Monday, August 20, 2007

Empire Ranch

Located in the 42,000-acre Las Cienegas National Conservation Area and listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Empire Ranch traces its history to the 1870s, when a 160-acre quarter section homestead was purchased by Walter Vail and Herbert Hilsop. At the time, the ranch house was a four-room adobe, with a zaguan (breezeway) that passed between the rooms into the corral. By the turn of the century, the ranch covered almost a million acres and the house had grown to twenty-two rooms. The Vail family lived in the home through the 1920s. In 1928, Boice, Gates & Johnson, a large ranching enterprise, purchased several ranches including the Empire Ranch, where the Frank Boice family lived and became sole owners in 1951. The Boices ranched the property until the 1970s, though it was sold for development in the late 1960s. In 1988, the Bureau of Land Management acquired the property through a public-private land swap and designated the ranch lands as a natural conservation area, which it remains today.

The Empire Ranch Foundation has worked for over a decade to preserve the ranch house and outbuildings, including emergency repairs and stabilization. This work was performed in expectation of BLM funds that were anticipated for the preservation, but have since become highly limited. Currently, there are a number of structural problems with the site: a wall of the ranch house (1871-1878) is in danger of collapse due to a sagging foundation; the foundation, flooring, and walls of the children's addition (1886) are unstable; the south lintel of the zaguan is sagging due to water damage; concrete is trapping moisture in the adobe walls and needs to be replaced with lime and plaster.

[For more information, contact Christine Auerbach, administrator, Empire Ranch Foundation, at 520-370-6055 or e-mail.]