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2018-11-03 – South Coast Airstream Club – Emerald Desert RV Resort – Day 3

Another lovely day!  We had breakfast (in the crowded, noisy club room)…

At 10:00 we walked 2 1/4 miles to look at a lovely condominium open house.  We were joined by our friend, Steve.

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They were very well designed and well decorated.  It’s nice to see well-executed condo projects like this – there are too many terrible ones out there…

And then there was Football!  Real football!  College Football!  From noon until 11:15 pm I watched 9 or 10 games – it was great!  Some gratifying wins, some gratifying losses, some heartbreaking losses, too.  I even skipped the too-noisy dinner to stay in the Villa to watch.  It is exactly the way I like to spend football Saturdays.

Meanwhile, Lynda spent her day doing a near-impossible jigsaw puzzle, sometimes alone, sometimes along with one, two, or more, other ladies…

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Watching so many football games for so long is exhausting… I collapsed into bed at 11:30 pm…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-13 – Arizona – Day 56 – Taliesin West and the Biltmore… And Rain!

It was slightly raining this morning when we left Sun City to drive to Taliesin West.  We arrived in plenty of time for our tour.  We were able to take a few pictures, but soon it was raining quite hard.

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Taliesin is today a fully accredited School of Architecture, and it is not affiliated with any university.  It has between 20 and 30 students at any one time, and they can earn a Masters Degree.  The students live and work and study at each of the two campuses for 6 months each year, Summer in Wisconsin, Winter in Arizona…

We started the tour, but quickly retreated to the “Dance Pavilion”.  This was a performance space, and it is about the last building built at Taliesin West by Frank Lloyd Wright.

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What you need to know is that for FLlW, Taliesin West was his “desert camp”, and he enjoyed “camping” here in maximum communion with nature.  The first few years they put together temporary structures with scrap lumber and canvas.  They left it all when they returned to Wisconsin in the Spring, but when they returned in the fall they found that it had all been stolen and carted away by the locals…

So they began to build more permanent buildings, but they were still built to be open to nature.  The roofs were sheets of canvas, walls and doors were open, maybe partially covered with canvas flaps.  They had no electricity (except from generators) until the early 1950s.

So the dance pavilion was originally an open air pavilion.  Only in later years was it enclosed by glass.  The canvas roofs still remain today, and everyone enjoys the softly filtered light that they provide…

We walked in the rain to the FLlW’s “Office”.  This was not a work room, but was a conference room and presentation room… On the way we could see the canvas roofs.  Originally they were just sheets of canvas.  But they deteriorated quickly under the desert sun, so a panelized system was created to make for easy replacements of individual sections.  Today the canvas is covered by translucent acrylic, and the canvas still needs to be replaced about every five years…

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Inside, the canvas is supported by steel beams and internal gutters to channel away (most of) the water that seeps through…

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All of the solid walls at Taliesin West are concrete, formed with rocks gleaned from the desert by the Taliesin students.  This has proven to be an economical system that has stood the test of time.  This being Arizona, there is no rebar in these concrete walls…

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The entrance to the Office is through this odd-shaped door.  The door is barely six feet tall, and the ceiling is not much higher.  FLlW’s secretary sat in this entry space, in a “cave” constructed of this large rock concrete.  This entry exhibits FLlW’s famous “compress and release” concept as you move through the low-ceilinged space into the larger space beyond…

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It is a very nice space… Of course, because it was raining, I had to position my chair so that I would not be dripped on…

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The table you see covered with a tarp to protect it from the rain is VERY low, as are the chairs.  FLlW designed it this way so that when clients looked at the drawings placed on the table they could see them very well as an overview, but if they wanted to examine them more closely they would have to stoop, and it would be very uncomfortable.  He didn’t want his clients looking too closely at the drawings…

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Our next stop was the drafting room.  This room is generally off limits when the students are present, but the students are still in Wisconsin, and they won’t arrive for a few weeks yet… We walked in the rain and passed the concrete walls of the drawing vault.  Paper drawings must always be protected from fire and other elements.  (Today we use computers to draw and make presentations, so they are much safer, if backed-up properly…)

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The drafting room has the same style of canvas roof.  The glass ares were originally open, with canvas flaps…

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It is a marvelous space!

We then moved to the “Kiva”.  This is the original “man cave”, where FLlW would show movies for his students and guests.  Originally this was a windowless storage room.  When they would leave in the spring they would put anything of value that they were not taking with them in here for security… Later they added the projection room and they experimented with lighting…

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Floor lights…

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Cove lighting, with “cut-out” shapes to form shadows.  Are these triangles representative of teepees?  Or mountain peaks?

