By Jeff Harris, Site Manager, Magoffin Home State Historic Site
When I first arrived at the Magoffin Home State Historic Site almost three years ago, I was aware of adobe buildings from National Geographic magazine, TV history shows, and a wee bit I think I remembered from fifth-grade social studies.
I had never visited an adobe home before, much less an adobe mansion like the Magoffin Home. Adobe is clay, sand, and straw. We believe the Magoffins got the clay from the property and sand from the river; the Rio Grande is less than a mile away.
It is filled with amazing pieces that tell the story of a unique and fascinating family, city, and region. To me, these key facts about the “adobe-ness” of the Magoffin Home are both intriguing and exciting.
Fact #1: The adobe walls are about two-and-a-half to three-feet thick, depending on where you are in the building. Adobe walls are typically a little wider at the bottom than they are at the top—slightly pyramid shaped.
Intriguing: The wider-at-the-bottom walls also means nothing in the building is square and true. The rooms are wider at the top than at the bottom.
Exciting: Wall-paperers hate to work in the building. Think about hanging wallpaper in a room like that.
Fact #2: Adobe—being clay, sand, and straw— is very shapeable when it is wet.
Intriguing: Think of a wet clay pot. You can make it take on almost any shape you want. Same for adobe. We have some incredibly formed recesses and niches for lighting, religious objects, or art in the home. You wouldn’t believe some of the shapes.
Exciting: The ability to mold the adobe also means that the walls, in addition to being slightly pyramid-shaped, can also have waves, lumps, and bulges built into the construction itself.
Fact #3: Adobe is also the ultimate recyclable building material.
Intriguing: If there is damage, you just remove some of the adobe, mix it with water, reshape the adobe into bricks, let them dry, and use them again.
Exciting: Since adobe melts, controlling rain and other sources of water is vital to the protection of the home.
Fact #4: Adobe buildings also have maintenance cycles like other buildings.
Intriguing: About every 10 years, you need to work on the adobe and the lime plaster that covers the adobe.
Exciting: This is year 10 in the maintenance cycle of the adobe Magoffin Home.
The Magoffin Home is unique and endlessly fascinating. I continue to learn incredible things about the family, area, and building.
That is why I love the 145-year-old Magoffin Home; it is intriguing and exciting.