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Bringing History to Life: Restoring the Historic Rayado Lodge at Fish Camp

Updated: Aug 11, 2023

Scrap wood, windows, and cabinet pieces decorate a corner of the guest bedroom within the Rayado Lodge on July 6, 2023 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. Photo by Caitlyn Kviz.

Tucked away in the deep forests of the south country is Fish Camp, a beautiful and historic camp known for its fly-fishing and fly-tying programs. It has continuously operated each summer since the 40s under a series of different names, from Lookout Meadow to Rayado base camp. But despite all the changes, its history stands the test of time. It is most well-known for being home to the historic Rayado Lodge, purchased by Waite Phillips in 1922.

“The whole goal was to take [Phillips’] friends and his family out into the mountains to have an amazing time and enjoy life as either an escape, or just as a means of enjoying the woods.” said Dave Werhane, Director of Museums at Philmont.

“The Rayado Lodge was the Phillips’ family getaway.” said Reese Borowiak, a program counselor at Fish Camp. “The fact that Scouts can come into the Lodge and stand where he stood is important to many of them.”

In 1926, the Rayado Lodge was expanded from a three-room cabin to approximately the size it is today. The guest house and the servants’ quarters were built soon after. The servants’ quarters received several decades of use before being heavily damaged in the flood of 1965, along with the original kitchen of the Lodge. Only the chimney of the servant’s quarters remains, along with a few scattered bricks of its foundation. It stands alone in the middle of the walking path up to the caretakers’ cabin.

The exterior of the Rayado Lodge as it stands today, taken on July 6, 2023 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. Photo by Avery Kosmicki.

“[The Rayado Lodge has] been very well used. It is now in a critical status.” said Werhane. “You know, it’s in a spot that’s gorgeous and awesome, but it’s not an easy place to keep dry.”

The Lodge is frequently affected by flooding from the nearby Rayado River. It is built on a concrete and brick foundation that has been gradually destabilized as it settles into the marshy ground. Now, a series of steel poles support the back wall of the Lodge from a cave-in. It is currently closed for tours until the structural issues are repaired.

“The Boy Scouts of America are concerned about the preservation of our history.” said Werhane. “And they believe it’s critically important for Scouts to be able to see that, so they understand how they got to where they are today.”

The Lodge is just one of many historical structures located in Philmont’s backcountry. A large part of Philmont’s mission is to preserve the history of its lands. This is currently accomplished through hiring cabin restoration crews for the past several seasons to take care of historic properties across the backcountry.

Jonathan Dayan, a Cabin Restoration staff member, is researching and expanding historical knowledge of Fish Camp this summer, in hopes that he can keep the lodge as accurate as possible.

“I’m a history major at school, and I did interp last year at Abreu. I thought this was a cool way to really interact with the history of Fish Camp.” said Dayan. “I think [the Rayado Lodge] is the reason to come to Fish Camp, to see how beautiful it is. I hope we do it service, and I’m glad we’re doing it the right way.”

One of Dayan’s many goals for the property is the creation of a website, accomplished through grant money from his college, to better document the many residents of Fish Camp and how the buildings’ usage has changed over time.

“As an interpreter, your number one job is looking at a subject and deciding what you believe are the key components of the story that you would like to introduce other people to.” said Werhane.

Horsemen gather in front of the Rayado Lodge in the early 1920s, prior to Waite Phillips' renovations. Photo courtesy of the National Scouting Museum

“We want to give Scouts a full picture.” said Dayan. “Are our Scouts really going to be able to relate to the vice president who visited here? Or are they going to be able to relate to the people who worked out here? The people who made their lives in this place, hiking around just like they are, right?”

For example, Dayan’s research into the Phillips family’s many servants and workers brought to light the story of Bob and Gladys People, both caretakers of the Rayado Lodge and guest cabins beginning in the 1920s.

“I’ve found a bunch of documentation on them.” said Dayan. “From what I can tell, I don’t think they’ve been portrayed before. And I think that’s an important thing. I think Philmont is trying to move towards telling a more diverse array of stories.”

Beyond ensuring the physical health and safety of historic structures like the Rayado Lodge, cabin restoration crews are responsible for interpreting the site’s history to create a tour program for visiting crews and participants. A cabin restoration team will continue working on the project this summer, and they hope to have the cabin fully operational again in a few seasons.

“All these buildings are beautiful as far as the construction and everything.” said Borowiak. “I hope that they are maintained properly for years to come.”

Staff member Kara Hixebaugh gives a crew a tour of the Fish Camp property on July 6, 2023 at Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, N.M. Photo by Caitlyn Kviz

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