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Corner lighting…

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We moved on to the Dining Room…

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The Dining Room is entered from this Breezeway.  The Breezeway has always been here, but the ceiling was raised after FLlW’s death in 1959.  Apparently his son-in-law, Wesley Peters, who was an MIT-trained engineer, and who was FLlW’s right-hand-man for all things engineering, was 6′-5″ tall, and he hated that he always had to stoop when he was around FLlW.  He wanted a space to sit and enjoy the desert in front of a fireplace and remember FLlW.  So he had the ceiling raised to make this space…

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The fireplace…

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The views…

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We entered the Dining Room to enjoy a break and a little refreshment…

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The Dining Room wasn’t always here… It was originally on the opposite side of the house, overlooking the southern views across the desert.  But, in 1948, the local power company strung power poles across the edge of the property to facilitate the rapid post-war expansion of Scottsdale.  FLlW was so incensed at this, after exhausting all avenues of protest, including a letter to President Truman, that he redesigned the buildings and landscaping to reverse the orientation and avoid the views of power poles.  (Truman’s response to his letter:  “Do you really think I have nothing better to do than to worry about your view?”)  Today the power poles have been replaced by giant steel high-tension wire structures… They are quite ugly…)

So we enjoyed our refreshment… We had a VERY interesting talk by a woman who was born at Taliesin.  She lives here today, where she works in the archives department.  Her mother and father were some of the first students here in 1937.  They stayed on after their school days were over, having two children here.  They moved away briefly during WWII; they subsequently divorced, and her mother moved back and lived and worked here the rest of her life.  She passed away just last year, well into her nineties.  There are three other original students who came and never left who still live here…

We saw many photos of life at Taliesin in the old days, and many interesting stories.  Originally, the students pitched tents out in the desert (there were no dormitories…) or they built “Desert Shelters” in which to live.  No electricity, running water, or kitchens.  Students still live out in the desert today… If you come to see Taliesin West in the winter you can tour the student “homes”…

We thoroughly enjoyed her talk…

But it was time to move on… We left the Dining Room via the Breezeway and went to the entrance to Mr. and Mrs. Wright’s home…

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As usual, the front door is hard to find, and is very small…

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This is the Garden Room, or the entertaining space.  Parties, called, “Taliesin Nights”,  were held here most Saturday evenings.  Celebrities, friends, and students mixed, all in formal attire.  In the early days FLlW would send a large flat bed truck the four miles to Scottsdale to pick up the guests, so that they would not have to navigate the narrow, steep, dirt road…

The room has a canvas roof; glass was added in the late 1940s, and central heat and AC was added by Mrs Wright in the 1970s… It is a lovely room…

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Water is added whenever it rains…

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Adjacent to the Garden Room is the Wrights’ private sitting room.  Originally it was an open-air space, open to take in the nature of the desert…

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But Mrs. Wright eventually tired of the exposure to the desert and asked that glass be installed.  FLlW objected for many years… Finally, FLlW consented, and ordered the apprentices to install the glass.  When they asked what they should do with the pots on the shelves, FLlW angrily answered, “Leave them exactly where they are”!  Thus:

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The Wrights’ bedroom and Mrs. Wrights sitting room, face onto the desert, but the views have been constructed, using fencing and trees, to obscure the power poles… The “Moon Gate” allowed the Wrights’ children to access the adjacent courtyard and their rooms.  Mrs. Wright eventually built another bedroom suite for herself after FLlW’s death…

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The Sprites seen here are two of the five remaining original Sprites (out of over 500) that were designed and built for the Midway Gardens project in Chicago in 1915.  The others were all bulldosed into Lake Michigan, along with the rest of  Midway Gardens, after prohibition doomed the project and the City wanted something else on the site…

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This is the Master Bedroom…

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The bathroom is sheathed in polished aluminum… as befitting an Airstream!

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More lighting experiments in the bedroom:  recessed lighting and up-lighting…

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We then moved to one of the guest cottages.  The rain is briefly letting up…

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Walking back along the main house… This is about the only 2-story building… The upper floors contain apartments for staff and/or guests…

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The dinner bell…

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Our last building is the Cabaret…

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This is an underground “supper club” where the students and staff would put on various types of entertainment… The acoustics are great!

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Notice that the rows of seats are angled relative to the stage area.  Mr. Wright always sat a certain way in venues like this, so the seating was designed to accommodate his habits.  This was his way of dictating how you sit if you want a good view of the stage…

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I couldn’t help peeking into the kitchen and service corridor…

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As we left the Cabaret the rain stopped briefly, so we could take a few photos of the exteriors…

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Ventilation holes in the vault…

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The Office…

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The Drafting Room…

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The view of the power towers…

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And then our three hour tour was over…

We left, sadly, in the rain…

We dropped in at The Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort… We immediately noticed the Sprites… Oh.  And it was raining with a capital RAIN!

