Pan American Trust: On Property, Speculation, and Boundary Maintenance at Tres Piedras Estates

Jesse Vogler

Reviewed by Catrin Gersdorf

30 Dec 2016


Assum­ing a prob­a­bil­i­ty ß that a giv­en invest­ment will reach its max­i­mum val­ue, it then fol­lows that there is a prob­a­bil­i­ty of 1‑ß that the invest­ment will be worth­less.1

Untitled II. Tres Piedras, New Mexico, 2013. Photo: Jesse Vogler

In the sum­mer of 1962, Bill Irons — a 14-year-old boy from Erie, PA — and his par­ents turned their fam­i­ly car to the west. Wrap­ping their teal Cadil­lac around the Great Lakes, across the Great Plains, and over the Cas­cade Range, the Irons fam­i­ly brought their Cold War road-trip to a halt at the heart of the aero­space race: Boe­ing’s Seat­tle. Their des­ti­na­tion: the Cen­tu­ry 21 Expo­si­tion — oth­er­wise known as the Seat­tle World’s Fair. Orig­i­nal­ly planned as a reca­pit­u­la­tion of the Alas­ka-Yukon-Pacif­ic Expo­si­tion of 1909 and its cel­e­bra­tion of an untamed Amer­i­can West, the pres­sures of a loom­ing space race and the grow­ing per­cep­tion of a lag­ging dis­par­i­ty in sci­ence and tech­nol­o­gy led the orga­niz­ers to focus on an opti­mistic, tech­no­log­i­cal­ly-dri­ven present instead of anachro­nis­tic themes of West­ward land­ed expansion.

World's Fair sign at 47th & Aurora, 1962.
Item 70900, Engineering Department Photographic Negatives
(Record Series 2613-07), Seattle Municipal Archives.

Yet, there was at least one booth at the fair that did not get the memo. Robert Gol­u­bin, Pres­i­dent of the Great South­west­ern Land Com­pa­ny, set up a tent near the South entrance of the fair and, lur­ing fair-goers with promis­es of free poo­dles and real estate, auc­tioned” off ¼‑acre resort ran­chos” in Taos Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co. Shep­herd­ed in by a gre­gar­i­ous sales­men, Bill Irons and his fam­i­ly were steered toward the Space Nee­dle and its adja­cent land office to hear the spiel of a man­ic sales­man eager to sell them a piece, albeit remote, of the Amer­i­can dream. Tres Piedras Estates, as the sub­di­vi­sion of ran­chi­tos was named, were gen­er­ous­ly endowed with the bless­ings of nature” and where, Gol­u­bin and his men assured them, you will dis­cov­er the gen­tly rolling, fer­tile land that has caused the fab­u­lous resort area in Taos coun­ty to become the play­ground of out­door-lov­ing peo­ple everywhere.“2

From Tres Piedras Estates. Undated brochure.

And every­where was indeed their tar­get mar­ket. Over 10,000 peo­ple from across the US, Cana­da, and beyond were the pur­port­ed win­ners” of Gol­u­bin’s land auc­tion — receiv­ing let­ters in the mail announc­ing their lucky draw with the only require­ment being final pay­ment of clos­ing costs of rough­ly $50. Cheap for the promise of a sound prop­er­ty invest­ment fea­tur­ing an abun­dance of col­or­ful aspen, state­ly pine and fir trees,” as their brochures promised, but per­haps a shake­down for the ¼ acre of sage­brush and sand that actu­al­ly await­ed the buy­er. With lots actu­al­ly val­ued at approx­i­mate­ly $3 and with over ten thou­sand peo­ple respond­ing to their tru­ly unbe­liev­able free-lot” luck, Gol­u­bin and his No-Share­hold­er-Lia­bil­i­ty com­pa­ny walked away with mil­lions in fair-goers invest­ments. Includ­ing those of Bill Irons and his family.

