Photographic Archaeology at the Empire Ranch Headquarters: Evolution of a Cultural Landscape

Presenter:  Dr. Robin Pinto, Cienega Watershed Partnership, Empire Ranch Foundation

Preservation of both historic structures and the surrounding landscapes that engendered them is key to a deeper understanding of each historic site. The Empire Ranch is a remarkable resource with well-preserved buildings, structures, and features; an ecologically intact and defining landscape; and one of the largest archives in the Southwest. Using oral histories, photographs, documents, and the larger contextual history, we reconstruct the 75-year evolution of the Ranch Headquarters and illustrate how that evolution was molded by Territorial events and issues. This study will inform us about the historic social interactions among inhabitants, the movements of individuals, and uses of spaces at the Empire during its first half-life.

Historic site preservation requires evaluation and documentation from different perspectives and types of expertise in order to illuminate significance and cultural values. The Empire Ranch Headquarters has been studied for its Sonoran-Vernacular-to-Territorial architectural styles, its historic archaeological values of building materials and techniques, and its historic value as an iconic example of long-lived southwest ranching enterprises. It also has great value as a cultural landscape in its response to local resources, historic issues and events, patterns of social behavior, and spatial organization. This presentation brings all these values together to gain a better understanding of why, how, and for whom the Empire was built.