Friday
Oct262012

Stabilization and Conservation Projects

A major priority for the Foundation is raising funds for the on-going buildings and structures stabilization programs, and conservation of artifacts.

Over 200 original structures, ranging in size from the large 20 stamp mill, to the single seat outhouse, and thousands of artifacts from freight wagons to square nails remain in Bodie today. In spite of work accomplished to date, many of the structures are in dire straits. Preserving sites, buildings and artifacts, and the history behind them, is the heart and soul of our work.

The Bodie Foundation has set a goal of raising $100,000.00 per year to assist with keeping Bodie for future generations.

The list below are some of the priority projects the Bodie Foundation is either currently helping fund, or hopes to help fund in the coming months and years.

Various Roofing Projects:

  • Donnelly House
  • Moyle House
  • DV Cain Residence
  • Cameron House
  • Mendocini House

Other Major Stabilization Projects include:

  • Railroad Office - Stabilization of the structure including foundation, walls, replacing roof and windows.
  • Lester Bell house – Stabilization of the entire structure. The garage at the back of the house is of special concern. The roof is in danger of collapse.
  • Cyanide Building (mill area) - Replace foundation, 8x8 floor beams are cracked and braced, windows and window casings need to be replaced, exterior siding on walls need to be replaced.
  • Cemeteries - Identifying unmarked grave locations and protection. Conservation of grave markers and enclosures. Control of soil erosion and vegetation encroachment.
  • Artifacts - Conservation (protection), includes identifying and cataloging, protection while on display or in storage, and in some cases restoration.

For further information and a complete list of projects you may contact the Bodie Foundation at (760) 647-6564, or Bodie State Park Maintenance at (760) 647-6016.

Monday
Oct082012

Keeping Decay Under Arrest for 50 Years

(article from Bodie Times, Spring 2012)

Fifty years ago, the State of California concluded negotiations with the J. S. Cain family and other landholders to acquire properties that make up the ghost town of Bodie. The state conducted an extensive “inventory” of the condition of each structure and developed a strategic plan for continued management of the town. The plan they put together is still in use today.

It is a plan that allows the visitor to step back in time. As you look around, most of the buildings standing today are as they were in 1962. The structures are maintained under a state of “arrested decay”, which means keeping what is standing, standing. This strategy presents a significant, ongoing challenge. It’s a battle fought against worthy opponents – snow, wind, marauding cows and available budget to fund needed work. These battles are really a testament to the need for continued funding.

The Bodie Foundation, in keeping with one of its primary charters, had an opportunity to help with several tasks. The Foundation has funded all the labor to accomplish an ambitious list of six tasks. State Parks has committed resources (materials), along with additional manpower throughout the summer. These tasks are:

(1) A new ceiling for the Gregory house (#52 on the self-guided tour brochure)

(2) Interior stabilization for the Kirkwood house (#18)

(3) Stabilization and partial roof restoration of the swayback Bell garage (part of #11)

(4-5) Roof repairs of the Moyle house (#65) and Donnelly house(#8)

(6) Roof repair of the train depot office building (roofline visible on the ridgeline near water tower).

These tasks are a perfect example of the types of projects that must be done on a continuing basis to keep these old buildings standing, one which the Bodie Foundation is very pleased to fund. The money generated by foundation memberships, items sold from the museum, our online store and last but not least, donations, make these projects possible.

Without our members and their continued support, none of this would be possible. The Bodie Foundation is doing our best to be responsible stewards of the monies and trust that you place in us. In profiling some of this work, our intent is to share a sense of real accomplishment with our membership.

Watch for a follow-up article showing results of these tasks in our fall newsletter.

When you’re in Bodie this summer, look for our banners on buildings that are undergoing this important task – these are your funds at work to arrest that dreaded decay.

Monday
Oct082012

Sniffing Out Clues to Bodie’s Lost Graves

by Adela Morris & Lynne Engelbert (article from Bodie Times, Spring 2012)

Rhea, part of the canine forensics team that surveyed Bodie’s cem¬eteries in 2011 alerts at a grave site. The two colored flags mark the specific alert locations.

Little did anyone know when John Grebenkemper and his dog Tali visited Bodie in September 2007 that the seed of a strange partnership was about to be planted. John introduced himself to Terri Geissinger and explained to her that Tali was being trained to detect historical human remains with the Institute for Canine Forensics (ICF).

He asked for permission to work Tali in some of the cemeteries at Bodie. Terri’s interest was piqued. Together they searched several of the main cemeteries. Terri was quite impressed when Tali identified burials located under the current paths that pass through the cemeteries. Terri introduced John to Brad Sturdivant (then Park Superintendant) and they started thinking of the possible uses for our dogs. The seeds to the partnership between ICF and the Bodie Foundation had just been sowed. In October 2008, John and Adela Morris (ICF Director) were invited to attend a Cemetery Preservation Workshop at Bodie, sponsored by California State Parks and the University of Oregon. They gave a presentation and demonstrated what the ICF dogs are trained to do. During the four-day workshop, Adela and her dog Rhea worked many of the same sites that John and Tali had worked. Rhea confirmed many of Tali’s alerts and added other

Two areas in particular were the focus of these searches. Old records indicated that the first burials in Bodie were behind the hospital (in Bodie Bowl). It is believed that some of those burials were later moved to the main cemetery (above town). While the exact location of the hospital is unknown, Brad Sturdivant took the team to the presumed location where Rhea identified five possible burials. Eros, another ICF dog, confirmed those locations and added two more. The burials appeared to be in rows.

