Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
An important piece of the Pecos National Historical Park that has never been available to the general public before has undergone a $4 million rehabilitation project that is the first step in opening Kozlowski’s Trading Post.
The 6,270-square-foot trading post that was one of the last stops on the Santa Fe Trail now includes a community conference room and park offices that had been spread across the park.
Space inside also has been set aside for a self-guided museum, but that section of the post is not expected to be ready until fall 2022, said Becky Latanich, the park’s chief of interpretation and education. The remaining work is expected to cost about $600,000.
The money for the work, which began in the spring of 2019, came from fees raised at various parks across the mountain-west region, she said.
“The building itself has been unoccupied for quite some time,” Latanich said. “We weighed all the alternatives and we felt it would be best to rehabilitate this structure.”
Originally built in 1858 by a Polish immigrant named Martin Kozlowski, the trading post features many architectural features still found in traditional New Mexico homes today.
“It has a lot of fascinating features contributing to its historic status,” Latanich said. “It’s on the Santa Fe Trail. The core of the building was built in the 1850s. During the Glorieta Pass battle in the Civil War, it was used as a hospital. It has some good, important, tangible history.”
That history makes it an important piece of the park’s pending National Register designation as a Historic District, superintendent Karl Cordova said, adding it took a lot of “hard work to bring this historic building back to life. And it is rewarding to know that it will continue to serve the public for many more years.”
The building itself “is a really great example of New Mexico vernacular architecture,” Latanich said. “We wanted to keep it very obvious about the special building techniques. It has poured concrete floors, exposed vigas (and) the vast amount of the building is adobe. We wanted to keep it looking old, but update it so it was stable.”
In 1925, rodeo-promoter and entrepreneur Tex Austin bought the building and turned it into ranch headquarters for his famous Forked Lightning Ranch. In the 1940s, E.E. “Buddy” Fogelson bought the ranch and then brought his Hollywood actress wife, Oscar-winning Greer Garson, to the Forked Lightning Ranch, turning it into a hobby ranch and entertaining many Hollywood guests.
The National Park Service acquired the building in 1990 and used it as office space until 2006, when the building was ruled unsafe.
Albuquerque’s Weil Construction was the primary contractor and Ohkay Owingeh company Awaynu General Contracting was the primary subcontractor, said Jeremy Moss, Pecos chief of resource management and archeologist. Although COVID-19 caused a brief pause in the work schedule, it proceeded well and the project actually was completed a bit ahead of time, Moss said.
Some of the roofing and flooring needed to be repaired, and other work entailed replacing some rotted vigas, repairing cracks to the adobe walls that occurred during settling, rebuilding several adobe walls, pinning the roof to the beams, as well as bonding beams to the walls, he said, “for wind and earthquake resistance.”
The museum portions of the building will focus on the history of the area from the time of the trading post’s construction to the mid-1900s, Latanich said.
The park also includes several hiking trails, including one through the battlefield, fishing sites along the Pecos River, and guided tours of the ancestral sites and the Forked Lightning Ranch House, although those tours remain on indefinite hiatus because of the pandemic.