A historic trading post in Pecos National Park is being rehabilitated to serve as a visitor center, museum and office space, the latest use for a facility that has served many purposes over the last 150 years.
Founded in 1858 by Martin Kozlowski, a Polish immigrant and soldier, the trading post served as a place for wagoners on the Santa Fe Trail to rest, enjoy a meal and restock on supplies.
“It’s better to refer to it as a stage stop,” Becky Latanich, the park’s chief of interpretation and education, tells SFR. “Like a motel, but for horses,” she adds with a grin.
Whether it’s a trading post or a stage stop, the building is impressively large; 5,098 square feet, according to project supervisor Kirk Woodruff. Split into two wings, the structure is built from adobe, and much of the original wood floor will remain when the project is finished. Although modern siding will cover most of the interior adobe, the plan is to leave a few spots exposed so visitors and employees can appreciate the original material—“a window to the past,” Latanich says.
The roof is made of soil paneled over with wood, and all the dirt will be removed as part of the renovation.
“Old-school insulation,” shouted a worker when SFR asked Woodruff about the soil.
Avanyu General Contracting, a firm based in San Ildefonso Pueblo, is partnering with Weil Construction, Woodruff's employer, for the project.
"We are excited to continue developing in the field of historic preservation. As a Native woman, being able to specialize in the use of traditional materials honors the Indigenous knowledge and genius of my ancestors, allowing us to keep building in a holistic way in harmony with our Mother Earth," Liana Sanchez, majority owner of Avanyu, writes in a news release.
The trading post’s location was chosen in part due to its proximity to Glorieta Creek, and it served as a Union hospital after the famous Battle of Glorieta Pass.
Inside the trading post, which is still under heavy construction, SFR asks Latanich where injured Union soldiers were treated.
“Right where you’re standing,” she says, adding that the wounded were spread out on the floor all across the post.
In 1925, rancher and rodeo promoter Tex Austin bought the trading post and converted it into his Forked Lightning Ranch, adding the distinctive blue lightning bolt logo that visitors might recognize. He also constructed a large manor house up the hill from the original trading post, complete with an imposing sculpted bull’s head jutting out of the front facade.
Then, in the 1940s, EE “Buddy” Fogelson bought the property and brought his Oscar-winning wife, Greer Garson, to live in the house and use the trading post as a hobby ranch.
Finally, the trading post became part of the national park system in the early 1990s, and served as an office facility for the park through 2006, when it was deemed unsuitable for use.
Considering the rich history of the area, the construction crew has to be more careful than usual when working on the post. Original material that’s still in working condition is kept to be replaced, and any time the crew breaks ground, an archaeological monitor must be present to identify anything of historical significance.
Once completed, the building will include over 1,000 square feet of exhibits and a conference room open to the public. Over half of the facility will be for public use, with just under 50 percent housing offices for park staff, Latanich says. Woodruff hopes the project to be completed around the end of the year.
The National Parks Service is spending about $3.8 million on construction, she says, and without it, the building would likely just continue to decay.
“The park has two choices, you either need to keep it up or let it go,” Latanich says.
“I think we applied for this in 2012,” Latanich says of the funding. “So obviously it took many, many years for this to come to fruition.”
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Will grew up in Omaha, Nebraska and guarantees he has already heard the corn joke you’re about to make. He writes about city council, among other things, and when he’s not working he’s probably lost and yelling at Google Maps for not finding his location.