Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Seton Castle destroyed by fire (The New Mexican)

The New Mexican November 15, 2005
A wind-swept fire in an area with little water destroyed the historic Seton Castle Tuesday. The fire began shortly after noon and was still burning two hours later. The cause is unknown at this time.The castle was likely a total loss, spectators at the scene said, but the historic documents and artifacts from the home had been removed before a renovation project started earlier this year."All of our vision was built around what we were going to do here. I'm sure the work will go on, but it's a shock", said Sage Magdalene, administrative assistant for the Academy for the Love of Learning Center, which aquired the property.Construction crews were midway through a year-long construction project and were working inside the castle when the fire started. All escaped without injury.The 32-room, 6,900-square-foot stone-and-mortar castle on 80 acres is a National Historic Landmark and New Mexico State Cultural Property but was in dilapidated condition. Naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton built the castle 70 years ago.Aaron Stern, whose Academy for the Love of Learning Center bought the property in 2003, wanted to restore Seton's legacy and use the space for teaching children and teachers and holding conferences on environmental and cultural issues.Stern planned to make the castle and surrounding property a place where children can learn about nature and the ideas espoused by Seton, who founded Boys Scouts of America. Seton authored more than 60 books on nature and other subjects, and left behind thousands of his own paintings and drawings. Seton lived at the castle from 1934 until his death in 1946 at age 86. His wife, Julia, founder of Campfire Girls, died in 1968, and daughter Dee Seton Barber lived in the castle until 1998.While famous for starting the Boy Scouts, Seton abandoned the group because he believed it had become too militaristic.Even in serious disrepair, the castle has received numerous visitors over the years.Researchers have also used Seton's work at the Seton Institute in Manitoba, Canada, the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institute. Look for additional details in tomorrow's The New Mexican.

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