Message #435: From: AzTeC SW Archaeology SIG To: "'Matthias Giessler'" Subject: The Most Definitive Adobe Building Restoration in the Southwest Date: Thu, 02 Jan 97 07:57:00 MST Encoding: 80 TEXT http://www.mrt.com/archnews/mission.html 1884 adobe Carmelite monastery -- Stanton TX redicates historic mission STANTON - The 1884 adobe Carmelite monastery that offered spiritual life to the old Marienfeld community, now Stanton, was re-dedicated Sunday in a hope-for-restoration ceremony that bespoke unity, old-time religion, remembrance of the past and hope for the future. The three-story, 112-year-old Gothic monastery, which later was converted to a convent and abandoned following a 1938 tornado that destroyed the Our Lady of Mercy Academy, was built by the Roman Catholic order of Carmelite friars and settlers on a hill here. Restoration of the monastery reflects the unity of "building together'' and signs of new hope, new life, new opportunity and new blessings that were extant in the original settlement more than a century ago, said the Rev. John Benedict Weber, an Illinois-based Carmelite friar and historian who presided over the re-dedication ceremony. "The early settlers, the earliest friars, and earliest sisters ... are smiling at us because we are doing what they did. We are building together (through the restoration),'' Weber said to a tent-full of folks and others on the monastery's first-floor veranda. The monastery, now in a state of quasi-disrepair, is being restored under the guidance of the Martin County Convent, Inc., at a cost of $600,000 over a five-year period. Exterior and interior of the building, which was modified for use as a convent as part of Our Lady of Mercy Academy, is to be restored to its Carmelite monastery origin, including cedar-shake shingles and the whitewashed four-foot-thick abode walls. And much of the inspiration for the restoration comes in the community's sense of history and heritage, through the historical research of Weber who formerly lived in Texas, and in the leadership of neighboring Grady schoolteacher John Kennady, who observed that "by only appreciating the past can the future be bright.'' Kennady projected that the restored monastery is "going to be the definitive restoration of any abode building, probably, in the Southwest.'' In quoting New Mexico architect Paul G. McHenry Jr., Kennady said that Stanton's Carmelite monastery is unique and "frozen in time.'' Further, Kennady said in quoting McHenry, "All steps should be taken to preserve this one (adobe building). Old photos, mockups and museum exhibits can never provide the same experience as walking through history in the real thing." In wake of the restoration and "long after we are gone and are no longer remembered,'' Weber said the hill-top monastery will remain "a site of great promise and a site of great hope. "And I hope today that the original settlers are putting their blessing on it from their place in Heaven,'' Weber said. "And I am sure they are smiling upon us.'' Weber's research took him to Rome where he studied original letters and records, in both German and Latin, that reflected correspondence between the Carmelites in Stanton and in Rome. To the original settlers, the monastery site, including the Saint Joseph Catholic Church, and, later, the academy, "was not just the origins of their town but it was a real symbol of the kind of life they could have here .... happiness and prosperity,'' Weber said. And the restoration today is a "sign of people coming together for the common good again.'' In quoting from the 1897 writings of Carmelite Friar Telesphorus Hardt, who served in the monastery from 1886 until his return to Europe, Weber said "the local settlers didn't have any money, so all the work in building all these buildings had to be done by the men of the town working together with the Carmelites. "Some days we worked as brick-makers,'' Weber said, quoting Hardt. "Sometimes we were brick-layers. Other times, we were carpenters and blacksmiths. Some days we were plasterers and still other times, we were roofers.'' The church's adobe walls were four feet thick, and the brick work was double-layered to withstand the "fierce West Texas wind,'' Weber said quoting Hardt. Prairie grass then was 2 to 3 meters (up to a yard) tall, Weber said in reflecting upon Hardt's experience. Rabbits, prairie dogs, tarantulas, scorpions, centipedes and rattlesnakes abounded. And songbirds and birds of prey, such as eagles, hawks and vultures, were common over the "staked plains'' of West Texas. But the huge buffalo herds were gone, and the antelope herds were dwindling. Around the community in the mid-1880s were ranchers and their "thousands and thousands of heads of cattle, horses and sheep." Weber noted that the drought of 1885 and into the late 1880s forced many original settlers into bankruptcy "because they couldn't keep their herds, and they couldn't maintain the property that they were still paying money on,'' Weber said. "Many of them sold their ranches and their herds and went to work for the Texas & Pacific Railroad, and moved to Big Spring, Colorado City, Midland, Dallas.'' That exodus, noted Weber, eroded the financial base of the Order of the Carmelites. By 1900, the Carmelite friars had been succeeded by the sisters of Our Lady of Mercy Academy. "It is important to remember and to preserve the past,'' Kennady said. "We are only stewards of this historic site for the future generations and in memory of these ex-students (of the academy). And the efforts of the Carmelites will be forever remembered."