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Indian Ruins

After my latest round of correspondence with local preservationists, the status of the Paolo Soleri seems less certain than it did when I wrote yesterday’s dispatch. The historian Sally Hyer indeed included the amphitheater in her 1989 survey of 28 historically significant structures on the Indian School campus. Five years later the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the New Mexico Historic Preservation Office concurred that many of the buildings were eligible for Federal protection. The question is whether the Paolo Soleri was among them. I hope to know the answer soon.
Unfortunately, it may not matter. The amphitheater’s status would be as a “contributing” structure to the Santa Fe Indian School Historic District. But there is no longer anything to contribute to: the Historic District was wiped out in 2008 by the Pueblo Council. Whether it would do any good to seek eligibility for the Paolo Soleri as freestanding architecture is also unclear. The Pueblo Council takes its money from two pots: casino proceeds and Federal grants. Unless the latter pays for the destruction, Section 106 protections would not apply.

From what I have learned in recent days, there is little doubt that the BIA was fully aware that the Pueblo Council planned to destroy the campus as soon as it gained control. Yet the property was transferred  from Federal protection without the covenants required by  law. What the Inspector General (or failing that the U.S. Attorney) should be investigating is which officials were responsible and whether there was some kind of deal.

I was reminded today by Zane Fischer’s column in the Reporter, Soleri Eclipse, about the blueprints he uncovered last year for what appears to be a huge commercial development  to rise from the ruins along Cerrillos Road. Before that can happen the three remaining buildings described here yesterday must be removed, including what may be the most historically significant of them all. As Mr. Fischer notes, these are blocks away from the Paolo Soleri, but maybe the Pueblo Council’s demolition contractor, Flintco, has offered the school a package deal.

George Johnson
The Santa Fe Review