Hello again—this is Issac Logsdon, one of the 2018 Warren MacKenzie Grant Recipients.
This fall I spent five weeks stretching out summer in the Ancestral Lands of the Timbisha Shoshone, now called Death Valley, California. The valley is the lowest, driest, and hottest place in the United States with summer days reaching past 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Working in the park, which was my first project with Cornerstones, our crew restored several sections of a perimeter wall at Cow Creek. This included both rebuilding parts from the foundation up and repairing the original, but weather-worn 1930s wall. This perimeter wall and about a dozen other adobe structures were built by the Civilian Conservation Corps, a program created under the 1930s New Deal. Within a few years at the beginning of World War II, the structures were left empty. After a riot at the nearby internment camp called Manzanar, 65 Americans of Japanese Ancestry were interned at Cow Creek in these adobe buildings for nearly three months.
Adobe building, a method of earthen architecture comprised of sun-baked clay bricks, has been used all over the American Southwest and Northern Mexico for over a thousand years. Learning the processes of adobe felt really intuitive because so much of my knowledge from studio ceramics transferred easily. But not only was I able to reconstruct this history through hands on work, I was also able to speak with a historian at Manzanar and do some archival research about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the Japanese American internees.
At the end of the five weeks in Death Valley, me and another crew member had the opportunity to restore sections of a 1906 bottle house in the ghost town of Rhyolite. NV. The Bottle House was built by miner Tom Kelly in 1906 using an estimated 50,000 bottles, including wine, whiskey, beer, champagne, and medicine bottles. These bottles were held in place with earthen mortar.