Set up in the shad­ow of Seat­tle’s Space Nee­dle, Gol­u­bin rec­og­nized that spec­u­la­tion bears an uncom­fort­able kin­ship with the spec­tac­u­lar and the spec­ta­cle. Where­as the lat­ter requires prox­im­i­ty, embod­i­ment, and an imme­di­ate affec­tive ori­en­ta­tion, spec­u­la­tion relies on dis­tance — a dis­em­bod­ied (and there­fore not con­firmable) van­tage point. Unver­i­fi­a­bil­i­ty is the ker­nel to any suc­cess­ful land hus­tle. And as the sole medi­a­tor between the worlds of spec­u­la­tion and the spec­tac­u­lar, Gol­u­bin served as an unre­li­able nar­ra­tor of promise and profit.

Rio Grande Estates advertisement from LIFE, March 9, 1962.

Tres Piedras Estates was only one of a series of spec­u­la­tive land scams that washed across mid-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca. Hawk­ing pieces of pri­mar­i­ly sun­belt real estate in New Mex­i­co, Ari­zona, Flori­da, and beyond, var­i­ous devel­op­ers ranged in cul­pa­bil­i­ty from oppor­tunis­tic truth-stretch­ers to flat-out thieves and liars. Swamp Mer­chants” in Flori­da and costal states reg­u­lar­ly sold lots cov­ered by 3 feet of Ever­glades water, while the more auda­cious tried to build paper empires by sell­ing deeds to land that sim­ply did not exist. It was a spec­u­la­tive pat­tern where one expert decried, This boom is filled with peo­ple try­ing to swing a $5 mil­lion deal on $5,000.”2 Gol­u­bin, for his part, actu­al­ly owned the land which he was sell­ing and had even made some of the inter­nal improve­ments — such as grad­ing the roads and stak­ing indi­vid­ual lots — that he had promised to his clients. Yet, even those man­i­fest efforts could not save Gol­u­bin from the courts, as he was tried and con­vict­ed of mail fraud under the Inter­state Land Sales Act in 1965.3

Titlebar from U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Frauds and Misrepresentations Affecting the Elderly of the Special Committee on Aging. Interstate Mail Order Land Sales. 88th Congress, 2nd sess. Part 1. Washington, GPO, 1964.

L = Y(P‑C) – YDF

At the heart of this sto­ry are the dynam­ics of spec­u­la­tion. Eschew­ing tra­di­tion­al mea­sures of fun­da­men­tal val­ue and focus­ing instead on the adapt­abil­i­ty of price move­ments, the spec­u­la­tor enters into a pact with time, val­ue, and uncer­tain­ty. But what land spec­u­la­tors of ear­ly- and mid-20th-cen­tu­ry Amer­i­ca relied on, in addi­tion, was a struc­tur­al mis­fit between dis­tance and prox­im­i­ty that was a hall­mark of the geo­graph­i­cal imag­i­nary of Amer­i­ca. In a ter­ri­to­ry that exists beyond the pre­vail­ing mod­els of land use eco­nom­ics — from Ricardo’s Law of Rent through von Thunen’s land equa­tions, for­ward to the Chica­go School’s soci­o­log­i­cal maps — under­stand­ing 20th-cen­tu­ry land spec­u­la­tion requires an updat­ed eco­nom­ic the­o­ry of the mar­gin. That is, it requires a mod­el in which dis­tance and trans­porta­tion costs fac­tor as addi­tive—rather than the con­ven­tion­al sub­trac­tive — vari­ables. In the cal­cu­lus of spec­u­la­tive advan­tage, the swamps of Flori­da and the desert of New Mex­i­co were attrac­tive pre­cise­ly because of their iso­la­tion, remote­ness, and inaccessibility.

Cartoon from Real Estate Subdivisions: How to Investigate Before you Invest. Undated brochure. Included in Interstate Mail Order Land Sales, 88th Congress, 2nd sess. Part 1. Washington, GPO, 1964.

