Arkansas Valley Fairgrounds – Adobe Stables

History of the Stables

The Adobe Stables located in Rocky Ford are an important part of the Arkansas Valley Fairgrounds, which is the home and original location of the Arkansas Valley Fair. The Arkansas Valley Fair traces its roots back to George Swink, a State Senator and agriculturalist who distributed free watermelons on “Watermelon Day” as early as 1878.  From that event, the Fair was born and formally established in 1892 making the Arkansas Valley Fair the oldest continuously operating fair in Colorado.  In addition to watermelons, horse racing is a cherished local tradition. In 1938, the local school district purchased the Fairgrounds and within days submitted an application for construction of the Adobe Stables to the Works Progress Administration (WPA). By March of 1938, construction had started and was complete on November 25, 1938. It is estimated the construction of the Adobe Stables required 60,000 large adobe bricks. The Adobe Stables were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 2007, deemed significant due to association with New Deal construction programs, in the area of entertainment/recreation because of the importance of the Fairgrounds to the development of Rocky Ford, and also for architecture for its distinctive method of construction.  Because so few examples remain, it is critically important that measures be taken to preserve and protect the Stables.

Project Description

The Adobe Stables were in continuous use until approximately 2000 when their fragile and deteriorated state required them to be vacated. Several years later, in opposition to calls for demolition, local advocates coordinated an effort to complete a Historic Structure Assessment. The high projected cost of rehabilitation stymied the effort and led to the listing of the Adobe Stables as one of Colorado’s Most Endangered Places in 2007. Consequently, the Endangered Places Weekend Workshop series in 2009 were held at the Adobe Stables, which resulted in the rehabilitation of 25 stables through substantial volunteer effort.

Besides the actual repair of Stable sections resulting from the Weekend Workshop, a more overwhelming outcome was the renewed interest and enthusiasm shared by the City of Rocky Ford employees to further preserve the Stables and to foster their newfound knowledge on how to make and repair adobe. The success of the event, and regional demand for additional volunteer opportunities that focus on adobe, made clear the opportunity to use the rehabilitation of the Stables as a tool for educating interested participants in the nearly lost art of adobe repair and construction. The City of Rocky Ford is capitalizing on this interest by creating a Preservation Maintenance Plan for the Stables that will focus on the preservation of the adobe and serve as a vital educational tool from which current and future City employees can work from and educate others, especially during planned volunteer work weekends centered on historic preservation, upkeep of the Adobe Stables and community engagement. As part of the Plan, an adobe mixer will be purchased for use during the educational volunteer work weekends and for routine maintenance work. Stable door rehabilitation is included as current door conditions render them inadequate in their function to safely contain animals. Because the Adobe Stables is a horse boarding facility, the doors, requiring more skilled labor, will also be repaired and secured to allow for greater Stable usage, which will ultimately further their preservation.

Project Support

This project is supported by the City of Rocky Ford, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the State Historical Fund, the National Park Service, and by various youth groups such as the local Boy Scout Troup, FFA Chapter, 4H Club, and Rodeo Club.

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Preservation for a Changing Colorado

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