SEDONA – The rain resisted, the fog was gone, and a few rays of early morning light pierced the cloud cover surrounding Cathedral Rock in the distance, giving the Crescent Moon Ranch near Red Rock Crossing in Sedona an even more inviting glow than normal.
Good day to relax, bring a picnic, and let the waters of Oak Creek rock you in quiet laziness.
Sorry, but for a group of volunteers and the HistoriCorps staff, there was work to be done.
Barn beams to secure. Mortar and stone to be reinforced. Rusty corrugated iron roof to be replaced. Coating to be reinforced.
It was hard, labor-intensive work, which made the old old again – but satisfying work.
HistoriCorps, a Colorado-based nonprofit whose teams of preservation and restoration workers travel the country to ply their trade making sure historic buildings in national parks and forests don’t fall into disrepair, is currently camping at Crescent Moon Ranch to restore four buildings – hayloft, barn, blacksmith, water wheelhouse – in various stages of disrepair.
It can be a laborious process, says Alex Randall, HistoriCorps project manager, and Ann Dowd, ranger of the Coconino National Forest. The US Forest Service and the Home Office have strict and specific standards and guidelines for the preservation of sites – the material to be used, the amount of reconstruction allowed, respect for historical accuracy, the balance between repair and replacement.
So at the Crescent Moon Ranch – built by white settlers in the late 1800s and once a thriving orchard and agricultural hub, but now a tourist stopover in the Red Rock Ranger district – the HistoriCorps team must ensure that, for example, the juniper poles in the barn are secure and free from rot or alternatively be replaced with nearly identical junipers, that the new cedar shingles on the water wheelhouse match what is there and that all planks supporting the siding be made of rough sawn lumber to give the weather a good weather appearance.
While the preservation work at Crescent Moon is a real undertaking – the barn, in particular, is in need of some work – Randall said he has been impressed by the resilience of the ranch buildings over the decades.
“With a lot of these historic structures, especially around the border days, they didn’t expect it to last 130 years, but here it is,” Randall told the Arizona Daily Sun. “That in itself is a great reason to preserve it. There is so much history out there and these people had no idea it would last.
“On this project, it’s more preservation, I would say, because we’re just repairing the roof structures and strengthening them. We only protect the buildings from the elements to keep the structures intact. I mean, they lasted so long so our goal is to keep it from rotting. By putting on a new roof and new siding, you are not doing anything major. But that’s one of the most important things, keeping the time out. “
Ideally, by the time HistoriCorps leaves a job site, visitors will not be able to discern that they have been there – unless they take a close look. Its goal is to keep the sites as they did back then. Although the US Forest Service did not dictate, the nonprofit cites preservation as its main mission since its founding in 2009 and its partnership with the federal government.
You can see the work of HistoriCorps all around the Coconino National Forest. Recently, they did work at Buck Mountain Lookout, Mormon Lake Guard Station, and Brolliar Cabin at the southern end of the forest. Elsewhere in the state, work has been completed at the Canelo Ranger Station in the Coronado National Forest, Palace Station in the Prescott National Forest, the Pinedale Ranger House in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, and the Water Canyon Ranger House on Apache-Sitgreaves. National Forest.
Numerous projects have enabled the Forest Service to provide the public with cabin rentals in a historic setting where none were previously available. While ongoing work at the Crescent Moon Ranch does not include the ranch house – it is in good repair and is rented out regularly in the summer and fall – the strengthening of surrounding structures such as the blacksmith’s shop and barn adds to the atmosphere.
In addition to adding to the Forest Service’s list of cottage rental properties, the preservation work is vital in itself, according to Jeremy Haines, archaeologist and staff officer for the Kaibab National Forest who served as the one of the main driving forces behind the introduction of HistoriCorps in northern Arizona. forest sites.
“HistoriCorps has been a vital ally in our fight to save these important places,” said Haines. “As their model depends on the participation of volunteers, the public has the opportunity to work on the forest, learn about historic preservation, make lasting contributions and make friendships. The partnership is therefore unique in that it is not limited to repairing historic buildings. There is also great value in the relationships that develop between HistoriCorps, the Forest Service and our volunteers.
The volunteers at Crescent Moon Ranch, supervised and joined by Randall and his colleagues at HistoriCorps, were recently busy measuring, sawing and further measuring the support beams and placement of corrugated iron tiles.
The job isn’t for dilettantes, but you don’t have to be a master craftsman, either, said Randall.
Above all, every volunteer must be committed to respecting the historical accuracy of the work, even until removing and replacing the crumbled mortar from the original stone walls of the forge. The crew had some difficulty at the start of the Crescent Moon Ranch, including restoring the skeletal frame of the hayloft, which rises about 30 feet in the shade of the ranch.
“Making the roof over the hay (attic) was difficult because there are no deck boards up there,” Randall said. “There weren’t a lot of good places to stand, and the two-by-fours were really rotten, so I had to put in some fresh wood to make it strong. But we did.
Then he nodded to the barn – or what’s left of the barn, with missing planks and obvious gaps – and added, “This will be, structurally, the hardest.” “
Much of the wood on the outside is rotten, warped and split. The corrugated roof is rusty and peeling in places. The main door on the south side? It won’t open. But inside, the juniper poles are intact and appear to have held up well over the years. But a lot of refreshing of the barn, its stalls and its outcrops is to be done.
The rough sawn lumber, acquired from a Flagstaff sawmill, should be used with impunity in the barn, but Randall said his team likely wouldn’t need to use the historically accurate juniper poles the Forest Service has. acquired for the rafters. Still, they’re nice to have, because sometimes in preservation work the foundations aren’t as strong as you might think.
“For this project,” said Dowd, “we consulted and coordinated with the AZ state historic preservation office. Because this is a National Register of Listed Historic Places, a 45-acre district comprising most of the original ranch, the standards are derived from the Secretary of the Interior’s guidelines for historic preservation.
“You want to do what the original people would have done so that it doesn’t sound too new. The good thing is that inclement weather comes pretty quickly, so in a season or two or three and it will blend in well with the original build.
However, HistoriCorps has the juniper and aspen poles on hand for the forge. It might be easier to just put two-by-four pieces together to prop up the two buildings, but any visitor would quickly notice the incongruity of the gleaming wood next to the rough, rough wood of the bark. Workers must therefore say no to opportunism.
They also sometimes have to make arrangements for nature, since they work on Forest Service lands. HistoriCorps had to limit the use of power tools, especially near the water wheelhouse after a forestry service biologist told them that a yellow-billed cuckoo had nestled near there and wouldn’t be too happy to racket.
“It’s part of the job,” Randall said with a laugh.
But, he noted, that’s not all the work on the site. In addition to the campfires at night and barbecues with staff and volunteers, Randall said it was a short jaunt to Cathedral Rock.
“There’s a trail that starts right there,” he said, pointing north, “and leads all the way up there. Isn’t that awesome? “