Spec­u­la­tion, per­haps more than oth­er abstract prin­ci­ples of free­dom or democ­ra­cy, sits at the heart of the Amer­i­can project. Look­ing up through the ocu­lus of the dome of the US Capi­tol rotun­da in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., a view­er is met by the pan­theon­ic sur­face of a fres­co detail­ing six abid­ing tropes of Amer­i­can self-nar­ra­tion: War, Sci­ence, Marine, Com­merce, Mechan­ics, and Agri­cul­ture. The Apoth­e­o­sis of Wash­ing­ton, a vast fres­co with 15-foot high char­ac­ters paint­ed by Con­stan­ti­no Bru­mi­di, is notable in our sto­ry for the pres­ence of Robert Mor­ris, Financier of the Rev­o­lu­tion.” As the cen­tral char­ac­ter of the tableau of Com­merce, Mor­ris, seat­ed next to Mer­cury, the Roman god of com­merce, is being hand­ed a bag of gold by the winged god, who holds a caduceus in his oth­er hand while Mor­ris looks up in a tired glance from his ledgers. And while labor­ers toil at the turned back of Mer­cury, a mer­chant makes a deal, and a fac­to­ry looms hazy in the dis­tance, what is tru­ly miss­ing from this tableau of finance and capi­tol is the sto­ry of Mor­ris as the country’s most noto­ri­ous and, for a time, suc­cess­ful land speculator.

Detail from The Apotheosis of Washington. Constantino Brumidi, 1865. Photo: Architect of the Capitol.

In post-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary Amer­i­ca, no land-job­ber was bet­ter known or unmer­ci­ful­ly car­i­ca­tured than Robert Mor­ris. Bob­by, the cof­fer­er” occu­pies para­dox­i­cal posi­tions in the his­to­ri­og­ra­phy of Amer­i­can cap­i­tal­ists — appoint­ed as Super­in­ten­dent of Finances by Con­gress in 1781, he nonethe­less main­tained an active role in numer­ous spec­u­la­tive and dodgy land ven­tures through­out his tenure. Writ­ing in 1780 to Silas Deane, his part­ner in the spec­u­la­tive Unit­ed Illi­nois and Wabash Com­pa­nies and the Amer­i­can Com­mis­sion­er to France, he request­ed that he deter­mine whether it is prac­ti­ca­ble to make sale of vacant lands in Amer­i­ca by send­ing out drafts or sur­veys, descrip­tions and cer­tifi­cates, to ascer­tain the sit­u­a­tion, qual­i­ties of land, title, ect. [sic], and in what part of the con­ti­nent lands are most desired by such per­sons as would be inclined to spec­u­late, for I am ready to join you in any oper­a­tions of this kind that would turn advan­ta­geous­ly to our­selves […].“4

Spec­u­la­tive advan­tage oper­ates in a sur­pris­ing­ly con­sis­tent way across time — be it of the Mor­ris or the Gol­u­bin type. Reflect­ing on the per­va­sive­ness of the spec­u­la­tive land scams of the 1960s, Attor­ney Gen­er­al Robert F. Kennedy writes, Adver­tis­ing for such fraud­u­lent sales has played on retire­ment hopes, the promise of the West, and the lure of easy cred­it,” con­tin­u­ing, in the past two years we have expe­ri­enced a sharp increase in the sale by mail of near­ly worth­less land for great­ly inflat­ed prices.”5 The first spec­u­la­tive mech­a­nism that allows the near­ly worth­less” patch of sage and sand to be sold for a prof­it is the prac­tice of first-in-time land pur­chase and sub­se­quent sub­di­vi­sion, where­by risk is spread across numer­ous small­er units far out­side of a ter­ri­to­ry expe­ri­enc­ing devel­op­ment pres­sures. Suc­cinct­ly fram­ing this cal­cu­lus of risk, Robert Caro writes: The rea­son is sim­ple: The land is cheap­est there, the chance for prof­it there­fore the great­est.”6 The sec­ond mech­a­nism lies in the rec­og­niz­able metonym lying at the heart of Kennedy’s promise of the West,” where­in unin­hab­it­able desert is seman­ti­cal­ly trans­ferred into ran­cho estates.” And final­ly, the exe­cu­tion of any good spec­u­la­tive land scam is pred­i­cat­ed on the mis­match of access to infor­ma­tion and on the con­struc­tion and cap­i­tal­iza­tion of an unre­al­ized desire — on retire­ment hopes” or on the promise of own­ing a piece of the Amer­i­can Dream. All of which is to say, spec­u­la­tion relies, fun­da­men­tal­ly, on trust. How­ev­er misguided.