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Warren McArthur, Jr. and his brother Charles McArthur along with John McEntee Bowman, opened the Arizona Biltmore on February 23, 1929.

The Arizona Biltmore’s architect of record is Albert Chase McArthur (brother of the hotel owners), yet the design is often mistakenly attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright.  This is due to Wright’s on-site consulting for four months in 1928 relating to the “Textile Block” construction used in the hotel.  Albert McArthur had been a draftsman for Wright, and specifically asked Wright to assist with implementing the textile block system, which became a signature element of the hotel’s appearance.  The hotel has similarities to several Wright buildings, especially in the main lobby, owing to a strong imprint of the unit block design that Wright had utilized on four residential buildings in the Los Angeles area six years earlier.  McArthur is indisputably the architect as original linen drawings of the hotel in the Arizona State University Library archives attest, as does a 1929 feature article in Architectural Record magazine. The two architects are a study in contrast with the famous and outspoken Wright being self-taught and never licensed as an architect in Arizona. The more soft-spoken McArthur was Harvard trained in architecture, mathematics, engineering, and music. McArthur obtained an architect’s license in Arizona, number 338, in 1925, the year he arrived in Phoenix to begin his practice.

Reproductions of the geometric ‘sprite’ statues originally designed by sculptor Alfonso Iannelli for Wright’s 1915 Midway Gardens project in Chicago are placed around the property.  Also, the original hotel solarium was converted to a restaurant in 1973 and since the mid-1990s has been named ‘Wright’s’.  Three on site restaurants bear Wright’s name, Wright’s at the Biltmore, The Wright Bar, and Frank & Albert’s.

We were there to have lunch at Frank and Albert’s

We looked around and found many interesting details…

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And then we enjoyed a very nice lunch…

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Driving back to the Villa proved to be quite an adventure…

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We did safely return to the Villa and spent the rest of the day and evening watching football…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-12 – Arizona – Day 55 – Arcosanti and Taliesin West

We packed up early, left Camp Verde, and headed south.  Our first stop was at Arcosanti:

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Arcosanti is a planned experimental town with a molten bronze bell casting business 70 miles north of Phoenix, at an elevation of 3,732 feet.  Its “arcology” concept was posited by the Italian-American architect, Paolo Soleri, a former student of Frank Lloyd Wright.  He began construction in 1970 to demonstrate how urban conditions could be improved while minimizing the destructive impact on the earth.  He taught and influenced generations of architects and urban designers who studied and worked with him there to build the proposed ‘town.’

We arrived in time for the 10:00 am tour.  After a brief video presentation we toured the various buildings of this “urban experiment”.  We saw the “students” making their signature clay bells, then we moved on to the Foundry.  Today we watched as they poured molten bronze (2,100 degrees F) into dies (forms) to become bronze bells…

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We were shown performance areas, living quarters, and lounge spaces.

The place is a little strange… Sort of like a hippie commune with high academic credentials.  And we didn’t even see any of the architects living and working there…

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We continued on into Phoenix, or Sun City, to be exact.  We checked into our RV park, then I took the truck into the Chevrolet dealer; we are about 1,000 miles overdue for an oil change, and I don’t want to risk driving home across the desert with bad oil…

The big event today is an evening tour of Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s home and studio and school in Scottsdale…

Taliesin West was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert on the outskirts of Scottsdale, AZ, from 1937 until his death in 1959 at the age of 91. Today it is the main campus of the School of Architecture at Taliesin and houses the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation.

Wright and the Taliesin Fellowship began to “trek” to Arizona each winter in 1935. In 1937 Wright purchased the plot of desert land that would soon become Taliesin West. He paid about $7,000 for over 600 acres on the southern slope of the McDowell Range overlooking Paradise Valley outside Scottsdale.  In 1937 is was 4 miles past the last paved road in Scottsdale, a hamlet of about 200 people.  Today it is about a 45 minute drive from the RV park in Sun City… It is almost totally surrounded by the sprawl of Scottsdale…  We arrived just before dark…

The tour was fabulous, but, since it was at night, we took few pictures.  We will come back tomorrow and do it in the rain, so pictures might be better…

This is the main drafting room…

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This is the Breezeway…

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We arrived home at about 10:00 pm – very late for us…

Tomorrow we come back to Taliesin West and have a three hour “In Depth” tour…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-11 – Camp Verde and Clarkdale – Day 54 – Verde Canyon Railroad and an Extraordinary Dinner at Moscato

We enjoyed a lovely day here in the Verde Valley…

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It was cool and rainy, but the forecast was for improved conditions…

We drove to the small town of Clarkdale, where we were to board the Verde Canyon Railroad for a 4 hour round trip into the Verde Canyon.  We easily found the Depot.  (Fake vigas noted…)

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We checked in and received our boarding passes… We were disappointed that the depot was not actually in the town of Clarkdale – it is in the valley below.