They moved on to the possible location of the Chinese cemetery. Chinese tradition had it that the spirits of the deceased could only be at rest if laid in their native soil. This meant that the remains of Chinese citizens needed to be returned to China. Usually only those of the wealthier males made that final journey, normally some time after their burial in Bodie. The initial burials were considered temporary, so it is suspected that only wooden markers were used. Once the families were no longer there to care for the burials, the cemetery fell into disrepair and the markers eventually disintegrated. Documentation was almost non-existent and the location of the cemetery was lost. Tali had begun the process of identifying the location of this cemetery. Rhea and Eros were able to confirm the probable location.

In June 2011, ICF brought in several of their teams to start working the three main cemeteries (Ward’s, Masonic and Miner’s Union), looking for unmarked burials. They were also checking grave markers that might have been moved to ensure they were on burial sites. It took three days to complete the work in all areas. The locations of the burials were documented using a GPS.

In the fall of 2011, a production company approached ICF looking to do a short segment for “Dog. Friend. Hero.”, an Animal Planet documentary on working dogs that make a difference in people’s lives. The ICF Board of Directors decided that Bodie would be the ideal location for this segment. Arrangements were made and three teams began the long day of filming a very successful segment that can be viewed at: animal.discovery.com/videos/dogfriendhero-dogs-find-100s-of-bodies-in-ghost-town.html

Plans for continuing searches at Bodie are ongoing, with more work in the Chinese cemetery and other sites scheduled for June, 2012.

For more information you can access the Institute for Canine Forensics website at: http://www.k9forensic.org

ICF teams surveyed several of Bodie’s cemeteries in June, 2011. From left: Adela Morris, Terri Geissinger (Bodie Foundation), John Grebenkemper, Kris Black, Benjamin Peek and Chris Dillier. Canine team members (l-r): Rhea, Osara, Kayle and Jess.

Monday
Oct082012

Bodie Cemetery Gets New Life

By Donna Jones (article from Bodie Times, Spring 2011)

At long last, the project to conserve grave markers in the Bodie cemeteries got underway in early September, 2010. Jablonski Building Conservation, an experienced and highly trained team of conservators, arrived to assess the various stone grave markers. By late October, a total of 28 stone grave markers were straightened, reset and conserved.

Bodie’s cemeteries overlook the townsite. The original cemetery was on waterlogged flatlands and was relocated to the present site in the 1870’s. Professional conservators are straightening and restoring some of the grave markers.

This company has worked in historic cemeteries across the USA and the conservators are formally trained in the science and art of stone conservation.

Small cracks in the mid-base of the L.H. Arrild monument are carefully refilled.

The conservators were surprised and delighted at the overall good condition of the surfaces of the stones. They commented that the carving still looked fresh and the stones were all legible, whereas many of the stones in cemeteries in the eastern U.S. are illegible due to acid rain and biological growth. Bodie’s climate has prevented damaging biological growth; many of the marble stones still have highly polished surfaces, more than a century after their placement. 

The conservation process was fascinating to watch, with many discoveries along the way.

Iron pins that once held the stones together had rusted and split some of the stones. This wasn’t a surprise, but removing them was a slow process, with gentle methods to avoid further splitting the stones and meticulous work with dental picks to remove debris in the holes. 

After removing stains and realigning parts, special grouts, mortars, adhesives and small tools were used for patching and filling small cracks that all but disappeared when completed.

Replacing the rusting, expanding iron pins with more stable stainless steel, and filling the tiny cracks and large losses to prevent the freeze-thaw cycle from continuing to shatter the markers, will help preserve these markers for many more years.

Discovering the partial remains of a brick wall around the Annie C. Fouke marker was a surprise and led to a different final appearance for the plot.

The Fouke marker is one of two very unusual stone monuments, carved to resemble natural rock outcroppings. The Perry marker is the second, and both were made circa 1896. 

So far, no one has claimed to have seen a similar style in any other cemeteries. Both the Fouke and Perry monuments are single, massive stones, unlike the more typical stack of several blocks with smooth sides. 

The unusual shape and size made resetting the Fouke stone, which had tilted, silted in and sunk in about six inches, a bit more challenging.

A badly fragmented grave marker for … G. Stebbins spent many years propped up on the ground in the Masonic section.

Two small fragments had been carefully curated and stored. They’ve now been successfully reassembled with the other three, larger parts on their original base. 

A large missing area will be replaced next year; a marble sculptor will carve a near-match fragment, to restore the name to “Solomon G. Stebbins”. For the first time in several decades, it is once again upright.

Extensive soil erosion and intrusion of plants shifted many grave markers out of their original positions. Sage trunks four to five inches in diameter had managed to slowly push several markers out of plane. Others were sitting loosely on the surface. 

Additionally, paths that cut across graves have accelerated the loss of soil. Redirecting those paths will be part a future phase of this project. 

A cemetery management plan is being finalized that will help guide future decisions about many issues, including the collapsed and deteriorated wooden fences.

There were many more grave markers righted, reset and repaired, too many to mention in this article. Another 22 await restoration. Much work remains to be done, and we are planning now to continue it in 2011.

On your next visit to Bodie, please take the time to visit the cemeteries again. I hope that the changes will be obvious but subtle; we hope especially that the families will be pleased about the care provided for the resting places of their loved ones. A “thank you” to California voters who passed Proposition 84 a few years ago. Those bond funds have allowed this long overdue work to be done.  

Jennifer Kearney, Helen Haney-Thomas and Rebecca Brown reset Annie C. Fouke’s grave marker.