This presentation was part of A Century of Design in the Parks Symposium, Santa Fe, New Mexico, June 21-23, 2016.

By Jake Barrow


The Southwest of the United States is home to an ubiquitous earthen architectural heritage. For 100 years the National Park Service (NPS) has managed and preserved prehistoric and historic earthen sites in the region. These sites include American cultural and pre Columbian archeological values. The 1906 Antiquities Act impacted the American consciousness significantly and the subsequent establishment of National Monuments included many earthen architectural resources. Archeology evolved from site robbery and destruction toward being a non-invasive integrated science while technology of conserving earthen architecture matured from simple construction practice to applied science. The preservation of earthen ruins started in 1891 at the Casa Grande resulting in a protective shelter by 1901. The NPS was established in 1916 and major interventions took place at Tumacacori Mission National Monument in 1921. In 1923 the NPS created the Southwest Monuments Office institutionalizing the management of the both earthen and stone/earth sites. During the 1930s innovative strategies were sought. Depression era programs enhanced parks and national historic preservation efforts coincided with an urgent recognition in southwest parks of the fragility of earthen resources. Soil cements (earthen materials mixed with Portland cement) were being tested and used to preserve walls. Chemical treatments were tried off and on after the war. Experiments were inconclusive. By the 1970s preservationists became aware of the problems with using Portland cement in conservation and the concern led to the first scientific evaluation of treatments. The results of the internal research program led to the use of two chemical amendments which were quickly embraced by many parks. In some cases traditional treatments were maintained. At the turn of the twentieth century Fort Union National Monument embarked on a strategy to apply a pragmatic agenda incorporating field data, site analysis, historical documentation and scientific approaches to better manage earthen resources. A model was created. Currently the NPS manages earthen architectural resources at 8 major sites in three southwestern states.


Jake Barrow is the Program Director for Cornerstones Community Partnerships (a Santa Fe based not for profit organization) where he works to provide heritage preservation leadership and technical outreach services to communities. He specializes in wood, timber, log, stone and adobe preservation.

He joined Cornerstones in 2009 after retiring from a thirty-year historic preservation career from the National Park Service. The majority of those years were spent in the southwest focusing on earthen, stone and timber architecture where he served as project manager and architectural conservator (Preservation Specialist) working with a wide variety of structures.

He earned a B.F.A from the University of North Carolina and his post graduate studies include architectural conservation certificates from the ARC course and Stone course at the International Center for the Study of Preservation and Restoration of Cultural Property (ICCROM) in Rome and Venice, Italy. He is the 1996 recipient of the Appleman-Judd Award for Cultural Resource Stewardship in the NPS. He received the 2002 New Mexico Heritage Preservation Award and in 2015 he received the New Mexico Lifetime Achievement Heritage Preservation Award.

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