It was a short, 1/2 mile walk into the center of Clarkdale.  We quickly found the highly recommended Violette’s, a very good French pastry place housed in an old Caboose…

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We enjoyed a Croque Monsieur and Avocado Toast along with great coffee.  The rain had stopped and we checked out the town.

Several towns around here were dependent on mining and smelting copper, gold, and silver.  All the towns died in the early 1950s when the smelter closed and all the workers left.  In the town of Jerome the population went from 15,000 to 50 in a period of about 6 months.  A similar story, in various degrees, could be told for Cottonwood and Clarkdale.  Over time, Jerome reinvented itself as a arts and crafts center, and Cottonwood became a center for nightlife, with restaurants, wine tasting rooms, bars, and shops.

But Clarkdale?  Still waiting for something to happen.  There was Violette’s, of course, and The 10/12 Lounge, a retro cocktail lounge.  But the prime business block stands empty and for sale.  Very sad.  What this town needs is a reason for people to come and hang out here…

It was time to return to the Depot to catch the train… There were about 400 people sitting at tables, drinking coffee, shopping in the gift shops… WAIT!

Why is the Depot down in this valley, and not in the town of Clarkdale?  This is exactly what the town needs!  They could put the Depot in the town, then provide a way to get the people down to the train – a shuttle, an escalator, maybe a zip-line?  It seems the town is missing a great opportunity…

Anyway, we found our car and found our seats.  Appetizers and light snacks are provided, and a cash bar is available for beverages.  The cars and chairs were very comfortable.  If you wanted a better view of the scenery, an outdoor viewing car is adjacent to the parlor car…

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Soon we were underway.  We rode 2 hours up the Verde Canyon, along the Verde River, with great views of… Red Rocks!

There was a guide who told us what we were seeing, pointing out interesting sights and telling us a little history of the area…

The first thing we see is the Slag Heap.  This covers 40 acres.  Slag is the waste from the smelting operations, and it was just dumped into a pile… Slag is hot molten rock… it glowed red when it was placed.  As it cooled it became this giant mountain of solid rock… It rises over 100 feet above the train, and it fills the valley below…

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Above you can see the metal form work used to prevent the molten slag from covering the train tracks…

Our guide reported that someone has recently paid 6 million dollars for the slag heap, and they have set up a plant nearby to extract the small amounts of copper, silver, and gold from the slag that were too difficult to get out 60 years ago… They are about to begin operations…

So we continued into the canyon… Beautiful sights all around…

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It was a lovely ride – very comfortable, very informative…

We returned to the Villa, and enjoyed a beautiful rainbow and sunset…

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As I told you, last night we went to a fine Italian restaurant in the town of Camp Verde.  We were so impressed with the food and the ambiance that we decided to return tonight.  However, instead of ordering off the menu, we simply asked the chef to make us something special.  We also specified that the portions be very small, and while I think he was a little embarrassed by how little food they gave us, it was still more than we could eat…

Paul was our server, again, and he seemed to enjoy this meal as much as we did… We began with an appetizer of Crimini mushrooms stuffed with Italian sausage , cured meats, and aged provolone cheese, with a red wine sauce… Next came a seafood pasta, which consisted of a giant Langostino atop red-wine infused house made pasta.  Finally we had a beef roulade, stuffed with shrimp and aged cheese, and topped with a red wine sauce and a splash of 40 year old balsamic, all served over a base of potato.  Pictures don’t do this food justice, so you will have to imagine…

For dessert we had something that was a combination of a cream puff and an Italian donut – creamed filled crispy pastry, caramel sauce, and a beautiful plate decorated with chocolate and something red…

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As we stumbled back to the Villa we were happily satiated.

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-10 – Day 53 – Camp Verde and Sedona

We left Gallup at 8:00 am.  It was 36 degrees outside… We stopped briefly for a mid-morning snack.  We are driving west along the 40 through northern Arizona…

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At Winslow we turned south on tiny highway 89; the sign said, “No services next 51 miles”… They weren’t kidding:

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We turned west again and soon arrived at Camp Verde, site of Historic Fort Verde (1865).  Camp Verde is a working class town, a few miles south of Sedona.

