Monday, December 26, 2005

Preservation Online: Today's News Archives: Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Preservation Online: Today's News Archives: Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle: "Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Story by Margaret Foster / Nov. 17, 2005

Fire Destroys New Mexico Castle

Story by Margaret Foster / Nov. 17, 2005

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Seton Castle was less than a year into a $2 million restoration. (The Academy for the Love of Learning)
A 70-year-old castle burned down on Tuesday while undergoing a $2 million restoration.

No one was hurt in the blaze, which left little but the stone walls of Seton Castle, located south of Santa Fe, N.M.

"It was totally destroyed," says Judd Dean, Hondo Volunteer Fire Department's fire chief. "[The fire] was very, very fast. Three of the workers had to jump off the roof to escape. The building had been around for decades, and the fire just roared through the whole thing."

Seton Castle was the home of artist and naturalist Ernest Thompson Seton (1860-1946), who helped found the Boy Scouts of America. Seton designed the 32-room castle himself in 1933, situating it on a hilltop on his 100-acre estate. Two years ago, his daughter sold the building—a National Historic Landmark—to the Santa Fe-based Academy for the Love of Learning, which won a $330,000 federal grant to repair water and vandalism damage.

The academy and its contractor, Wolf Corp., began restoring the building as an educational center early this year. At a groundbreaking ceremony in January, academy employees, along with many of Seton's ancestors, started a fire that "symbolically cleared our way of the potential obstacles ahead through the purification of fire," according to the academy's Web site.

The project was going well until the blaze, whose cause state investigators have not yet determined. So far, workers had cleaned and repaired the castle's exterior stonework, repaired windows and doors, created a new access road to the castle, and laid the foundations for a new caretaker's cottage and an art studio nearby. The academy was restoring more than 50 of Seton's works of art, including drawings and sketches.

The castle was scheduled to open to the public next fall.




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