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The histories of the Manhattan Project and the Ranch School are pretty well known to the community. However, there is another story about Los Alamos that is not frequently told. With the opening of a historic building approaching, this should change.
The Romero Cabin, one of two remaining homestead cabins on the Pajarito Plateau, will be unveiled May 1. A grand opening will be at 11 a.m.
The celebration will take place just outside the cabin in the Memorial Rose Garden. Special guests, including the grandsons of Victor Romero, the original owner of the cabin, will be on hand to share some of the history of the cabin as well as history of homesteading on the Pajarito Plateau. The celebration will include homestead-era activities for children, such as using a washboard and a tortilla press.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony at the end of the program will include Larry Campbell, the former president of the Historical Society who was instrumental in getting the cabin rebuilt; Ray and Severo Gonzales, the grandsons of Victor Romero; Joe Gutierrez, president of the Pajarito Homesteaders Association, Inc.; Kurt Steinhaus, director of the LANL Community Programs Office; and Katy Korkos, member services coordinator for the Los Alamos Chamber of Commerce.
“We’re excited about the May opening,” said John Ruminer, a Los Alamos Alamos Historical Society member and museum docent. Hedy Dunn, director of the Los Alamos Historical Museum, added, “We’ve waited a long to have it furnished, interpreted and open to tours.”
Ruminer said that the Homesteader period is not widely known in the area.
“This is a part of history that not a lot of people are family with,” he said. Ruminer explained there were about 30 homesteaders on the plateau from 1800-1943.
The Romero Cabin was built in 1913 but it deteriorated. Romero and his son-in-law Bences Gonzales rebuilt it in 1934. The cabin is currently located in the Los Alamos Historic District, just north of the Memorial Rose Garden. However, it once stood on Los Alamos National Laboratory’s property near the plutonium facility.
It was moved between 1984-1985, Dunn said, because LANL realigned a road and the cabin was in the way. Also, being next to a highly classified building “wasn’t a good place for something we wanted the public to see,” she said. The Historical Society has worked with the National Park Service, Los Alamos County and many other agencies to restore the cabin. Last year, workers dismantled the cabin and discarded rotten logs and brought in new pine to replace what was no longer usable.
Workers also stripped off the bark and shaped the logs by hand before reassembling the cabin. After the new logs had dried for a short time, workers chinked the interior with sticks and mud mixed with straw.
The Romero Cabin is significant because it tells the story of the Homesteader period; plus, it survived the Cerro Grande Fire and its use has not changed.
It is not just the cabin that is a piece of Homesteader history. Ruminer said several items featured in the cabin are original to it. For instance, the stove is original and a painting is also authentic to the home.
Additionally, some of the building materials date back to 1913, although Ruminer said there is quite of a few materials from the 2000s.
Romero’s grandsons helped out during the project. “They were very pleased that the Historical Society has taken an interest in this cabin and telling the story of the Romeros and Gonzales,” Ruminer said.
For further information, call 662-6272 or visit www.losalamoshistory.org.