Mastodon Mine, Joshua Tree National Park, California


Cornerstones began assisting the University of Arizona on Mastodon Mine project in 2011. After an assessment and recommendations for stabilizations 2012, planning for work began. We hosted a series of training workshops to stabilize the collapsing structure. The last workshop occurred in 2015. The last timbers were set in place and the crushing mill was re-established. The project was not only about restoring the mine, but also focused on re-assembling parts of the timber frame that were still on site. New pieces were only added if an old piece was too far in disrepair.

The purpose of the project was to make the mine structure understandable to visitors. It has gone from a large pile of pick up sticks to a remnant of its former self. Now the mine reflects the mining process that occurred there.

You can see the mine for yourself if you take Lost Palms Oasis Road to Mastodon Mine Loop Trail in Joshua Tree National Park, California.


Oratorio de Jesus Nazareno, La Jara, New Mexico


According to Rogeria Olivas , she has spent “99% of her life” in the village of La Jara, New Mexico, where “99% of the people are related.” La Jara is about 4 miles from Cuba, at the base of the stunning San Pedro Mountains. “I used to think I would move far away from here. Now, I live about a mile from my childhood home…I just couldn’t go too far.” That home was gutted by fire a few years ago, and is one of so many adobe ruins that dot the New Mexico countryside. Another building that would have been destined for collapse if it weren’t for Roger’s family and the community, is the Oratorio de Jesus Nazareno. It was constructed, probably in the 1920’s, by Hermanos Penitentes in the area, where the brotherhood was strong. Though her parents were not Penitentes themselves, they were very devout, and some of Roger’s fondest memories are of Holy Weeks spent at the Oratorio. “We would worship the stations of the cross outside the building. It was a break from the work in the fields – the cows, chopping wood…it was our vacation spot.” When the last of the old Penitentes died, approximately 25 years ago, the Oratorio was basically abandoned and the adjacent morada eventually collapsed. It is a small river rock and mud structure, built using forms, and very unique for the region. Roger, along with her two brothers Felix and Sosteno Gutierrez (pictured below), have taken the lead in restoring the building with volunteers from the area. “Normally you can’t convince my brothers to do anything,” she jokes, “but they know this place is special.” They have begun rebuilding the north wall, and have plans to re-plaster with mud on the outside and lime on the inside, put in a perimeter drainage system and restore the windows and door.

“We always had this place in our minds, and had discussed ways to try and fix it up. One day, a lady from Santa Fe (Marina Ochoa, from the Archbishop’s Commission for the Preservation of Historic New Mexico Churches) was asked to look at the building, and told us we should call Cornerstones.” They gathered donations from the community, including those who had moved away from La Jara, and began in earnest last summer. They hope to be finished by this fall. “Sometimes I get in trouble for coming out here and acting like the boss…but we’ll get it done.” Roger is a leader by nature, and isn’t afraid of being busy – she is the manager of the Frostee Freez in Cuba, and between her and her husband, they have 12 children and 26 grandchildren, with another on the way. Work on the Oratorio, she and the others do in their spare time, with help from whomever is willing. If you consider heading out for a workday, Roger says: “We don’t turn down any volunteers, and if you come out and work, you’ll be fed well.”

San José de Gracia Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico


San José de Gracia Church in Las Trampas, NM was built between 1760 and 1776. The church ceiling is painted with 18th and 19th century motifs. It features 18th and 19th century Santeros and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and is a U.S. National Historic Landmark.
Historic Preservation Division of NM Cultural Affairs awarded a grant for condition assessment, documentation, and recommendations for treatment. Georgina, international architectural intern, worked on the drawings and documentation. A high point in the process was spending a day with the church’s mayordomo, Jose Lopez, going over plans and gaining his perspective.

