Historic Spring Site in Big Spring, Texas
In 2014, the landscape architecture firm KDC Associates from Midland, TX was contacted regarding the development of a master plan for an abandoned natural spring in Big Spring, Texas. Knowing this could be a historical site, the firm asked the city for a separate professional services contract that would cover site research. Kelly Cook, RLA, ASLA, principal of the firm stated, "As this site borders old trade routes and is the only reliable water source in a 90-mile radius, we felt historical research was prudent in order to help us generate a site-specific design. I refer to it as extreme-level site analysis. We were thrilled to delve into a project we felt potentially held such historical significance."
In Depth Historical Research
Following months of research, Cook found that the site not only had regional significance but was also prominent in the shaping of the American west. Studying long-forgotten historical documents, KDC found numerous authors and academics who believe the spring may have been visited by Spanish explorer Cabeza de Vaca in 1535 after his party's shipwreck on what is now Galveston Island, some 525 miles away. One of the few survivors of a shipwreck, de Vaca trecked his way across what was to become Texas. Stumbling naked and starving upon a "great spring" near the source of what many believe is now the Colorado River in Texas, de Vaca was nurtured to health by a local Indian tribe. When departing weeks later, he held a blessing ceremony for them and they, in turn, provided a large meal for him. While Cook found accounts of de Vaca's route varies and no one is certain of his exact location, it is possible that the spring site that KDC was studying was the site of the first "thanksgiving" ceremony in the "New World," predating the Plymouth event by about 85 years.
The spring was considered sacred and one of the most important sites for the native Comanche and Kiowa tribes who inhabited the area because this was the location they met every year to prepare for raids deep into Mexico. KDC also discovered that the spring site was the reason for the integration of a 575-mile long stretch of Interstate 20. In 1849, Captain Randolph Marcy was the first American to scientifically chart the location of the spring. This was at the beginning of the gold rush in California. Soon, thousands of emigrants began moving westward along the route that Marcy had charted. As the next available water source was 114 miles away, the spring became a critical stopping point for thousands of the wagon trains. The Butterfield Stage soon took the same trail. Needing the reliable water of the spring, the railroad then followed the stage route. Cities popped up along the length of the railroad, and the development of the car caused the Bankhead Highway to follow the rail. Now Interstates 10 and 20 follow Captain Marcy's original route.
"Our historical research was critical in the successful development of this site," Cook explained, "because of that we were able to generate a design that we felt reflected the centricity and importance of the spring in the region for thousands of years. The site somewhat designed itself. We have had landscape architecture classes from Texas Tech University visiting the site and we tried to emphasize the enormous importance of what a good site analysis can do in the design phase."
Distinct Time Frames Reflected in Design
As seen in LASN magazine, November 2020.