This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.
Astrid Liverman: This presentation tiers off of our participation in a Colorado State Historical Fund Grant for surveying National Register nominations, and visual resource management analysis for segments along the Santa Fe Trail through Colorado, in partnership with the National Trust, National Historic Trails Office of the National Park Service, the Santa Fe Trail Association, the Forest Service, the Army Corps of Engineers, and others. The survey resulted, among other deliverables, in the recently concluded survey of approximately 20 miles of the trail, and 12 draft National Register nominations.
Just to orient you to the trail through Colorado, as you’ll see on the bottom right image, it’s comprised of two routes, the Cimarron Cutoff for a minimal amount of miles, and then more predominately, the Mountain Branch, so it passes effectively through Otero, Las Animas, Baca, Phillips, and Bent County in our state.
To back up for a little bit, to date, no segments of the Santa Fe Trail through Colorado have been listed in the National Register. About 20 years ago an MPDF and several individual nominations were originally submitted to our review board but failed because the review board objected to a number of academic points, including the lack of state-specific and archaeological information in the context. As a result, none of the individual nominations went forward either, and those were for Iron Springs, Fort Wise, and Bent’s New Fort. Meanwhile, the other four trail states, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, and New Mexico did approve the MPDF and it was accepted by the Keeper of the National Register.
Leaning forward, beginning in 2009, the Kansas SHPO led the effort to amend the MPDF for the historical resources of the Santa Fe Trail with the participation from the National Parks Service, National Historic Trails Office, and SHPO representatives from the other four trail states. This collaboration kicked off in August 2009 with a meeting in Dodge City, Kansas that included the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and the Santa Fe Trail Association.
The amended MPDF was approved in 2012 under sub context that included international trade on the Mexican Road, the Mexican American War, and the Santa Fe Trail expanding national trade on the Santa Fe Trail, the effects of the Civil War, Santa Fe Trail on the railroad, commemoration and reuse and then it had as well state-specific sections. There were several associated property types identified for the period 1821 to 1880 and then with the caveat that were used and commemoration extended through 1930. Those were transportation sites, travel and trade, military and skirmish battle sites, trail graves and cemeteries, monuments and markers, and cultural landscape.
In including cultural landscapes as a property type, the descriptions specifically acknowledged evocative setting as a fundamental element, if without formally defining it, and the language reads as follows: “The resources of greatest national significance related to the Santa Fe Trail are cultural landscapes comprised of at least one of each of the above property types, and can also include traditional cultural places of significance to American Indian tribes, including those descended from tribes that historically and prehistorically were associated with reticular areas along the trail.
This property type represents the fullest inter-relationship of the trail-related resources in the historic setting. As a rural historic landscape, a property can be deemed significant for all relevant periods of significance and can include all Criteria, A through D. This holistic approach to evaluating the significance of the landscape is based on an understanding of the cultural and natural forces that shaped the landscape. Therefore, the natural landscape also should be included as a contributing resource.”
The landscape should be essentially intact from the historic period, including its topography, wet or dry water ways, vegetation and associated cultural resources. Obviously, districts at this scale should be reserved for the most intact, complex, and continuous segments of the trail while places where a concentration of resources exist in a highly intact cohesive and evocative setting.
Because of this, the scale and complexity of these district, few are expected to be nominated. However, future survey work in Colorado is expected to further define this property type.” Just as a side note, a lot of the language under this property type originated from a 2009 memo from Barbara (Wyatt) and Linda McClelland to Michael Taylor of the Parks Service National Historic Trails Office in advanced at the summit of the five trail states that was held in Dodge City.
To broaden the discussion away from Colorado specifically for a moment. From our SHPO National Register staff’s perspective, we understand the use of the term evocative in the sense of the following context. For instance, the Park Service has recently used the term evocative landscape in its late October letter in opposition to Dominion Virginia Power’s proposed overhead power lines across the Chesapeake Bay due to proposed impacts on the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, Colonial National Historic Park, Washington Rochambeau Revolution Route National Historical Trail, and Carter’s Grove NHL.