Geer and Rogers Cabins, Mojave National Preserve, California


Geer and Rogers Cabins are mining cabins in the Mojave National Preserve. The two cabins represent the first half of the 20th century mining era in the preserve. The cabins need cleaning, structural stabilization of roofs, and repairs of windows, floors, and doors. The preserve wants to make the historic structures safe for visitors to explore and experience the early mining era and to preserve the mining history for future generations. Cornerstones and the National Park Service hosted three training workshops on these sites during 2015. A fourth training will happen during spring 2016.

Bernalillo Wine Museum, Bernalillo, New Mexico


Located at the foot of the Sandia Mountains, the historic town of Bernalillo was officially settled in 1648 by 30 colonial families. Today’s main street, Camino del Pueblo, was part of the El Camino Real, the trade trail from Mexico. Pre-1937 Bernalillo’s main street was also part of Route 66. Originally designed to be used as a barn, the terron (sod brick) building (ca. 1917) was converted to a stable for funeral horses and hearses. (ca. 1920’s) The building was severly burnt by a fire in the 1980’s. The town of Bernalillo purchased this dilapidated building with the intent to rehabilitate it and use it as a Wine Museum depicting the history of the wine industry in New Mexico. In 2005, the town of Bernalillo invited Cornerstones to conduct a conditions assessment and develop a preservation plan. Cornerstones completed the assessment and preservation plan along with a photo documentation and historical research of the site. Recently, the project was awarded a generous grant from the Youth Conservation Corp that will enable youth trainees to be hired to perform the labor during the work phase. Implementation is expected to commence in the spring of 2007. Cornerstones’ Technical Staff will oversee the preservation work performed by the youth work crew.

Capilla de San José, Cañoncito de La Cueva, NM


On summer weekends from 1997-1999, the community members of Cañoncito carried materials and equipment to ford the waters of the Mora river to allow passage to San José chapel. The beginning of this restoration project was dramatic, as an unusually high wind caught the frame roof and pulled it off of the adobe walls. The summer of 1999 was a particularly wet summer, so the community members never knew how never knew how workdays would proceed. When the river was too high to cross, workdays had to be postponed. But with patience, and Cornerstones’ assistance, this tiny chapel was restored to its original form.

On a sunny August Saturday last year, a gathering of villagers from the surrounding areas was led by Father Tri and Archbishop Sheehan in celebrating the completion of their restoration efforts. The procession was able to cross the high river on a brand new foot bridge built just days before the ceremony through another concerted community effort.

Flood Restoration and Recovery, Hatch, New Mexico


On August 14, 2006 the town of Hatch, New Mexico was devastated by flooding. Since then, Cornerstones has been at the forefront of efforts to flood victims. A grant from the National Trust and generous support from the Prothro Family Foundation has permitted our technical staff to conduct conditions assessments of damaged adobe homes and provide advice to homeowners that will help preserve—and in many cases prevent the collapse of the town’s traditional adobe homes.

This effort underscores the important role Cornerstones plays in preservation in the region. We are essentially the only SWAT team for disasters related to historic adobe structures; be they historically significant, or, as in the case with Hatch, just simple vernacular buildings that the foundation of our unique cultural landscape.

Santuario de San Lorenzo, Bernalillo, New Mexico


The middle Rio Grande valley is an area of great cultural importance in New Mexico. It was occupied by Pueblo Indians since prehistoric times and by Spanish explorers and settlers for over 400 years. Spanish explorers first visited the Bernalillo area in 1540 when Francisco Vásquez de Coronado moved east from the Pueblo of Zuni to establish winter quarters for his famous expedition. Bernalillo became an established community in 1695, following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680 and the ensuing re-conquest of New Mexico by Don Diego de Vargas.

Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy oversaw the construction of forty-five new churches and chapels during his stay in New Mexico. Santuario de San Lorenzo in Bernalillo was one of them, completed by residents in 1857. The impressive structure, featuring four-foot thick adobe walls, twelve-inch vigas and an earthen floor, served as the parish church of this historical central New Mexico town for over 100 years. It is one of few examples in New Mexico of French architecture built with native materials. In modern times, because of its proximity to Albuquerque (20 miles), Bernalillo and the surrounding countryside have become increasingly urbanized, and Santuario de San Lorenzo is one of few historical sites left in the area.

