Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Art & Architecture in West Texas - Marfa, Prada & Cibilo Creek Ranch - Part Two

As we headed down US 67, the modern art scene and sometimes parallel universe of Marfa, Texas had been such an amazing trip, we could not have imagined what awaited us upon arrival at the small stone entry gate to the 30,000 acre piece of heaven in the high desert of the Texas Big Bend known as Cibilo Creek Ranch. According to the web site, Cibilo Creek Ranch (Cibilo Creek Ranch ) was founded  by Milton Faber, a transplanted Missourian, in 1857. Built to withstand the attacks of hostile indians and others, the private fort is located in a breathtaking, mountainous landscape of austere and mesmerizing beauty.

With plentiful water from springs nearby, Faber built a ranching and agricultural empire with over 20,000 longhorn cattle, goats and sheep. The website provides a fascinating and detailed history of Cibilo, which, to my knowledge, is the only "fort" in the United States that has been transformed into a boutique destination resort. With every conceivable comfort, this is no stripped down glam camp. From the stunning architecture to the down filled beds to the vine covered porches and Mexican tiled walkways, Cibilo is chock full of character and comfort. Take all of that, throw in the cleanest, coolest, driest desert air found anywhere, and you just don't ever want to leave this desert oasis.

As we were ushered into the private concierge room and made arrangements for our stay, the architecture of this unique place was everywhere. As we were shown the dining and living rooms, as well as the wine storage area, I became more aware that no detail had been left to chance. Our room, which opened onto a long communal screen porch with a view of the small pond in the center of the compound and the mountains beyond, was everything you would expect in any five star hotel - great bed, large bath/shower area, classic furnishings and, best of all, no telephone and no tv!!!

I have talked in other posts about the unplanned and unexpected pleasures of traveling. The story of the restoration and conversion of the Cibilo Fort and the reestablishment of the ecology of the area by visionary owner, John Poindexter, is well detailed on the web site. As an architect, I have always had a keen interest in the stories behind the creation of unique places. Who better to give a  first hand account of the herculean task of transforming this amazing place than the man himself. As we prepared for dinner, which is served by gracious hosts around a large dining table in the main "house", we were told the owner would be dining with us. This is where one of those moments you never forget enters the story. Not only did we learn of the vision, challenges and work involved in creating this unique resort, what started out as a rather formal dining experience, with a very eclectic group of strangers, turned into a three hour dining experience full of stories and tall tales.  After dinner, we relocated to a massive outdoor stone fireplace, under a full moon, for more wine and conversation. The perfect setting to end a wonderful day of life in this desert enclave of stone, rust and old wood with great people we had only just met.

As we visited other parts of this vast ranch (there are two other collections of buildings) we began to understand what draws people to the desert. Frank Lloyd Wright once said that he always found inspiration when he visited the Grand Canyon, another natural architectural masterpiece in the desert. You understand that inspiration in a place like Cibilo. Every stone, every cotton wood tree, every ravine seems to have been "designed" to create the perfect landscape. In addition, Cibilo has a diverse assortment of animals, including buffalo, Texas longhorn cattle ,and even camels, which were were originally used by the cavalry in this part of Texas in the 1850's.

Places like Cibilo Creek Ranch create there own culture. They take you into there world and change you. I have said it before, but it bares repeating. The Nomad Architect is not about nice sheets and great service. It is about places like Cibilo that you really never leave. As we drove back to the airport in El Paso, I was so thankful that we had found this unusual place, designed to relax the head and nourish the heart, and I could have sworn I heard Texas Rangers August McCrae and Woodrow Call arguing over the best route to Montana.

Travel Quote of The Day
Here's to the sunny slopes of long ago. - Gus McCrae Texas Ranger - Lonesome Dove

Head 'Em Up-Move 'Em Out



  1. This design is incredible! You certainly know how to keep a reader entertained.

    Between your wit and your videos, I was almost moved to start my
    own blog (well, almost...HaHa!) Wonderful job.
    I really loved what you had to say, and more than that, how you presented it.
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    1. Thanks so much for the comment. The place was quite amazing.

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