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Pueblo of the Seven Fires (RG 137)

This photograph displays an exterior view of Springfield College's Pueblo of the Seven Fires.

Pueblo of the Seven Fires

The idea for the Pueblo of the Seven Fires goes back to the 1920s. By the mid 1920’s most of the outdoor, recreation and camping programs had been consolidated at East Campus, adjacent to Wilbraham Rd. on about 80 acres of land, and the need for a permanent structure began to be recognized. In 1930, the Board of Trustees approved a proposal to erect a permanent, multi-purpose structure on this property. The building would provide meeting space, activity areas, storage, and living accommodations for the East Campus caretaker. Approval was contingent upon adequate funding ($20,000) being raised. Once the funding was established, Edgar M. Robinson worked with Ernest Seton Thompson, a founder of the Boy Scouts and Native American expert, and an architect from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to design the Pueblo of the Seven Fires as well as the Council Ring. The Pueblo was the second permanent structure to be placed on the grounds of East Campus. The first was originally called the Pukwana Lodge. Pukwana means “Smoke of Indian Peace Pipe.” Built as a trial run for the Pueblo to ensure that the materials used in building a Pueblo structure (structures typically built by Native Americans in the Southwestern United States using adobe mud bricks) in the Northeast could withstand the winter’s Frost, the Pukwana Lodge was a one room structure with an open fireplace in one corner. It was dedicated on November 18, 1931. The structure no longer exists. Construction on the Pueblo began in the fall of 1931.

The structure, measuring 4,4000 square feet, follows a classic southwestern design, and featured walls 24” thick at the base, tapering to 16” at the top. Windows were steel casement. The floors were brick. The beams were adzed oak, 10” in diameter. The original roof was constructed of oak planks beneath a tarred layer overlaid with 2 or more inches of sand and soil to provide both insulation and fire protection from potential forest fires. The interior of the Pueblo featured seven fire places, including a large fireplace donated by 4-H clubs. The seven fires refer to the seven fires of youth: self-expression, universality, ruggedness, regret/humility, truth, comradeship and beauty. The Pueblo also has a large central hall, or “Crane Lodge,” an east wing “Reed Lodge,” the west end “Post Lodge,” and the Robinson room. A full kitchen is on the first floor, and offices and residential space is on the second floor. There is a partial basement or lower floor that is partially below ground level.

Post Lodge came also to be known as Wo Peen Hall in reference to the murals on the walls of this room painted by the Native American Artist, Wo Peen around the year 1932. Wo Peen, also known as Luis Gonzalez, was a ceremonial singer and dancer, governor of the San Idelfonso Pueblo from 1945-46, and a famous muralist/painter who is often included in a group of painters who helped define what is known as “traditional” Indian Painting in the early to mid-20th century. By the time Wo Peen was thirty, he had works exhibited in major venues in Boston, New York, Chicago, and San Francisco. He painted a number of “Murals” in the Post Lodge room of the Pueblo, including Sacred Flying Water Serpent, Sun-Buffalo Dancer (Woman), Sun-Buffalo Dancer (Man), the Eagle, Thunderbird, The Pueblo Symbolic Signature, and the rainbow, clouds, wind and rain on each side of the central fireplace. In addition there are green and yellow borders which represented grassy and dry mesas and mountains.

The Pueblo of the Seven Fires was dedicated in 1932. In 1950, the Pueblo was officially designated the E.M. Robinson Pueblo of the Seven Fires, in honor of Edgar Monroe Robinson. Today the Pueblo is still used as it was originally designed, as a student learning facility hosting classes, camp groups and acting as a function hall.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection contains information on the Pueblo of the Seven Fires, the main building on East Campus. Overall the collection contains general information on the building of the Pueblo, many of what are thought to be the original blueprints by the Architect, John Gaw Meem from Santa Fe, New Mexico, information on artist Wo Peen (Luis Gonzalez) and the murals he designed and painted for the Pueblo, photographs of the interior, exterior and murals, and materials contained within the original Time Capsule from 1931. These materials are divided into two Series: Series 1: General Information and Series 2: Time Capsule.