Historic Preservation and Interior Design – Part One
CHAMBERS ARCHITECTS VISITS HISTORIAN JEFF HENGESBAUGH IN GLORIETA, NEW MEXICO
Chambers Architects went to Albuquerque to hunt for ethnographic artifacts and photography of the American West and Native American peoples to complete our interior design for a ranch west of Fort Worth. In addition to the acquisition of these artifacts, we found an amazing portal to U.S. history through the stories of historian, Jeff Hengesbaugh. This visit confirmed what we already know about sustainable interior design: surround yourself with objects that have meaning to you, creating an environment that continuously feeds your soul.
We managed a couple of quick-step dance moves in our approach to the counter of The Calabaza booth at the Southwestern Antiques Market in Albuquerque. Hengesbaugh needed a wide swath to speak to the cadre of collectors gathered to hear his energetic stories. Utilizing his vast collection of Bowie knives, rifles, saddles, and trapper wardrobe, this historian and researcher is breathing new life into the history of the pioneer westward movement across the American plains, deserts, and mountains.
During his twenties and thirties, Jeff spent thousands of miles in the saddle revisiting the lifestyle of the 1830s Mountain Man. His longest pilgrimage was from Arizona to Canada, three thousand miles of eating off the land and, in some cases, starving, over a six months period on the trail. Jeff has a chronic passion for history. His particular interest in the Spanish experience in the American West has segued over time into research, lectures, and the selling of artifacts that illustrate his stories.
By the time we leave The Calabaza booth, we are enchanted. Not just by Jeff and his collectibles. We catch his infectious excitement about the rich history of the American Southwest and the people who attempted to co-exist in its hostile environs. After the Civil War, the fractured union of states was hungry for a hero to heal its ailing soul. The lowly, hard working, fractious cowboy was its unlikely choice. The impression still remains strong. Whether Spanish, Mexican, Anglo, African American, male, female, straight, or gay, the image conveys an indefatigable struggle against tough odds. To a public fickle about its heroes, cowboys sell everything from trucks to presidential candidates because their basic lives are a continuous battle with droughts, snowstorms, tornadoes, flash floods, wolves and bears, and the relentless heat of horizon-to-horizon sky.
Jeff consults with Colorado collector, Jim Gordon, about his Santa Fe-based early West history museum, curated by Hengesbaugh.
Jeff invited us to his home in Glorieta. The small New Mexico village is sited on a roundabout on the Santa Fe Trail and steeped in American and Spanish history. Throughout centuries of exploration and migration into the western territories, almost everyone passed near Glorieta. Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led his legions through this pass in 1540 searching for the gold of the Seven Cities of Cibola. The Battle of Glorieta Pass, fought from March 26 to 28, 1862 in northern New Mexico Territory, was the decisive battle of the New Mexico Campaign during the American Civil War. Called the “Gettysburg of the West,” it was intended by Confederate forces as the killer blow to break the Union possession of the West along the base of the Rocky Mountains. Eventually, the Confederates had to withdraw entirely from the territory back into Confederate Arizona and then Texas. Federal forces were finally able to turn back the Southern invasion of New Mexico.
On this morning of our visit, Jeff is loading up his trucks for the upcoming week of Tribal Markets. He is a writer, historian, antiquities trader, philosopher, historic re-enactor, research assistant to the Palace of the Governors and curator for many collectors and museums that feature artifacts of the 1800s. Many of the New Mexico’s museums display treasures that he found. The New Mexico History Museum in Santa Fe currently features the exhibit, Cowboys Real and Imagined, employing many artifacts supplied by Hengesbaugh. The interactive “cowboy” exhibition asks a bare-boned question: Will the people who tamed the American western ranges survive? When Jeff holds you in hands, mesmerizing with stories of the Alamo, Billy the Kid, and ancient battles between the Spanish Conquistadors and the Chichimeca Indians, you want to believe the answer is “yes.”
Some Mountain Man Rules to Live By:
1. Tangible and tactile artifacts of our shared past vividly illustrate our present freedom and remind us to create a more peaceful future.
2. Respect the warrior within man’s nature and use it wisely.
3. Know that you are already free.
4. Consume only what you need.
5. Get to know what the earth really looks like: its glaciers, mountains, the warmth of a campfire, the saddle of a horse, the smell of the plains, and the healing of rain to vegetation.
6. It’s possible to live in both the past and the future.
Teaching should be perceived as a valuable gift and not as hard duty. It is the enviable opportunity to learn the liberating influence of beauty…and to profit the community to which your later work belongs. Albert Einstein
Teach on, Jeff Hengesbaugh…illegitimi non carborundum. Don’t let the bastards grind you down.