PT Submits Formal Comment on FY20 Laredo Border Wall System Projects

U.S. Customs and Border Protection
U.S. Border Patrol Headquarters
1300 Pennsylvania Ave. 6.5E Mail Stop 1039
Washington, DC 20229-1100

Re: FY20 Laredo Border Wall System Projects

To Whom it May Concern:

Preservation Texas appreciates the opportunity to provide written comments about sites and areas of historic and cultural significance that will be potentially impacted by the FY20 Laredo Border Wall System Projects. In addition, for the reasons set forth below, we request consulting party status for this project going forward.

One of a pair of unrestored fortified ranch houses at Rancho San Francisco in Zapata County just under 1,000 feet from the Rio Grande.

Preservation Texas is a statewide, nonprofit, membership-supported historic preservation advocacy and education organization based in Austin. We are governed by a statewide board of directors and we have a strong and demonstrated interest in the protection and preservation of the historic and cultural sites and areas located along the Rio Grande.

1. The proposed Border Wall System will have the potential for direct, indirect and cumulative impacts on sites and areas designated as National Historic Landmarks, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, recognized as Recorded Texas Historic Landmarks, and included on Preservation Texas’ Most Endangered Places list. These sites include structures and their associated archaeological resources, natural resources and vistas:

  • San Ygnacio, a remarkable collection of mid-19th century National Register and National Historic Landmark structures on a bluff over the Rio Grande;
  • Rancho San Francisco, a rare surviving pair of unrestored fortified dwellings on our Most Endangered Places list;
  • Drexel Rio Grande Picnic Area, a cultural site of more recent vintage that affords wonderful vistas of the Rio Grande and northern Mexico;
  • Los Corralitos, a restored pair of fortified residences from the early 19th century that are accessible to the public and a major historic resource in this region; and
  • Dolores Viejo and Dolores Nuevo ruins.

One of the most important surviving early fortified ranch buildings along the Rio Grande in Zapata County is at Los Corralitos, 850 feet from the Rio Grande.

2. Construction activities associated with the Border Wall System will disturb and destroy known and potential sites and areas of historic and traditional cultural significance, including buildings, structures, archaeological sites and probable burial sites.

3. Construction of the Border Wall System will negatively impact the potential for economic development through heritage tourism.

4. The presence of a border wall in these otherwise unaltered viewsheds will ruin the historic and natural settings of these historic places.

San Ygnacio is a small community on a bluff just a few hundred feet from the Rio Grande that contains a remarkable assemblage of mid-19th century vernacular buildings. 

By reference we incorporate a thesis written by Sharon Fleming, former director of the architecture division of the Texas Historical Commission, on the historic significance of fortified ranch architecture in Zapata County. A link to that document may be found here.

As evidence of our belief that these sites are of national significance, we have been planning the 2020 Vernacular Architecture Forum Conference [postponed until 2021] and most of the sites listed above are to be included on a special architectural tour by many of the nation’s most well-regarded architectural historians. This region’s unique architecture may not currently be well known, but that is poised to change in the coming year and years ahead.

Every effort should be made to minimize or mitigate the effects of the proposed Laredo Border Wall System on the above mentioned sites in order to preserve this rare and unusual part of early American history along the Texas border.