In the case of Gol­u­bin, this spec­u­la­tive chain was fur­ther rein­forced by the per­va­sive geog­ra­phy of the postal sys­tem. As the medi­um through which the land sales of the Great South­west­ern Land Com­pa­ny were announced and financed, mail deliv­ery pro­vid­ed an anony­mous but ubiq­ui­tous mech­a­nism through which poten­tial cus­tomers might be reached. Gol­u­bin and his asso­ciates would take part in land sales through the mail — send­ing infor­ma­tion and notices of award of ini­tial lots and solic­it­ing fur­ther pur­chase through a $25 down and $25-a-month scheme. So, while their gam­bit had as its final object some­thing as seem­ing­ly reli­able and secure as land, it was the dif­fuse ter­ri­to­ri­al­i­ty of the postal ser­vice that allowed this sit­u­at­ed com­mod­i­ty to have pur­chase across the coun­try. It was, after all, under the Mail Frauds Act that Gol­u­bin was ulti­mate­ly tried and found guilty. Yet, while much has been writ­ten about the ways in which the postal sys­tem con­struct­ed con­nec­tions across the vast ter­ri­to­ry of the coun­try,7 there has been lit­tle com­ment about the ways in which the post simul­ta­ne­ous­ly con­struct­ed dis­tance. At the heart of most land-by-mail schemes is a struc­tur­al inter­val intro­duced between buy­er and sell­er. While the rhetoric of inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty sure­ly remains applic­a­ble in these spec­u­la­tive schemes, a sec­ond postal rule, the sep­a­ra­tion of sender and receiv­er, is the oper­a­tive principle.

S30 T28N R10E. Aerial of the 1 mile x 1 mile subdivision of Tres Piedras Estates. Photo: Bing Maps.

Between the sub­di­vid­ed sec­tion of land called Tres Piedras Estates and prac­tices of the Great South­west­ern Land Co. lies the prin­ci­ple of prop­er­ty. The square mile in ques­tion is impor­tant because it crys­tal­izes an abid­ing ten­den­cy in the Amer­i­can psy­che that can only be described as a will toward spec­u­la­tion, one that reach­es back to pre-Rev­o­lu­tion­ary real-estate prac­tices, through ear­ly nation­al land pol­i­cy, through the guiles of 19th- and 20th-cen­tu­ry land-job­bers, and for­ward to today’s hous­ing cri­sis and the palsied response. But, more than just anoth­er emblem of this will to spec­u­la­tion, Tres Piedras Estates found itself at the heart of a mid-cen­tu­ry real-estate cri­sis that includ­ed Sen­ate hear­ings, postal reform, sub­di­vi­sion reg­u­la­tion, and an emerg­ing set of rules for the man­age­ment of land. The admin­is­tra­tive suite of buy­ing, sell­ing, sur­vey­ing, plat­ting, and financ­ing this square mile of land makes real a set of rela­tion­ships that are often con­fused for property’s object. In this, we would do well to remind our­selves of the fun­da­men­tal­ly rela­tion­al def­i­n­i­tion of property:

In a strict legal sense, land is not prop­er­ty’, but the sub­ject of prop­er­ty. The term prop­er­ty’, although in com­mon par­lance fre­quent­ly applied to a tract of land or a chat­tel, in its legal sig­ni­fi­ca­tion means only the rights of the own­er in rela­tion to it’. It denotes a right over a deter­mi­nate thing’. Prop­er­ty is the right of any per­son to pos­sess, use, enjoy, and dis­pose of a thing’.8

Yet, the suc­cess of a spec­u­la­tive endeav­or, even bar­ring spe­cif­ic fraud­u­lent meth­ods, is not a fait accom­pli—and, fol­low­ing econ­o­mist Edward L. Glaeser, pre­sum­ing that one believes the prob­a­bil­i­ty to be ß that a giv­en invest­ment will reach its max­i­mum val­ue as com­pared to invest­ments of a sim­i­lar cat­e­go­ry, it then fol­lows that there is a prob­a­bil­i­ty of 1‑ß that the invest­ment will be worth­less. This 1‑ß prob­a­bil­i­ty is the risk that Gol­u­bin took on a sage­brush plateau in north­ern New Mexico.