We parked and set up at a very nice RV Park, then we drove to Sedona.  Sedona seems like they took Santa Fe and dropped it into the middle of Bryce Canyon…

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Sedona, like Santa Fe, consists of hotels and shopping areas aimed directly at tourists:  gift shops, art galleries, spas, restaurants, and bars.  Compared to Santa Fe, it has a little less Indian culture and a lot more spiritual culture…

Being tourists, we found a nice restaurant.  Lynda ordered a small margarita…

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I was still pondering the menu and the Yelp ratings…

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We had a nice, but small and simple lunch, then walked through the shops amongst the other tourists.  I was surprised by the number of families in town; I would have expected more well dressed ladies of a certain age (with tiny yippie dogs) and their equally well dressed male companions…

We returned to the Villa.  Internet service was bad, so I had to hang out at the office to get anything done.  We walked around the RV park.  It is very nice, mostly seasonal and long term visitors.  There were six other Airstreams in the park… Oh! Wait! We just noticed a brand new Airstream Atlas!  Make that seven other Airstreams in the park…

At dinner time we sought out all the fine dining options in the area.  There was one.

We went to Moscato, a fine Italian place in Camp Verde, about four miles from the RV park…

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We arrived early and we walked a bit in the town, such as it is…

We found a liquor store that carried all the essentials…

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We’re not in California any more…

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The restaurant was VERY nice – it soon became our favorite restaurant in Camp Verde…

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The food and service were great.  The room is beautiful.  They also have a lovely outdoor patio, but it was a bit cool for that.  There were several large parties and families celebrating something or other…

We made a reservation again for tomorrow night…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-05 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 48 – Convoy to the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta

We were up early, disconnecting, and getting ready to roll.  At 8:00 the lead driver of our convoy of 15 Airstreams rolled out of his site and we all rolled in behind him.  At 8:15 we headed out towards the freeway…

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After about an hour we exited the freeway and drove the frontage road to Camping World, the staging area for Airstreams entering the Balloon Fiesta Grounds.

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Right on schedule, the pilot car pulled in front of our convoy and we convoyed in for the last 10 miles or so.  When we arrived at Balloon Fiesta grounds we were directed in, and we parked in order of our arrival – no picking of spots allowed.  However, by some happy coincidence, we were parked directly facing the “plaza”, the open space reserved for our evening activities…

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Including our caravan of 30 Airstreams, there are 150 Airstreams parked in this “VIP” parking area…

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With no hook-ups there is little to do to set up, so we walked to see the Balloon Museum…

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The museum was mobbed with thousands of school children, but it did offer great overviews of the Airstreams…

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We could also see out over the main field where the 600 or so hot air balloons will be setting up…

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After that, we headed to downtown Albuquerque for a wonderful lunch at El Troquet, a tiny French bistro just dripping with charm…

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After lunch we walked a bit on Central Ave., the route of Historic Route 66.  Lots of new shops, bars, and restaurants are here and it is quite a lively spot…

We returned to the Villa, where Happy Hours and Dinner were soon in full swing…

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Just dinner with our closest 300 friends… Above is our caravan leader, Jay.  His job is just about done…

After dinner more socializing continued.  At 8:00 there were fireworks out on the balloon field…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-04 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 47 – Cubero, New Mexico and Sky City Pueblo at Acoma

This morning we headed out to see the Pueblo at Acoma, called Sky City…

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Acoma Pueblo is an Indian pueblo approximately 60 miles west of Albuquerque.  Four villages make up Acoma Pueblo: Sky City (Old Acoma), Acomita, Anzac, and McCartys.   Today we are visiting Sky City – Old Acoma, a National Historic Landmark.

The Acoma people have continuously occupied this general area for over 2,000 years, making this one of the oldest continuously inhabited communities in the United States (along with Hopi, Zuni, and Taos pueblos). 

The Acoma people say that the Sky City Pueblo was established in the 11th century, with stone buildings as early as 1144 on the Mesa indicating as such, due to their unique lack of Adobe in their construction, proving their antiquity.  These old buildings are native stone with mud mortar, covered with a straw-and-mud plaster.

The Pueblo is situated on a 365-foot mesa, surrounded by a (relatively) fertile valley.  The isolation and location of the Pueblo has sheltered the community for more than 1,200 years.  They sought to avoid conflict with the neighboring Navajo and Apache peoples.

In 1540, Coronado’s expedition became the first non-native visitors to Acoma.  While their first encounters were not particularly friendly, they did share food; Coronado’s men left on friendly terms.

Their next encounter was not so friendly.  Hostilities ensued when the Spanish Conquistidors attacked Acoma, resulting in many lives being lost on both sides.  The Spanish called for reinforcements, and they ended up taking many men and women as prisoners; they were deemed to be quilty of these hostilities and they were sentenced to 25 years of slavery.  In addition, the men each had their right foot cut off.  The Acoma lived under the Spanish rule until 1598.  This dark period of Acoma is known as the Acoma Massacre.

