For its time and place, there was no other pueblo like Wupatki. Less than 800 years ago, it was the tallest, largest, and perhaps the richest and most influential pueblo around. It was home to 85-100 people, and several thousand more lived within a day’s walk. And it was built in one of the lowest, warmest, and driest places on the Colorado Plateau. What compelled people to build here?
Human history here spans at least 10,000 years. But only for a time, in the 1100s, was the landscape this densely populated. The eruption of nearby Sunset Crater Volcano a century earlier probably played a part. Families that lost their homes to ash and lava had to move. They discovered that the cinders blanketing lands to the north could hold moisture needed for crops.
As the new agricultural community spread, small scattered homes were replaced by a few large pueblos, each surrounded by many smaller pueblos and pithouses. Wupatki, Wukoki, Lomaki, and other masonry pueblos emerged from bedrock. Trade networks expanded, bringing exotic items like turquoise, shell jewelry, copper bells, and parrots. Wupatki flourished as a meeting place of different cultures. Then, by about 1250, the people moved on.
The people of Wupatki came here from another place. From Wupatki, they sought out another home. Though no longer occupied, Wupatki is remembered and cared for, not abandoned.
The Stone House - Wupatki Residence 1
Historical sense of a particular time period is important for maintaining the site’s relationship to Wupatki National Monument and its cultural significance. Residence 1 retains the aesthetic of southwestern rustic park structures and is included in the Wupatki National Monument Visitor Center Complex Historical District. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), partnered with NPS architect Cecil Doty started construction of the building in 1938 and completed it in 1940, 16 years after Wupatki was established as a National Monument.
Residence 1 was designed to blend in with the appearance and aesthetic of its surrounding geological formations of Moenkopi sandstone, native plants, and the view of the Painted Desert to the East. The presence of its original architectural context contributes to the house’s integrity. The structure resembles the Pueblo Revival Style. The characteristics include flat roofs with parapets and canales, exposed viga ends at the exterior, and exposed vigas and ceiling boards in the interior.
In 1938, administrative facilities were underway and the CCC began construction. Courtney Jones and her husband, Custodian David Jones were the first to live in Residence 1. But before they moved in, the Jones’ lived inside of the Wupatki Pueblo at site #17. Custodian Jones sent monthly reports to the Southwestern Monuments Superintendent that describe what it was like to live in an 800-year-old pueblo.A monthly report dating to May of 1939 describes the following:
“Work on the residence is progressing rapidly under Foreman Leedham. Within the next few weeks, it will be ready for roofing. While we are anxious to see the house completed, we shall not move out of the quarters in the ruin without misgivings. At present there is a bond between us and the ‘old people’ in that it is our home too ... In addition, living in the ruin, we have a better opportunity of ‘contacting’ our visitors. You would be surprised what friendships will spring up after an hour in our quarters.”
Letters between Courtney and her family and friends also describe what it was like.At the time, it was uncommon for women to work for the National Park System, but that did not sway Courtney’s love for culture, learning, and adventure. The Jones’ time in the pueblo and at Residence 1 gave them the opportunity to form a relationship with the Peshlakai family.
The Park Service began restoration of The Stone House in 2019 with intent to maintain the character of the structure, while simultaneously ensuring that there were adequate safety features such as a fire suppression system. Character defining features are often aspects of design, construction, or detail that represents the function of the building and the historical significance. For example, mortar is recessed from the face of the Moenkopi stone to match the historic pueblo construction technique. Other features include slab-on-grade foundation, a flat roof with stone parapets and chimneys, exposed vigas, wood roof canales, carved wood corbels, enclosed courtyard with flagstone paving, stone steps, and multi-lite steel casement windows with wood lintels and stone sills. Historic Preservation techniques were used throughout the house and specialists were brought in to restore the wood vigas.
The interior of the residence includes a three-bay garage that is separated from the housing portion by a courtyard. Inside the house there is a living room, kitchen, utility room, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. The kiva fireplace with a flagstone hearth also remains intact and as representation of the interior character of the structure.
The restored house will once again serve as housing for rangers, volunteers, and perhaps some artists in residence in the future.
Last updated: August 10, 2021