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

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."