The answers to "What do you want for Christmas?" can include some pretty unusual items, but for the staff at Aztec Ruins National Monument their wish was pretty simple: they just wanted an official entrance sign. It's taken nearly 90 years, but their wish has finally come true, and the new sign is unique indeed.
The park was established on January 24, 1923, when President Warren G. Harding issued an executive order creating Aztec Ruins National Monument in Aztec, New Mexico. Over the years the site gradually acquired a visitor center, a short trail and other typical park amenities, but one item was missing—a permanent, official entrance sign.
Filling that need became a team effort for the park staff and the local community. Superintendent Larry Turk began the project, the City of Aztec supported the effort, and all park divisions worked together to make the vision a reality. The goal was "a sign that will welcome visitors and communicate the national significance of the site they are visiting."
On the afternoon of December 13, the park staff gathered for a photo to celebrate the completion of the project, and the result isn't an off-the-shelf, ho-hum sign, but a unique addition that reflects the character of the area.
A park spokesperson offered some details about the sign's unusual construction.
"The sign is built like an ancient wall and incorporates important elements of ancestral Puebloan construction. Stone is shaped and stacked with mud mortar. The wall is the thick core and veneer distinctive of Chaco and Aztec great houses. Large pine beams (vigas) are built into the wall, representing the impressive roofs still surviving in West Ruin."
"For monument employees, the sign provided a lesson in the effort required by ancestral Puebloan builders. Skilled park archaeologists and preservation crew members built the sign in the same way they would repair an ancient wall. From start to finish, the project still took these expert masons four weeks to complete."
"After building up one stone at a time, they pointed mortar into the crevices at the surface for a smooth finish. The tedious work made spectators wonder: How did the ancestral Puebloans build the 450 rooms of West Ruin in only 30 years?"
"The sign project was completed in numerous steps, from the masonry wall, to the wooden vigas, to the metal nameplate, to the surrounding flagstone walkway. The public followed its progress through regular updates on the park’s Facebook page."
A nice gift for the staff, the community and visitors to Aztez Ruins, and a reminder that sometimes making your wish comes true requires a little work…and a lot of patience.