and to your left are the cabins built for the Frijoles Canyon Lodge. This facility replaced the old lodge that Judge Abbott had built near Tyuonyi, the large archeological site up the canyon from here. By the time the new lodge was built, Mrs. Frey had been the park concessionaire for almost 15 years. She was reluctant to move from the small, intimate old lodge where she could house 20 guests and make what she called “beautiful meals” from her garden, orchard, and chicken coops, but realized that economically it would be a good move. The new, larger lodge could accommodate about 40 guests, but the garden and chicken coops were no longer available. As Mrs. Frey often said, “If I wanted an onion, I had to go to Santa Fe to buy it.” Nowadays, Santa Fe is only about an hour away on paved roads. It is hard to remember that for that onion, Mrs. Frey had to make her way on dirt roads which turned to mud in rain or snow, and crossed arroyos that flooded with every thunderstorm. It could take a whole day or more, and of course people trying to visit the park had to deal with the same things.
Almost straight ahead of you is a round building, known as the “Kiva.” Since the cabins were arranged as if they were pueblo homes around a plaza, this structure was built to resemble the ceremonial chamber often found in pueblo plazas. It contained restrooms and was used for storage of linens and the boiler for this complex. During World War II when Los Alamos was a secret project, scientists and their families were often housed here. There were no kitchens in the cabins so hotplates were put in the “Kiva” especially to warm milk for babies. All these cabins are now offices or quarters for Park employees; please remain in the patio.
Each cabin unit has a corner fireplace, and was originally furnished completely with CCC hand-made furniture. Most of the furniture is presently in protective storage. The wall material in all the CCC buildings is tuff blocks quarried from the mesa top. The quarry area is now used as the amphitheater in Juniper Campground, where Ranger programs are held on summer evenings. Here in the cabin area is a good place to notice that the walls angle in from bottom to top, which is called “battered.”
Throughout this walk, notice the delicate tinwork in the light fixtures. This type of work, with pierced and painted decoration, first flowered in northern New Mexico in the 1850’s when American merchants began bringing in quantities of canned goods for the army. This provided the opportunity for craftspeople to re-use the can metal which had been rare in the territory before the military arrived. Where pieces are protected from the weather you can see the bright colors used. There is an ongoing program to preserve these artworks.