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Military outpost restoration saves historic adobe structures

July 27, 2019
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In this Nov. 26, 2016 photo, visitors walk among the adobe remains of barracks and other buildings at Fort Churchill State Park near Silver Springs, Nev. Crews have completed work to reinforce and preserve the historic adobe ruins at Fort Churchill as part of a two-year-old effort to improve and expand Nevada's state park system. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).
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In this Nov. 26, 2016 photo, visitors walk among the adobe remains of barracks and other buildings at Fort Churchill State Park near Silver Springs, Nev. Crews have completed work to reinforce and preserve the historic adobe ruins at Fort Churchill as part of a two-year-old effort to improve and expand Nevada's state park system. (AP Photo/Scott Sonner).

SILVER SPRINGS, Nev. (AP) — Crews have completed work to reinforce and preserve the historic adobe ruins of Nevada’s first and largest military outpost as part of a two-year effort to improve and expand the state park system.

Fort Churchill was built in 1861 about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northeast of Carson City to provide protection for early settlers and guard Pony Express mail runs. It was abandoned in 1869.

Then-Gov. Brian Sandoval announced in 2017 more than $13 million would be devoted to the Explore Your Nevada Initiative that financed the repairs and created Nevada’s newest state parks: the Walker River Recreation Area in Yerington and Ice Age Fossils State Park near Las Vegas.

Fort Churchill State Park, which sits along the Carson River south of Silver Springs, also features the renovated Buckland Station, an important way station in the 1800s for pioneer travelers on the Overland Route.

Park Supervisor Scott Egy told the Mason Valley News that experts started studying ways to shore up the walls of the former barracks and other buildings that were leaning and falling down about 15 years ago but did not have any money to do anything about it. Thanks to the state initiative, the work was completed in June.

“This is so important because if we don’t protect (the ruins), then we’ll lose Nevada history,” Egy said. “Adobe is sand, clay and water, and over time they erode, especially when there are no roofs or porticos left which helped protect and prolong the adobe when first built. Without them, the buildings are fully exposed, and the adobe has a shorter lifespan.”

Last November, a masonry contractor was hired to begin the laborious process of hand-making adobe bricks with the same historic features of the originals to replace or reinforce those that time and weather had worn away. Using clay, sand and water from the Fort Churchill site — just as the original builders did — employees at Ceballos Masonry of Carson City made 30,000 adobe bricks for the project.

“It was easier to make (the bricks) in Carson than to do it outside here in winter,” Egy said.

After curing for several weeks indoors, the masons transported the adobe blocks to Fort Churchill, where Simerson Construction, also from Carson City, meticulously pieced back together sections of the ruins.

“I had an adobe expert tell me that Fort Churchill is one of the top sites for the most adobe structures in one place,” Egy said.

The stabilization process was similar to construction in the 1860s, Egy said, “with a little help from modern technology.”

A cement mixer was used to combine materials, and a powerful spray gun deposited an even coating of stucco to seal the bricks.

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Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com

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