Finally, it is happening. The hard-luck adobe camp that was part of a “human fence along the border” right after World War I is getting some of the preservation treatments it has needed for two decades. A grant from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is ridding Camp Naco of the asbestos shingles that have kept it closed to the public since 2007.
Borderlands are often places where tensions are expressed, making them complex and dynamic places. Camp Naco represents this and more. Built in 1919, Camp Naco is located just 700 yards from the border with Mexico in Naco, Arizona. Its immediate ancestor was a tent camp for soldiers stationed along the border beginning late in 1910, in response to the Mexican Revolution.
Camp Naco’s construction helped to absorb soldiers returning from World War I into the labor force. African-American troops—Buffalo Soldiers—were also stationed here, recalling an earlier era of racial segregation in the United States. And, although the threat came to naught, the Zimmermann telegram’s indications that Mexico and Germany were plotting against the United States made for a time of heightened alert at Camp Naco and other border installations.
Camp Naco was one of only two Mexican border posts to utilize adobe construction. Today, despite its recent hard times, the Camp’s twenty-one buildings remain among the best-preserved examples of architecture from the Mexican Border Defense Construction Project in the United States. And those same buildings are now listed as a District on the National Register of Historic Places. All told, Camp Naco’s near-century of institutional and community history along the International Border make it a very special place, indeed.
Please help the Friends of Camp Naco and Archaeology Southwest stabilize ten or twelve of these buildings right now. Removal of the asbestos roof tiles that have protected the buildings since 1919 is well underway. Grant funding will enable us to put plywood on the roofs, but we are short about $7,500 to put rolled roofing in place. Such roofing is essential for protecting the fragile adobe walls and the ultimate integrity of these buildings. We need at least 95 rolls of tan rolled roofing, and each roll costs $50.
Two donors have already stepped up and offered $2,000 ($1,000 each) in matching funds for any donations we receive to protect these structures. We are actively pursuing other sources of community support to bring in $5,500 to meet this matching pledge and raise the entire $7,500 total. If about 200 people each contribute $25 or $35, we will meet that goal. Another way to think about it is giving $50 or $100 to buy a roll or two of the urgently needed roofing. It is doable and necessary—the monsoon rain season is just around the corner.
Success is our only option. No matter how many setbacks to its preservation Camp Naco has faced, it has remained clear that this place has a future.
- In 2006, arsonists burned five noncommissioned officers’ buildings
- After the fire, a determination that roof tiles contained asbestos brought use of volunteers and any forward movement to protect camp buildings to a halt
- In 2009, our Arizona Heritage Fund grant submission was returned unopened, because the program was cancelled when the Arizona legislature swept the funds
- In 2010—on the night before a public meeting with the local community to review the EPA grant submission—arsonists burned an officer’s quarters building
Each of these tragedies could have been the final straw that crushed the will of Camp Naco’s supporters. But that did not happen. Let’s rally now to put roofs on these buildings.
Once we have stabilized and protected these structures, we can plan for a sustainable use that will carry Camp Naco into its second century.