If these walls could talk

If these walls could talk

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The Las Cruces Bulletin As the adage laments, old walls cannot tell their own stories. However, they can invite inquiry, stand as a reason to ask and look back, to think as well as listen — and Mesilla Valley Preservation’s Casas de Antaño (Houses of Yesteryear) Historic Home Tour on Sunday, May 10, opens the door to all of those responses. The Historic Home Tour is in its fifth year, and while it has typically focused on six or seven properties, this tour is an in-depth study and lecture series inspired by a single building, the distinguished W.E. Garrison House. “It just seemed like the thing to do this year,” said Eric Liefeld, president of Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc. “The house is so special and unique that we really wanted to take it to another level.” While it has been the Emerick family’s home since 1969, the Garrison House was previously the Convent of the Good Shepherd and Madonna High School. But first, it was the home of New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts — now New Mexico State University — President Winifred E. Garrison, designed by renown architect Henry C. Trost and built in 1909. It was through the research of Mesilla Valley Preservation that the Trost connection was discovered. “It was kind of an accidental discovery,” Liefeld said. “We had some letters in the archives of the university between Trost and Garrison, talking about the design of his house. And initially, there was confusion about what’s called the president’s house on campus, which is not a Trost. So we went looking for it.” Trost was a contemporary of Frank Lloyd Wright; he was a member of the Chicago Architectural Sketch Club, and may have worked for the firm Adler and Sullivan in Chicago as the last years of the 19th century shuttered closed, putting them both at the surging beginning of the American architecture movement. Trost was a prolific architect, eventually turning his eyes to the southwest. He settled in El Paso, contributing his architectural signature to the city’s skyline. However, his iconic work shaped parts of Las Cruces, too – his work in town included designing the early college campus. “A lot of our Trost architecture here has been kind of obscured and unknown,” Liefeld said. “We literally didn’t know we had it. So that’s part of the research we’re doing … trying to truly recognize these things for what they are and understand what we have.” Recognition is important, as many properties, including Trost designs, were lost during the fever of urban renewal projects. Garrison was interesting in his own right. In his early 20s, he wrote a book about his experiences cycling 6,150 miles through Europe, with the jaunty title, “Wheeling Through Europe.” After being diagnosed with tuberculosis, he moved west to New Mexico in 1906. The open plan of the home seems to have been tailored to the needs of a tubercular patient. “The upper story, which has these huge arches all around it — SEE TOUR, PAGE 14 PHOTO BY DONICIO MADRID The W. E. Garrison House is the showpiece of this year’s Mesilla Valley Preservation Inc.’s Casas de Antaño (Houses of Yesteryear) Historic Home Tour and Lecture Series from 1 to 5 p.m. Sunday, May 10. The two-story adobe was built by renowned architect Henry C. Trost in 1909, and the lecture series will focus on both the history of the home and the famed architect.

By Marissa Bond

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