However, the survivors of the Acoma Massacre rebuilt their community between 1599–1620… Between 1629 and 1641 Father Juan Ramirez oversaw construction of the San Estevan Del Rey Mission Church.  The Acoma were ordered to build the church, moving 20,000 tons of adobe, straw, sandstone, and mud to the mesa for the church walls.  Ponderosa pine was brought in by community members from Mount Taylor, over 40 miles away.  The 6,000 square feet church has an altar flanked by 60 feet high wood pillars. These are hand carved in red and white designs representing Christian and Indigenous beliefs.  The Acoma know their ancestors’ hands built this structure, and they consider it a cultural treasure to this day.  In contrast to what we saw in Zuni, the Acoma have kept this church in good repair over the years.

In 1680 the Pueblo Revolt took place, with Acoma cooperating with the other Pueblos in planning, organizing, and fighting against the Spanish.  The revolt brought refugees from other pueblos to Acoma.  Those who eventually left Acoma moved elsewhere to form Laguna Pueblo near by.

During the nineteenth century, the Acoma people, while trying to uphold traditional life, also adopted aspects of the once-rejected Spanish culture and religion.  By the 1880s, railroads brought increased numbers of settlers and ended the pueblos’ isolation.

In the 1920s, the All Indian Pueblo Council gathered for the first time in more than 300 years. Responding to congressional interest in appropriating Pueblo lands, the U.S. Congress passed the Pueblo Lands Act in 1924.  Despite successes in retaining their land, the Acoma had difficulty during the 20th century trying to preserve their cultural traditions.  Protestant missionaries established schools in the area, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs forced Acoma and other Indian children into boarding schools.  By 1922, most children from the community were in boarding schools, where they were forced to use English and to practice Christianity.  Several generations became cut off from their own culture and language, with harsh effects on their families and societies.

Today, about 300 two- and three-story houses stand on the mesa, with exterior ladders used to access the upper levels where residents live.  Access to the mesa is by a road blasted into the rock face during the 1950s.  Approximately 75 or so families live permanently on the mesa, with the population increasing on the weekends as family members come to visit and tourists, some 55,000 annually, visit for the day.

Acoma Sky City Pueblo has no electricity, running water, or sewage disposal.  A reservation surrounds the mesa, totaling 600 square miles.  Tribal members live both on the reservation and outside it.  Contemporary Acoma culture remains relatively closed, however.  According to the 2000 United States census, about 5,000 people identify themselves as Acoma.

We drove about 20 miles across back country roads to get to Sky City.  All along the route we saw ruins of ancient buildings, all built of native stone and all in various stages of disrepair.  Some were next to brand new houses, and some were over run with weeds…  We have not seen this landscape before…

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We met in the Acoma Visitors Center.  It is the best piece of architecture we have seen on this trip.  The front of the building, and the interiors, are very contemporary, although traditional forms are used in modern ways.  Around the back is a ceremonial plaza, where the design is much more traditional.  It was a treat to see a building this nice here…

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OK, so it wasn’t perfect…

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We boarded a bus and were driven to the top of the mesa, where our tour began.  We saw St. Stephen’s Church, and the adjoining cemetery.  No pictures are allowed inside the church or in the cemetery.

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Note that the vigas are not only authentic and functional, but the ends are carved, and the beams are hand-hewn to be rectangular, not round…

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Scuppers, hand-carved from one piece of wood…

img_9505The buildings atop the mesa range from some original 12th century buildings, plus buildings from the 1500s and 1600s.  They have been added onto over the years, so we can see buildings with parts built from the 1940s, 1960s, and 1980s also… It was VERY interesting.

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Mud and straw “plaster” covers the ancient stone… It needs to be re-done about every 5-7 years…

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Some structures are in the process of restoration and/or reconstruction.  According to one of our caravaners who has been here several time in the past 10 years, the Pueblo is looking better and better every year.  The money from the casino is being spent to improve the Pueblo…

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They do cover the vigas now with sheet metal…

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You read above how there is no running water or sewer.  Water is brought up to the mesa in tank trucks.  Most houses have propane for heat, cooking, and/or lights.  Wood is also used for cooking and heating.  As for sanitary facilities:  The mesa is surrounded with two-story, solar powered, waterless and composting outhouses…

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We walked through the oldest part of the Pueblo.  These houses were originally built in the 1100s and the 1200s, although they have been remodeled and expanded many times over the years.  The original houses were three stories – on the ground floor there were no doors and windows.  The ground floor was accessed via internal stairs or ladders, and the area was used for storage.  The second level was accessed by a ladder from the ground to the second floor.  The living quarters were located on the second floor, with the roof of the ground floor storage areas used as a terrace.  The third floor contained the cooking facilities.  Since heat is generated here, and hot air rises, having the cooking areas on the top floor kept the other areas of the house cooler.  This arrangement allowed security, in that ladders could be drawn up to the “terrace” to prevent intruders from accessing the house…