La Purísima Concepción del Socorro, Socorro, Texas


When the Indians of the northern pueblos of New Mexico revolted against the Spaniards in 1680, the Spaniards and many Indians fled down the Rio Grande to the present-day Juarez area. Four communities were established in the region for the refugees, one of them being the settlement of Socorro, founded in 1680, and was home to Piro, Tano and Jemez Indians as well as the Spaniards. Some research indicates that the first Socorro Mission could have been built as early as 1683, but other records indicate it was completed in 1691. Raging floodwaters swept the first church away in 1740. Its successor, built of adobe, served the community until 1829 when a massive flood again struck the valley and washed it away. This earlier mission site is approximately one-half mile south of the present-day Socorro Mission.

The nave of today’s mission, Las Purisima Concepcion, constructed between 1829 and 1840, was formally dedicated in 1843 and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is built directly on the ground and made entirely of adobe. It is thought that some of the decorated vigas in the nave were salvaged from the earlier mission after a flood. The walls of the structure are 5’ thick at the base, the main nave measures 22 by 100 feet, and the ceiling is 26 feet high. In 1847 the bell tower was added and the east and west sacristies were added sometime after 1880. Between 1923 and 1936 the exterior was covered with Portland cement, causing moisture entrapment which is damaging to the walls. As a result, the east nave transept wall was beginning to fail. Other causes of deterioration were inadequate site drainage, removal of interior structural and architectural braces, deteriorated mortar joints and inadequate maintenance.


In October 1998, Cornerstones was invited by La Purisima Restoration Committee to lead the restoration of La Purisima. Funding in 1999 from the Texas State Historic Preservation Commission supported archaeological investigations, preparation for the foundation work at the wall bases, removal of the flooring system, removal of interior cement slabs, and installation of shoring and scaffolding to support the roof. With generous funding from Houston Endowment and the Texas Workforce Commission in 2001, twenty full-time paid jobs were filled, with each job allotted a total of 1,000 training hours. Also in 2001, grant funding permitted preparation of the Historic Structures Report and Preservation Plan which was completed in March 2002.


From the outset, it was Cornerstones’ intention to establish a program for hands-on training, particularly for at-risk youth from the Socorro area. In early 2000, using funding from the State of Texas, youth interns from K.E.Y.S. Academy in Socorro participated in the training program and they became an important part of the workforce. They, along with instructors and volunteers, were responsible for making some 12,000 adobes used during the restoration process. Cornerstones also offered paid internships through the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) for the services of student archaeologists and architects. Young trainees from Ecuador, South Africa, Australia, Mexico and Ghana received valuable hands-on training during their three-month internships.

From 2000 through the fall of 2004, restoration efforts continued almost without interruption. During those years, the cement plaster that covered the structure was removed, the walls were repaired or rebuilt, mud plastered and resurfaced with lime plaster; the interior walls were repaired and refinished with gypsum. There were extensive basal repairs and the cement collar was removed and replaced with adobe. Vigas, corbels, lintels and bond beams were documented, repaired or replaced. The entire floor was removed and replaced with beautiful stone donated and installed by a stonemason and his family from Texas. The roof was repaired and parapets were restored.

The bell tower was stabilized and the bell reset in August 2005, and Nuestra Señora de la Limpia Concepción was rededicated in September of that year.


Las Vegas Presbyterian Mission, Las Vegas, New Mexico


Located in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Las Vegas Presbyterian Mission is the first protestant church to be organized east of the Pecos River and it is the second oldest protestant church in New Mexico. It was finished in 1873 and in 1978 was listed on the National Register of Historic Places because of its historical and architectural significance.  The church is built of adobe and is a combination of traditional New Mexican building methods and east coast influences. It is territorial in style, built in a rectangular plan with architectural details that include Greek revival facades which can be recognized by the tampered wood columns.