This relates to the identification and significance of the historic indigenous cultural landscape of which Deanna has already presented to us, and particularly along the Captain John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail.
In a 2009 article that challenged of nominating the underground railroad in Delaware as a historic byway, David Ames, et al in Preservation Education and Research described evocative landscapes sites as “Sites or areas that evoke the general undisturbed historic landscape of this part of Delaware, providing the traveler with an experience as removed as possible from contemporary intrusion.” That was the definition also published in the Federal Register in 2013, in the presidential proclamation for the establishment of the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad National Monument.
Finally, as Barbara has already alluded to, UNESCO has first identified the category in 1992 and defined types of cultural landscape in 2008. Per UNESCO because the second type is an organically evolved landscape resulting from “An initial socioeconomic administrative and/or religious imperative and has developed at its present form by association with and in response to its natural environment.
In turn the organically evolved landscapes are divided into further subtypes, including a relict or fossil landscape, “One in which an evolutionary process came to an end at some time in the past, either abruptly or over a period, and its significant distinguishing features are, however, still visible in material form.” Arguably, I think that the segments of the Santa Fe Trail in Colorado may fit under this definition. On the slide, you’ll see some of the examples of the visual resource management analysis that we conducted through this grant, which depicts the expansive landscape with few, if any, modern alterations, and I’ll talk about that in a second.
Back along the trail at where we are with the draft National Register nominations for Colorado, the first three that are moving forward are for the Delhi segments in Las Animas County, and they are on our review board’s January agenda. Unfortunately, however, the drafts that were prepared under the grant did not adequately address rural historic landscape characteristics. Despite other efforts and edits, these particular nominations are not moving forward under the cultural landscape property type but only under trail segment, which was considered acceptable by staff, as these particular Delhi segments as part of a larger branching landscape dating to the late 1950s, are not as isolated relative to the more expansive trail landscapes in Otero and Las Animas County.
The sites at Delhi are within about a mile of a country road intersection with Highway 350. These sites do feature depositional environments in an alluvial setting with loose silty clay and sandy soils, a variety of native vegetation as well as some invasive species, including juniper, Russian thistle, grasses, forbs, yucca, and sunflower. They have been somewhat impacted by water and wind erosion, cattle grazing, and ground disturbance associated with associated with modern ranching, but overall, the setting remains intact, such that the trail remains apparent on the landscape to the careful observer.
The sites do have boundaries that extend out from the center line to encompass the pitch zone to about 50 meters total on either side, wherein materials are likely to have been discarded or lost along the travel corridor. They don’t necessarily reflect boundaries that include the full viewshed or vista themselves, but these are acknowledged in the descriptions as critical to the integrity, feeling, association, and setting.
The Delhi Mountain route segments are archaeological sites representative of transportation sites with the subtype trail segment as identified in the revised MPDF, and so they’re moving forward, hopefully at the national level of significance, with period of significance of 1846 to 1880. They are nominated in the areas of transportation, commerce, military, exploration and settlement, and historical non-aboriginal, as well as aboriginal archaeology.
I showed you the Delhi segments, in part in contrast to this segment, which is the Iron Spring segment on the Forest Service Comanche National Grassland, which is arguably one of the best examples of an evocative landscape among the trail sites for which the draft nominations have been prepared. We believe that the description evocative landscape is particularly apt here given the exceedingly intact nature of the broader landscape.
There are virtually no modern intrusions along or visible from the segment, and in terms of educational and the experiential value, one can truly gain a sense of the openness and vulnerability of trail travel, the immense distances to be covered, the paucity of water, harshness of the landscape devoid of shade, and populated by inhospitable desert plants, the lack of shelter, and the importance of geographic landmarks for orientation. Though a student or individual can easily imagine a wagon along the trail just as they can see the vegetation changes and other indications even from foot that mark the trail route.
In short, this evocative landscape retains exceptionally high integrity of location, feeling, setting, and association, such that to experience it can be personally moving and even transformational.