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The Old Santa Fe Trail Building, in that New Mexico capital, has the singular honor of being the largest adobe office building in the United States. Built to house the southwest regional offices of the National Park Service, its Pueblo-inspired design feels at once authentic and anachronistic. That tension is baked into its history like clay. 

National Park Service rustic, or “Parkitecture,” is an architectural style adopted as policy by the NPS in the 1920s, but it was tradition before that. From the frontier log work of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone to the native granite of the LeConte Memorial Lodge in Yosemite (both built in 1903), park buildings have always been designed so as not to interrupt the landscape. Locally sourced materials and earthy colors allow buildings to blend in with and match the natural beauty of the park. 

For parks in much of the West, though, authenticity isn’t just a matter of matching natural elements: An authentic structure also matches the human architecture that came before the park. For the Old Santa Fe Trail Building this meant imitating the methods and designs of not only local Pueblo people, but also the Spanish settlers who lived in New Mexico for centuries. Architect Cecil J. Doty, a student of NPS rustic, sought to combine the two. 

Construction began in 1936 under the Civilian Conservation Corps, who were responsible for much of the labor that built and expanded the national parks we still enjoy today. Doty’s design called for an adobe brick structure, made mostly with soil dug up onsite during construction. The stone foundation was quarried in Santa Fe, while the roof logs came from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The design also highlights local flora with a lush central courtyard reminiscent of Spanish missions. Flagstone patios and a fountain complete this Southwestern blend. 

As an early achievement in the “Spanish Pueblo Revival” style, the Old Santa Fe Trail Building remains a justly celebrated historical landmark of New Mexico. To learn more, visit: 

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