News Column

Park Service building's 75th anniversary rekindles talks on site's future

July 2, 2014

By Staci Matlock, The Santa Fe New Mexican

July 02--Retired and current National Park Service staff on Tuesday celebrated the 75th anniversary of the historic building that once served as the agency's Southwest Regional Office headquarters.

Some former staff members want the building, at 1100 Old Santa Fe Trail, returned to its glory days as the regional headquarters, which was moved to Denver almost two decades ago. Others would like to see the building protected as a historic site and opened more frequently for public tours.

The building is now closed to the public except by special permit for events, according to Judy Chetwin, a volunteer who used to work for the Southwest Regional Office.

"Since 9/11, a lot of the mandate for federal buildings has changed," Chetwin said. "At this point, the building is not open to the public. They are exploring options for opening it more often ... maybe through a volunteer program, but it is all still in the talking stages."

Dignitaries, including former U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman, spoke at Tuesday's commemoration ceremony. Bingaman said the building looks like it's in pretty good shape but could use some plaster work. "That's the nature of a 75-year-old building," he said.

The old regional headquarters was built between 1937 and 1939 on 8 acres of state land. The adobe structure was funded during President Franklin D. Roosevelt'sNew Deal program and built in part by men hired through the publicly funded Civilian Conservation Corps and the Works Progress Administration. It was designed by National Park Service architect Cecil J. Doty. The structure was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1987 and has been described as a masterpiece of Spanish-Pueblo Revival architecture.

Inside, the building is furnished with 1930s art from Santa Fe, carved Spanish colonial wood furniture, Pueblo pottery and Navajo rugs.

The building was commemorated by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989. A few years later, the Southwest Region of the National Park Service and the regional office was reorganized and joined with the Intermountain Regional Office in Denver. Ten regions were consolidated into six to save the money and streamline operations. Staff at the Southwest Regional Office helped more than 30 parks in seven states with natural resources, planning, interpretation and public affairs. Those positions moved to Denver in 1995, leaving regional cultural resources and national trails staff at the Santa Fe office.

Jose Cisneros, who retired as superintendent of Big Bend National Park in 1999, has advocated for the old headquarters on Old Santa Fe Trail to again be a regional office. He's been bending the ear of congressional delegates and anyone who would listen for years. He would like to see the Southwest Regional Office once again established to oversee and help parks in New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas and Arizona.

But funding such a move continues to be a hard sell in Congress.

Contact Staci Matlock at 986-3055 or Follow her on Twitter @stacimatlock.


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Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

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