In 1997 Cornerstones was approached by members of the community requesting a technical visit to determine the condition of the structure and the priorities for preservation.  A Cornerstones Technical Site Visit report was completed in January 1998 resulting in a preservation plan produced by community members which entailed: improving the drainage system, repairing the structural integrity of the roof, cleaning/ sanding/ painting broken wood elements, creating better handicapped accessibility, replacing the plaster on both the interior and exterior walls and repairing/restoring the front porch.


Between 1998 and 2007, with technical assistance and equipment from Cornerstones and materials funding from the McCune Foundation, a strong volunteer base helped restore this significant structure. These volunteers included community members, students from United World College and Youth Build Las Vegas as well as young church groups from southern Colorado.

The building is currently being converted to serve as a community center for the Old Town area.

La Sagrada Familia, Pajarito, New Mexico


In 1921, with the help of relatives and neighbors, Jose and Cecilia Vigil began construction of La Capillita de La Sagrada Familia in Parjarito on “homesteaded” land belonging to Cecilia’s family, in the shadow of San Ildefonso’s Black Mesa.  Using adobes made by family members and friends, the chapel was completed in 1924 and served as the center for the tiny village of Pajarito until Congress repealed the Homestead Act in 1937 and made the land part of San Ildefonso pueblo. Jose and Cecilia deeded the church to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe creating an island between the Pueblos of San Ildefonso and Santa Clara.

The residents of Pajarito left in 1937 and 1938, but the chapel has remained a center for Vigil family reunions, picnics and other family functions.  The chapel was cared for by members of the Vigil family until 1958 when the organ was stolen. Thereafter, surviving religious items were stored and cared for by members of San Ildefonso Pueblo but after 1958 the chapel was virtually abandoned


In 1990, Churches: Symbols of Community was contacted by Vigil family members, led by Elvie Vigil Ogard, granddaughter of Jose and Cecilia, requesting help in restoration of the chapel.  An assessment was performed and the Foundation targeted the chapel as a church worth saving.  Needless to say, the entire family, many from out of state, former residents of Pajarito and many other interested parties were ecstatic, rolled up their sleeves and started to work in March 1991.  Thanks to the tremendous outpouring of help from family members, sometimes as many as 25, volunteers, donated materials, and the expertise of “Churches: Symbols of Community” under the umbrella of the NM Community Foundation (the forerunner of Cornerstones), the church was completely stabilized and rededicated by the diocese in 1992.  However, the preservation effort, including re-mudding the interior and restoring the altar and the ceiling medallions, continued through most of 1996.



Elvie Ogard became a valued Cornerstones board member in 1994 and continued to serve on the board and as a strong supporter for more than 15 years.

The last family function at La Sagrada Familia, attended by family members and friends and many Cornerstones’ associates, was the memorial celebration of Elvie’s life in early October 2016.  During the celebration, the Ogard family members announced the establishment of the Elvie Ogard Memorial Fund at Cornerstones for the specific purpose of assisting communities in Northern New Mexico with restoration of their churches.

Nuestra Señora de la Purificacion, Dona Ana, NM


Nuestra Senora de la Purification in Doña Ana, NM, located just north of Las Cruces, is a large adobe church built in cruciform plan in 1840. The concrete bell tower and mission façade are thought to have been added in the 1920’s or 30’s and the church was covered in cement plaster at some point during the mid-to-later 20th century.

In early 1990, State Senator Mary Jane Garcia of Doña Ana County contacted the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF) requesting assistance. I n March 1990, NMCF employees, Ed Crocker and architect Barbara Zook, under the umbrella of Churches: Symbols of Community (in 1994 this became Cornerstones Community Partnerships) and engineer Ken DeLapp, made a site visit to the church.  A resulting report specified the most urgent problems, the first being stabilization of certain areas of the structure. Made possible by a grant from the World Monuments Fund, Ed Crocker, local contractor, Pat Taylor and two volunteers began stabilization efforts in July 1990. Depending on the availability of community volunteers, Pat and Ed continued with structural testing and stabilization efforts throughout 1990 and 1991.


