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The atmosphere surrounding the Romero cabin May 1 felt more akin to a family reunion than a ribbon cutting for the newly renovated Homestead cabin. It was like the community was welcoming back an old friend or a long-lost family member.
In a way it was a family reunion. Ray and Severo Gonzales, the grandsons of Victor Romero – the original owner of the cabin – reminisced about their time growing up on the Pajarito Plateau and helped snipped the ribbon to officially usher the cabin into the 21st Century.
Ray Gonzales commented that originally his family did not live far from where the U.S. Post office now stands. His father worked at a trading post and his grandfather farmed on the plateau.
The cabin was first built in 1913 during the Homestead era but it deteriorated. As a result, Romero and his son-in-law, Bences Gonzales, rebuilt the cabin in 1934.
Ray said he is proud that his father had a hand in building the cabin, along with other family members.
“A lot of people put a lot of work into the cabin,” he said.
Growing up in a different era gave great material for stories. For instance, Ray said one time on the farm, a group of people from Texas offered his family sweet pea seeds, so the seeds were planted and flourished. Then, unexpectedly, the group from Texas returned and pulled out the plants – peas, leaves, roots and all.
In retrospect, Severo said, “Living here was a wonderful life. I enjoyed it.”
The impact of the Romero cabin does not stop with the Gonzales’. It has touched a lot of people in the community.
Ellen McGehee, historic buildings manager, commented that the cabin has played a role in her professional life. Twenty-five years ago, it was the first archeological project she worked on after graduating from college.
At that time, the cabin was located on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s property but had to be moved because the lab was realigning a road. As a result, the Los Alamos Historical Society agreed to purchase the cabin.
A botanical study was conducted, rotten logs were removed and analyzed and everything from the walls of the cabin to the stones that make up its foundation were relocated next to the Los Alamos Historical Museum near the Memorial Rose Garden. In addition to the house, McGehee said a wide range of household and farming items were discovered as well as Ortega chile cans.
McGehee commented that when she first started the project, her plan was to move on after its completion. Yet, the cabin dramatically altered her plans, which resulted in a more than 20-year-long career. “I have the cabin to thank for that,” she said.
These are just a few stories of how the cabin has touched the community.
Larry Campbell, the man who championed of the restoration, commented, “This cabin belongs to all of us. This is an American story (and) a project o history that is now gone.”
He added, “I want to remind (everyone) …. that the occupants of this cabin … they were rich in culture, they were rich in values and they were rich in spirituality. The cabin represents this richness and depth that is part of our hearts.”