What do you get when you mix earth, grass, and water together and allow the mixture to dry in the sun? You get adobe, one of the oldest known forms of construction material on the planet. In Texas, the use of adobe brick as building material can be traced to as early as 700 A.D. when the different cultural groups inhabiting the desert Southwest incorporated adobe into their living and storage structures. Later, adobe appeared throughout Texas’ west, south, and Panhandle regions with the arrival of the Spanish who brought their own adobe construction techniques. Examples of this early use of adobe can be seen in portions of Mission Concepcion in San Antonio, the ruins of Mission Santa Cruz in Real County, and in the state’s most famous mission – the Alamo.
Texans of Mexican descent used adobe to construct entire homes and businesses throughout the 19th century and many of these early structures remain standing or have been restored, particularly in communities like Marfa and Alpine. Fort Leaton, a historic adobe construction built in the 1800s by trader Ben Leaton that now serves as museum and western gateway to Big Bend Ranch State Park outside Presidio, functioned as both home and trading post – first for the Leaton family then for former business partners – until the early 1900s. The Hudspeth County Courthouse, one of Sierra Blanca’s premiere heritage features, is the only surviving adobe courthouse in the state that has been in continual use from its completion in 1922 to present. Restored through the Texas Historic Courthouse Preservation Program, the courthouse is listed in the National Register and is a State Archeological Landmark. These sites are but a few examples in a remarkable collection of early Texas architecture that employed simple techniques yet durable and locally available ingredients – dried mud!