Fuller Lodge Historic Districts Advisory Board Chair Mark Rayburn shared some interesting news during his presentation to the Los Alamos County Council at Tuesday’s work session in White Rock.
“The first news I would like to present is to inform you that the project that was initiated in 2003, and has continued with various stops and starts over the last 13 years; the project that I took on four years ago, that rushed forward like cold molasses, has finally come to fruition,” Rayburn said. “The Los Alamos Post Office is now officially listed on the National Register of Historic Places.”
Scheduling and planning will begin to create a celebration of note for this historic event, he said.
Rayburn told councilors that his board has been making recommendations and following progress on a few other projects including the monument signs such as the Historical Museum sign that sits by Fuller Lodge’s west side parking lot. They recommended utilizing the same pastel-colored stone tuff used on Fuller Lodge, its lower exterior structure and the fireplaces. The same stone facia was applied to the ADA ramp on the north side of Ashley Pond that accesses the sidewalk on Central Avenue just across the street from Bathtub Row. He said now that the aesthetic design has been established, the board will get started on the rest of the monument signs in the area.
Rayburn discussed the improvements to Ashley Pond Park.
“Now in its second year, the Ashley Pond reconstruction has proven itself to be a spectacular project. The plant growth is coming into its own, and has made that park the visual center of our community,” Rayburn said. “The stage itself has added more than simply a place for performances. It has legitimized the County’s Friday Gordons’ Concert Series by its presence alone. This year, we have experienced much larger crowds in attendance. We have also discovered that large numbers of people who had never attended a Friday concert previously, are now coming, and more regularly.”
Rayburn explained that he and his wife Sandy run the Italian Cream Soda booth every Friday at the Pond, so they have been able to conduct first hand research as they spend a lot of time finding out who is there and how often.
With regard to Fuller Lodge Phase 2, Rayburn said the board is pleased with all of the work and progress taking place to maintain, improve, and raise the structure of Fuller Lodge up to a higher level of quality and safety. Its foundation and surfaces, the moving parts, the windows, doors, hinges, the lighting and other items that perform functions no one ever sees, have all been touched, he said.
“The heating system and electrical was upgraded. We are aware of some of the strange structural anomalies and other unexpected architectural surprises that Wayne Kohlrust and the crews encountered, and we appreciate the ways in which those bumps in the road were handled,” Rayburn said. “They did probably as good a job as possible to get the fire suppression system installed while maintaining some aesthetic subtlety, and we can all relax a little more that this could prevent the Lodge’s (unthinkable) destruction by fire.”
Rayburn said he is looking forward to finding out about the condition of the east steps that were once the grand entry to the main porch.
“I’ve seen many pictures of dignitaries, the Ranch School boys, and their families as they were lined up to be photographed on those steps,” he said.
Clearing the earth back down to its original level will perform the best function of all—it will allow water to drain from the porch and prevent the giant pillars that hold the massive roof in place, from rotting at their bases, he said. And, if in that discovery, the steps have degraded to an unusable condition, Rayburn said he understands that the plan would be to recreate or refurbish them to prevent further damage to the pillars as well as bringing an historic part of the structure back into view.
“As we move into Phase 2 of Fuller Lodge and the Historical Museum updates, everyone seems to be very pleased with the improvements that have been scheduled for the Museum,” Rayburn said. “They are practical, innovative, and bring more light and useable space into the building without enlarging the building itself. It should prove to end up as a much more open and inviting structure.”
He said the FLHD Board is at a crossroads with Fuller Lodge with regard to 2nd floor access. The board has been briefed by County staff and architects Mullen-Heller, who provided a design update on Fuller Lodge Phase 2, focusing on the 2nd floor access concerns. They have handled numerous questions and technical responses to help the board discover the best route forward, he said.
Rayburn thanked the County for holding two public meetings and provided an online forum so that the public could share their concerns and ideas. However, all of that still lacked what he felt was one important question that needed to be explored.
“So, I brought it up to the board—the possibility of having us do some of our own research into this important area,” he said. “The question is – What are other people around the country doing to resolve the access problem in their historic structures?”
Rayburn explained that the board knows that the National Parks have a preference when building new access to historic structures or parts of a structure. That preference is to build something new and modern that is completely different than the structure it is connected to, so it is obvious that it is not a part of the original structure. They, therefore, would lean in the direction of the external elevator.
The first choice of the State Historic Preservation Office in Santa Fe was to make no changes Fuller Lodge, and their second choice, if an elevator were to be installed was to do Interior Option #1, Rayburn said.
“We have to consider two main points of importance and the order of these is open for conjecture, but they do need to be looked at with equal importance,” he said. “We need to determine how much use the 2nd floor will experience. We need to discover now to look at projections that allow us to evaluate visitor quantities in the near future as well as for the long term. This would obviously need to include proposed visitor counts on an increasing curve as the MPNHP gains popularity.”
In the preliminary research that a few of board members have done, they are finding that historic buildings, hotels, restaurants, parks (along with an eclectic variety of other structures), have chosen to handle their ADA access in many different ways, he said.
- Why are we providing 2nd floor access?
- How will the space be utilized?
- What will be the impact of the construction on the building and its integrity?
- How necessary or valuable will that access be?
- What will be the cost of the renovation?
- Are there alternatives to installing an elevator?
- How does the cost balance with future use?
- What others have done—
- Some have elected to do nothing and simply note that they are sorry but ADA access is not possible to the 2nd and above floors.
- Others have refurbished their old elevators and regularly maintain them.
- Some have provided video tours of inaccessible areas. Virtual reality tours would be a possibility.
- Some offer a scrapbook of photographs showing the exhibit areas that are not ADA compatible.
- Some have built new exterior elevators that are attached to the structure’s exterior, not unlike the first Fuller Lodge design idea that was tabled.
- Some have restructured an interior space to provide a new ADA approved elevator because they could do that without ruining the building’s integrity and aesthetic appeal.
“We have just begun our research into this problem and the board members are each tasked to investigate how others are working through the ADA issues of 2nd floor and above accessibility,” Rayburn said. “On Sept. 2, we will bring our findings to the next FLHD meeting, discuss what we’ve discovered, and aim at a solution. We need to understand that our problem is not uncommon, but it is unique to Fuller Lodge and the reconstruction that has already taken place within its walls.”
Rayburn told the Council that the board will meet Oct. 7 a final time on this topic and add any new information to the table for discussion.
“By that time we should have a well-researched recommendation to send to council,” he said.