Posts Tagged ‘Casa Grande’

Valiant Efforts in Preservation? Or Goofy Self-Serving Construct?

Casa Grande Ruins -- public domain photo from www.ohranger.comWhen I was a boy, I remember seeing pictures of the Casa Grande Ruins in my school textbooks. It would be in the American pre-history section, the “time before the Pilgrims” when the native tribes ran the place. Back then, I found it bizarre that a modern pavilion had been built over the ruins. The textbooks would talk about the great adobe homes of the early tribes, but they’d never, ever mention this canopy. The pictures were a bizarre mix of old and new that made no sense.

Twenty years later, when I finally arrived at the site in person, it still looked goofy. Obviously this canopy was intended to protect the ancient structure from the Arizona monsoons (an infrequent but torrential series of rainstorms), and I suppose that’s goodness, but it still seems as if it’s manufactured for our pleasure, like the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disney World. The surroundings made it seem worse: a gigantic Volde-Mart, replete with acres and acres of SUV-laden parking lots, sits right across the street. “Come and see the ruins, then spend your hard-earned cash on Made in China crap that will kill your pets and poison your children!!”

Bumper sticker available at www.stampandshout.com

There’s actually a huge controversy in the American preservation movement. How far should the government or private interests go to preserve historical relics such as the Casa Grande Ruins? After all, entropy is part of human existence as well. Does this preservation serve the interests of history and culture, or does it simply serve the interests of developers looking to profit off a landmark? Should nature be allowed to take its course, or should we spend millions preserving relics?

Casa Grande Walls -- public domain photo from www.ohranger.comThere was a story on NPR this week about German castles. See, most of the great castles in Germany were destroyed in World War II. Now that Germany is back from the brink of destruction, they find they miss their castles. So they are in the process of re-building their old castles from scratch to house … shopping malls. Oh yes, there’s historical context for you. “And here, the Earl of Salzburg would enjoy an Orange Julius while his daughters leered at the 12-foot, half-naked himboes plastered on the windows of Abercrombie & Fitch.”

There are a lot of naturally preserved tribal dwellings all over Arizona, mostly cliff dwellings in places like Walnut Canyon and Canyon de Chelly. So you have to wonder why they went to such great lengths to preserve this one in 1932. Tourism, no doubt. But at one time native Americans lived in grand adobe buildings on the open flatlands, at the crossroads of enormous north-south, east-west trade routes. Casa Grande is the best example still standing on this continent. It fills an important niche in the physical historic record of the country.  In 1932, at the height of the Depression, it must have been hard to get the funding to build the canopy. I guess we should be thankful.

But to look at the site with its own personal pavilion, you have to ask yourself “is this too goofy?”

Public domain photo taken from Wikipedia

[I didn’t own a digital camera when I visted Casa Grande. All photos are public domain, hover over each pic for source info]



Casa Grande Ruins National Monument

Wikipedia Article on the Hohokam Period

Google map to Casa Grande

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