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As any good architect knows, in desert climates in the northern hemisphere houses should be oriented to the south for maximum control of, protection from, and use of solar heat gain from the sun.  Here we see a world famous architect demonstrate a south-facing front porch…

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The mesa offers many fine views of the surrounding valleys and other rock formations…

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There is a mesa a few miles away from Sky City, which was the original site of the Acoma Pueblo.  They had only been living there a few years when a violent lightning storm destroyed the only access to the mesa.  Fortunately for most of the Acoma, they were away tending their fields and hunting game.  Unfortunately for the two women atop the mesa, they were trapped. Rather than starve to death, they jumped to their deaths… The Acoma have never been back to the mesa since, and they rebuilt their Pueblo at the location where we now stand…

One of the traditional ovens being fire-up…

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At the end of the tour, the lazy people headed for the bus.  We hearty types walked down steps carved into the rock in the 12th century, sometimes needing to use the hand-holds cut into the walls of stone.  It was a great trek!  Until the 1950s this was the only way to get to and from the Pueblo…

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We returned to the visitors center, had a New Mexican lunch of tacos and enchiladas, Christmas style… We drove back to The Villa…

In the evening we held our LAST drivers meeting.  Tomorrow we convoy the 60 miles or so to Albuquerque to park at the Balloon Fiesta… The fiesta starts Friday and runs for nine days.  We will be staying four nights, leaving Tuesday.

Since we must be ready to go tomorrow at 8:00 am, we did much of our hitching up after the drivers meeting.  Lynda cooked a pizza for dinner…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-10-02 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 45 – Gallup, New Mexico – and the Zuni Pueblo…

The caravan traveled to the Pueblo of Zuni today…

We arrived at the Visitors Center and had the usual confusion as to where to park 15 or 20 pick-up trucks…

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Once we were all at the visitors center we all left.  We drove about one mile to a typical house in the Zuni village… Note the exterior appears to be unfinished – exposed concrete block, unprotected particle board, no paint…

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But inside we found a very modern house; there was a modern kitchen and a room large enough to feed lunch to 60 people!

They served us salad, bread baked in their traditional adobe ovens, posolle (a beef soup or stew), and our choice of peach cobbler or apple pie for dessert.  Very nice!

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After lunch we returned to the visitors center where we heard the history of the Zuni people.  He condensed it to only 10 hours (or so it seemed… It was actually about 1 1/2 hours…)

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The speaker was a native to Zuni, who had an interest in the history and archaeology and anthropology of his people.  He left Zuni after high school to attend Stanford; he returned to become the local expert in all things Zuni.  He has excavated parts of the pueblo 70 feet down to find remnants of the ancient village…

We then drove back again to the center of the Middle Village, and we learned more of the history of the pueblo…

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As I mentioned a few days ago, the Spanish built the church – Our Lady of Guadalupe – in 1620, only to see it destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt in 1680.  It lay in ruins until it was rebuilt in 1960, but today it is in sad shape.  Plans are underway for a full restoration…

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Note the overgrown cemetery in the church yard…

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The Spanish left in about 1800 as the American frontiersmen started arriving in the west.  However, the frontiersmen showed little interest in Zuni, and the Zuni continued to live totally alone and isolated for over 100 years.  The “modern era” caught up with them in the early 1900s and the community continued to thrive, although in their traditional, non-modern ways.

These buildings were built from the 1940 – 1960 and they continue to be added to today.  This is “modern” wood frame construction, with ancient stones taken from other ruined buildings, made into veneer, and installed on the wood frame.  This courtyard, as I said before, is used for religious ceremonies… The roofs and the courtyard will hold over 2,000 people during these ceremonies…

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The history we heard here in the village was much more interesting than what we heard in the visitors center, and we left with new knowledge of the Zuni people.

This evening we had a drivers meeting, sharing ice cream, an Airstream tradition…

img_9457 And an enjoyable time was had by all…

2018-09-30 – WBCCI 2018 Southwest Adventure Caravan – Day 43 – Gallup, New Mexico – Hot Air Balloons and the Zuni Pueblo…

Today is the day!  Hot Air Balloons!

We drove in the dark to meet at Red Rock State Park, just east of Gallup.  We met up with the balloon pilots and their crews.  There will be 6 balloons going up today.  Weather conditions are perfect!

We drove around to the launch site, in the first of several canyons we would be seeing today.  Then the work of setting up the balloons begins.

The basket is assembled, and the burners are installed and tested…

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The balloon is inflated with a large, loud fan…

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The the burners are fired and the air in the balloon is heated…

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As the air in the balloon gets warmer the balloon rises…

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We all climb in the basket and away we go!

