Written by Jane Daniels
Hidden for years underneath tractor tires, rusty metal cans, old farming equipment, and windblown dirt and debris were the original wooden legs, metal nuts, bolts, brackets and other parts of a water tower that once stood at the Granada Relocation Center (Amache) in Colorado. Located about 260 miles southeast of Denver, Amache is one of ten former Japanese American internment camps that existed in the United States during World War II. Amache operated from 1942-1945 and was listed on Colorado’s Most Endangered Places List in 2001. It was declared a National Historic Landmark in 2006.
Renewed interest in the water tower was spurred by the donation of the tower's tank by a private rancher who used it to contain water since 1947, and the tank was documented and dismantled in December 2010. Other tower parts were soon uncovered in a nearby refuse pile. It was quite a surprise for many that the parts still existed – it was much like hitting the preservation jackpot!
Though this discovery was recent, preservation efforts at Amache are longstanding. For years Amache-related organizations such as the Amache Preservation Society, Friends of Amache, the National Park Service, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and the University of Denver, as well as former camp internees, local high school students and an incredibly committed teacher have spearheaded countless projects at Amache. I serve as Colorado Preservation, Inc.’s liaison to Amache, and I am endlessly impressed with the passionate carefulness exhibited by those involved with Amache. As a first generation immigrant, I deeply appreciate working with these diverse and devoted groups to find the best means to interpret Amache’s important and complex history.
Earlier this month, through the Japanese American Confinement Sites Grants Program, the National Park Service awarded funds for the reconstruction of both the water tower and one of the guard towers at Amache. With the generous award and anticipated matching funds, the towers will be rebuilt in close proximity to a proposed future reconstructed barrack block to include the original water tower, a guard tower, a mess hall, recreation hall, and laundry building. A historic building stock survey is also now underway by Colorado Preservation, Inc. to research, identify, locate, and assess these former Amache buildings with the idea that a few could potentially be relocated back on site in the block development area as an interpretive museum and visitor center. By using original historic fabric from the former camp, the tower reconstructions and the barrack block development will aid interpretation, public education, and heritage tourism efforts throughout in the southeast region of Colorado.
By digging deeper, literally and figuratively over the next few years, Amache will be even better able to show that there is more to learn and see beyond the surface of historic places. Albeit a seemingly barren site, Amache has much to offer. A new website, an integrated iPod driving tour, and newly constructed way-finding signs are also coming soon. This incredible historic resource, its current preservation activities and growing public support are wonderful tell-tale signs of what’s to come for Amache.
Jane Daniels is the Preservation Programs Director at Colorado Preservation, Inc. She was a 2008 and 2010 National Trust Diversity Scholar. Jane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For additional information about Amache, visit http://www.amache.org.