S30 T28N R10E
One square mile.
2223 lots. Rough­ly ¼ acre each.
A sub­di­vi­sion known as Tres Piedras Estates.

Tres Piedras Estates, Unit Six. Plat on file at the Taos County Commissioners Office.

Sit­ed in the high-desert of north­ern New Mex­i­co, the plat asso­ci­at­ed with the Tres Piedras Estates sub­di­vi­sion was a vision­ary doc­u­ment — if by vision­ary one means a seem­ing­ly irrec­on­cil­able gap between what-is and what-is-pro­posed. From a stretch of chamiza and sage-brush, the own­ers of the prop­er­ty, guid­ed by a Mr. Thomas H. Wag­n­er (NM Reg­is­tered Land Sur­vey­or #3517), con­jured an urban grid­iron plan of rad­i­cal pro­por­tions. Only a lit­tle less quixot­ic than, say, the 1811 Com­mis­sion­ers Plan for Man­hat­tan or the Pub­lic Land Sur­vey Sys­tem in which it is sit­u­at­ed, Wagner’s plat sub­di­vid­ed the arid land atop a ¼‑mile thick lava flow into ¼‑acre house lots. Cor­ners were staked with 2”x2”x5” oak hubs, and select roads were etched light­ly into the sandy soils. This was one of three large-scale sub­di­vi­sions ini­ti­at­ed by the behest of Mr. Robert N. Gol­u­bin, pres­i­dent of the Great South­west­ern Land Com­pa­ny, Inc., head­quar­tered in Dal­las, Texas, with offices at 636 San Mateo Boule­vard S.E., Albuquerque.

Oak hub property corners, 2013. Photo: Jesse Vogler.

Sec­tion 30 is a tract of land claimed through the 1862 Home­stead Act, albeit over 70 years lat­er. In 1939, a cer­tain Mr. Leo David Wood­en sub­mit­ted a Cer­tifi­cate of Reg­is­ter at the Land Office of San­ta Fe, in accor­dance with the Act’s stat­ed pur­pose To Secure Home­steads to Actu­al Set­tlers on the Pub­lic Domain,” for near­ly 34 of Sec­tion 30 of Town­ship 28 North Range 10 East of the New Mex­i­co Prin­ci­pal Merid­i­an. The let­ter of this instru­ment was made patent under the hand of none oth­er than Franklin Delano Roo­sevelt despite an egre­gious math­e­mat­i­cal error in which the com­pos­ite land described is called out as 640 acres on the Patent where­as the sim­ple addi­tion of the same tracts on the US GLO plat clear­ly only sum to 600 acres. Even the Gen­er­al Land Office, whose sole pur­pose was to orga­nize the dis­burse­ment of the pub­lic domain, seems to have fall­en trap to the com­mon per­cep­tion that land in this region was so use­less­ly inter­change­able that eas­i­ly ver­i­fi­able impre­ci­sions in orig­i­nal patents were accept­ed and entered in the cadas­tral reg­is­ter for all time. This 600 (née 640) acres was described by an ear­li­er 1836 Peta­ca Land-Grant Plat as sim­ply Chamiza bush­es” and classed in the 1918 US Sur­vey­or General’s field notes as: Soil, loam, rocky 3d rate.” A 1959 New Mex­i­co Office of the State Engi­neer Report on Ground-Water Con­di­tions fills out the geo­graph­ic and geo­log­ic sto­ry as it char­ac­ter­izes this entire stretch of land as a lava-capped plateau with lit­tle or no sources of water to be found except through exceed­ing­ly deep wells.9

Detail from General Land Office Survey Field Notes, 1918.