Partnering with the NM Department of Labor Job Training Division, NM State Historic Preservation Office and volunteer help from the community and surrounding area, Cornerstones continued preservation work on the church until its completion in 2000.

Throughout the entire process of restoration, lasting approximately 10 years, as many local area at-risk youth and young adults as possible were employed and mentored by project manager Pat Taylor.  Youth training was a critical part of this major restoration effort and continues to be at the heart of every Cornerstones’ project, providing participants with  building skills, particularly as they reflect the culture of their community, opportunities for developing responsibility and leadership  and acquiring life experiences.


Santo Domingo Indian Trading Post


Santo Domingo Trading Post is located in Domingo near Santo Domingo Pueblo in Sandoval County, NM. The property has three adjoining buildings which include the trading post, a warehouse and an apartment.  The warehouse, the central and original structure at the site, was built during 1880/81 and was used as a mercantile store to serve both the town and the pueblo. The store was converted to a warehouse in 1922 when the Seligman family acquired the property and built a two-story addition, the Trading Post.  It was built in California Mission Revival style with southwestern influences.  The Trading Post closed in 1995 and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1998.


With the increasing popularity of the automobile it became a popular stopping place for tourists. Historically, trading posts were mercantile stores selling groceries, clothing, farming supplies, or equipment with cash or barter as forms of currency and were important to rural communities.

In 2001, a fire destroyed the trading post and adjoining warehouse.  Santo Domingo Pueblo, as part of its economic development planning, wanted to restore the trading post to encourage tourism and economic development, and to retain its history.


In 2009 a report for implementation of Emergency Stabilization was prepared by Cornerstones (CCP) for the Pueblo and established that a rehabilitation project could be accomplished in three phases over an extended period, permitting time to raise the funds needed.


With funding from the Economic Development Administration in 2010, the tribe retained a contractor to restore the structure. In 2014, the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division granted Cornerstones funding to rebuild the front Façade of the warehouse and in 2015 Cornerstones received grants from the NM Historic Preservation Division and Chamiza Foundation for repainting the facades of the trading post and the warehouse.  Santo Domingo artist, Ricardo Cate, accomplished the façade art restoration. In 2013 a grant from the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Fund through the National Trust for Historic Preservation, funded stabilization of the apartment.


Cornerstones consulted with the Pueblo throughout the project.

San José Church, Upper Rociada, New Mexico


San José Church, located in Upper Rociada, New Mexico, represents a story of community determination and commitment. The twenty or so families that reside in this area are the ancestors of Hispanic timber and ranching settlers who migrated to Upper Rociada in the late 19th century. The community used the church as a gathering place and spiritual center, which is how it is still used.  The ancestors of today’s residents are buried beneath and in front of the church, cementing its cultural importance to the community.

In 1986 San Jose was closed after it was determined that the structure was unsafe.



However, it was crucial to the community to save their church and in 1987 community members began stabilization and restoration efforts. They sought the assistance of Cornerstones, then “Churches: Symbols of Community” under the umbrella of the New Mexico Community Foundation (NMCF).  Technical visits by Cornerstones determined that the main problems were caused by moisture which had wicked into the adobes, weakening the load-bearing capacity of the walls.  The west wall showed evidence of imminent collapse.  Other problems included erosion of the structure’s foundation as well as an unstable roof.


Workdays were organized and from 1987 through 1994 community members and volunteers from outside the community, with technical help from Cornerstones, took down and rebuilt the weakened west wall, repaired the interior and exterior of the remaining walls, replaced or repaired damaged vigas, replaced damaged roof shingles, re-plastered both interior and exterior wall and replaced the electrical system.

San Jose was rededicated on July 5, 1995.