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As we ascended we could look down on the ground crew and the chase vehicles.  These people will follow us along our route and pick us up when we land – wherever that might be…

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Riding in a hot air balloon is an ethereal experience.  Everything is VERY slow.  It is silent, except when the pilot hits the valve to fire the burner to add more heat.  There is no steering wheel and there are no brakes – the balloon simply follows the wind… There are some vents in the balloon to let the pilot release air, and this allows him to rotate and adjust the balloon’s trajectory.

So we flew over five canyons, soaring over the plateaus and dropping deep into the canyon, then back up again…

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Part of the fun is flying along with other balloons…

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This is the official balloon of the State of New Mexico…

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Looking up into the hot air…

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After about five miles and one hour or so the first balloon lands…

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Our chase crew has arrived…

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As the others are starting to deflate and pack up we are still searching for a place to land…

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And we are on the ground!  This is our pilot, Jeff.  He has over 30 years experience flying balloons, and he set us down flawlessly!

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As the balloon deflates we all pitch in to pack it up…

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The basket is disassembled…

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The burners are stowed…

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And we returned to the original meeting spot.  We had a traditional ceremony and we shared a little champagne to celebrate our flight…

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And, with that, our ballooning was over.  On to other adventures…

After such an exhilarating morning, we celebrated by having breakfast at the Railroad Cafe – in a remodeled mid-70s era Der Weinerschnitel.

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And then we headed south about 45 miles to the Pueblo of Zuni

When Lynda retired from Valley Christian High School in June, 2017, another colleague, Tim Becksvoort also left.  But Tim didn’t retire – he moved, with his wife and three children to Zuni, NM, to become Principal of the Zuni Christian Mission School.  We set out today to visit the Becksvoorts and the Pueblo of Zuni…

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In 1897, Andrew and Effa Vander Wagen established a permanent mission in Zuni on behalf of the Christian Reformed Church.  Their passion and love for their Indian brothers and sisters made a lasting impression on all they touched.  They became fluent in the Zuni language and persevered in spite of physical threats to their lives.

The breakthrough for the fledgling Mission came when the Vander Wagens (with their infant children) refused to leave Zuni during a serious smallpox epidemic.  Instead of fleeing, as did the officials at Bureau of Indian Affairs, who were responsible for medical care in Zuni, the young couple went door to door caring for and administering medicine to their Zuni neighbors.  In that and later acts of mercy, the Vander Wagens pioneered the then-revolutionary mission concept that in order to minister to people’s spiritual needs one must also be willing to demonstrate Christ’s compassion and care for their physical needs.  With that groundwork laid, the first ordained missionaries were assigned to the Zuni Christian Reformed Mission in 1906.

In 1908, so that the missionary children might have Christian schooling, Miss Nellie DeJong came to Zuni as their teacher.  Along with the missionary children, four Zuni children were also enrolled.  From that humble beginning, the school expanded rapidly and soon claimed an important role in building relationships in the community, in educating the children and in sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the children and their families.

Although the church and school have been housed in the same location within the Pueblo since its inception, there have been many changes in the facilities.  A major setback occurred in 1971 when a devastating fire raged through the Mission, completely destroying the church and school.  Portable classrooms were brought in and “temporary” facilities were constructed.  Forty years later, an amazing venture to rebuild the entire mission campus was begun.  Today there is a beautiful new school, a worship center for the church, residences for up to six families of staff members, a playground, and a gymnasium.

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The school is located across the river from central Zuni, the oldest part of the pueblo, “Middle Earth”, as they call it.  However, the village has, over the past 100 years, grown and now surrounds the school and church.

The Becksvoorts live in this very nice two-story apartment…

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We had lunch with the Becksvoort family, chatted with their three children, and walked around the “Middle Earth”…

The A:shiwi have lived here “forever”.   When the Spanish conquistadors arrived in about 1620 they gave the natives the name of Zuni… The Spanish built a church:  Our Lady of Guadalupe.  It was destroyed in the Pueblo Revolt of 1680, and the Spanish left and fled to Santa Fe when the American frontiersmen started coming through in about 1800 as part of America’s western migration.   The church was rebuilt in 1960, but, due to benign neglect, it has significantly deteriorated, making it uninhabitable today…

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The church even has vigas, which are, of course, rotting…

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We walked about the newer (1960s) buildings (with vigas…), and saw one of the Zunis’ ceremonial courtyards, and their traditional adobe ovens, used mostly to bake bread…

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(We will come back to Zuni in a few days with the caravan; we will have a native meal with the Zuni people and an official tour… Stay tuned…)

We returned to the RV park in the late afternoon, and enjoyed happy hours with our fellow Airstreamers…

And an enjoyable time was had by all…

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