Heritage, Volume 12, Number 4, Fall 1994 Page: 15
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reponsible for supervising and laying all of
the hand-made bricks that were used in the
construction of the Los Portales, an addition
that expanded the room space in the
Gage Hotel by 8,000 to 9,000 square feet.
In addition to the adobe work that he
oversaw, Dehmlow personally laid approximately
20,000 bricks for the Portales
patios and 2,000 square feet of flagstone
Dehmlow, who was born and raised on
a farm in Illinois, became interested in the
construction trade because "it was more
fun and interesting than farm work."
Starting out as a carpenter, Dehmlow
graduated to masonry work, and eventually,
when he moved to the southwest
United States, took on several jobs that
enabled him to learn the ancient art of
"I became acquainted with the adobe
process when I moved to Albuquerque,
where adobe is used frequently in construction.
I worked several jobs there and was
able to learn how to make adobe firsthand
from experienced craftsmen."
According to Dehmlow, finding the
right soil is the most important element in
adobe construction. "For the Gage addition,
we were lucky because the Big Bend
area has good caliche-based soil, which is
great for adobe. The bricks could be made
right on the premises, and our process became
so refined that we were able to make
The process, which takes many hours of
experimenting and testing, involves digging
up the soil and screening out the large
rocks. Next, in a giant pit, the soil is mixed
with straw or sand, and water is added.
Finally, the solution is poured into forms
and left to bake in bright sun for about two
or three days. Finished adobe bricks may
weigh as much as 30 pounds each.
After completing the Gage Hotel
project, Dehmlow was hired again by
Walton to work on the restoration of a
125-year-old rock ranch house, located
approximately 15 miles west of Marathon
in Brewster County. That job involved
new foundations, straightening out walls,
and digging out and replacing old lime
Once the restoration of the original
rock house was complete, construction
crews then added three new separate
adobe buildings to the ranch structure.
A construction worker at the Gage Hotel Los Portales project checks on the drying adobe bricks, still
in forms. Finished adobe bricks may weigh as much as 30 pounds each.
For that project, Dehmlow oversaw the
making of 40,000 adobe bricks, though
this time the soil had to be hauled in from
two miles away. Today, nearly two years
after the project was begun, that fourbuilding
ranch house structure sits nestled
in the foothills of the Del Norte Mountains,
a masterpiece of West Texas architecture.
In making the presentation to Dehmlow,
Historical Foundation Board member
Shirley Caldwell noted that "The importance
of the craftsmanship and authenticity
that Mr. Dehmlow brought
to these projects in Brewster County
cannot be overestimated. These are
both projects of which Brewster
County and all of Texas can be proud,
and they will be enduring for many
years to come."
HERITAGE * FALL 1994 15
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Texas Historical Foundation. Heritage, Volume 12, Number 4, Fall 1994, periodical, Autumn 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth45414/m1/15/: accessed July 27, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas Historical Foundation.