Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Big Bend: Castolon

Probably the most intact historic area in Big Bend National Park is Castolon, near the end of Ross Maxwell Drive in the western section of the park. In fact, the Castolon Historic District is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The area was still actively worked as late as 1961. There is plenty of information on this little community -- and I've linked to some in this entry -- so I won't repeat much of it here.

There was a great deal of farming up and down the river in this area, with produce being sold as far away as the mining town of Terlingua to the north. With the Glenn Springs Raid in 1916, soldiers were sent to the area and remained stationed here until about 1920. This caused a bit of a building boom, and many of the structures still standing in the area are attributable to this time.

Today, there are numerous buildings that remain from this earlier time. The old barracks building is occupied today by the park service and a convenience store. The park service section of the building has a small area with a few displays recounting the area's history as well as a selection of regional books. A modern-style restroom is located in a separate building nearby.

Also on the grounds are the old Magdelana House, which was also used as a customs house at one time, remains of machinery, and a scattering of other buildings. It's a good place to stop to use the restroom, get a cold drink, and stretch your legs before seeing more of the area.

Old Magdelana House, a single story, two-room rectangular adobe with adjacent ramada. I believe this later served as a customs house. Originally built in early 1920s.

Originally barracks for U.S. soldiers from 1916-1920, this building today houses a convenience store and a ranger section for this area of the park.
One of the more interesting structures is the old Alvino residence, which sits at the base of the bluff where the other structures are located. This is a sprawling (for the times) multi-room house not far from the river. It has at least 4 entrances, and I found the north entrance the most interesting as it had a sort of courtyard area, which would, I think, have been unusual for the time.

Courtyard of the Alvino residence

Southern view of the Alvino residence. Notice other structures on the bluff above the house.

Just down the road is the old La Harmonia store, which served residents from both sides of the river for years and years. The history of this little store is really a history of the entire Big Bend region.

The historic La Harmonia Store, established in 1901 by Cipriano Hernandez.

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