While Mr. Wooden’s Actu­al Set­tler sta­tus10 is lost to his­to­ry, he flipped his hold­ings only a short year lat­er in an inscrutable trans­ac­tion for the sum of Cer­tain Valu­able Con­sid­er­a­tions and Ten and No/​100 Dol­lars.” The grantees were a cer­tain Sid­ney L. and Imo­gene C. Franklin — the for­mer of whom was, accord­ing to the 1940 US Cen­sus, born in 1887. Sid­ney quick­ly con­sol­i­dat­ed his hold­ings and, on March 23, 1943, he filled out the hold­ings of sec­tion 30 by receiv­ing the gov­ern­ment patent to the final ¼‑¼ sec­tion. The Franklin’s hold­ings stretched across the high desert at an ele­va­tion of 7,850 feet, and the ranch house, yard, and cor­ral they built there were some of the few human mark­ers in the 30 miles of sage­brush between Tres Piedras and Taos.

Special Warranty Deed transferring title to Pan American Trust Company, Inc., 1962. Deed on file at the Taos County Commissioners Office.

Franklin Ranch, as it would come to be known in the region, encom­passed hold­ings of any­where between 6 and 10 square miles, though their sage-brush king­dom was sub­ject to the vagaries of arid land­scape on the lava-capped plateau. The 1959 engi­neer­ing report com­ments that the Franklin Ranch well, at some 473 feet deep, was com­plete­ly dry and, owing to the unique geol­o­gy of the area and the poros­i­ty of the native lava rock below the sur­face, known to be blow­ing air.” Water, not air, was what was need­ed to grow a west­ern ranch­ing inter­est, which may be the rea­son why, in 1952, the Franklins entered into an irreg­u­lar mort­gage oblig­a­tion with a Juan and Mar­i­an Iri­art for the stock­ing and trans­port of cat­tle on their land. The text of this instru­ment, record­ed in the Taos Coun­ty Clerk’s Office, reveals the com­plex set of rela­tion­ships and trade-offs that can sit at the heart of a prop­er­ty exchange:

The Iri­arts agree to stock the lands cov­ered by this mort­gage, and it shall be their sole deter­mi­na­tion as to the num­ber of head of cat­tle placed there­on. The Franklins shall receive one-third (1÷3) of the gain in cat­tle, and there shall be paid on the prin­ci­pal and inter­est of this mort­gage, on the dates here­in above men­tioned, one-half (1÷2) of their one-third (1÷3). There shall be no month­ly payments.

The Franklins shall have the care and cus­tody of the cat­tle so placed on the said lands, and shall look after said cat­tle to insure that the said cat­tle are prop­er­ly cared for at all times, and shall fur­nish salt, range and water for the said cattle.

The Franklins shall round up and deliv­er to ship­ping pens all cat­tle under their care and cus­tody, at the times spec­i­fied by the Iri­arts. The Iri­arts agree to fur­nish the nec­es­sary trans­porta­tion to trans­port the said cat­tle to and from the properties.

That this arrange­ment was not in the Franklin’s best inter­est is attest­ed to by the fact that, three years lat­er, Sid­ney and Imo­gen grant­ed to the Iriart’s the entire­ty of sec­tion 30 for the again mis­matched sum of One Dol­lar and oth­er valu­able con­sid­er­a­tions.” That this war­ran­ty deed exists in dupli­cate — one dat­ed May 21, 1955, and the sec­ond Feb 23, 1957 — only fur­ther adds to the ques­tion­able nature of this trans­ac­tion on land the right­ful own­er­ship of which would only become even more con­vo­lut­ed. Three years lat­er, in 1960, the Iri­arts liq­ui­dat­ed their hold­ings in the area, and it was a short year lat­er, on July 13, 1961, when the sub­di­vi­sion plat for Tres Piedras Estates was filed.

Enter Gol­u­bin.

At the time of the sub­di­vi­sion plat fil­ing for Sec­tion 30, Town­ship 28 North, Range 10 East, Gol­u­bin was not yet the legal own­er of that prop­er­ty; and the trans­ac­tions from the Iri­arts to bank own­er­ship to Golubin’s Great South­west­ern Land Co., Inc., would be marked by mis­man­age­ment and retrac­tion to such a degree that, to this day, title and own­er­ship ques­tions con­tin­ue to plague all of the lots at Tres Piedras Estates. To explain the redun­dan­cies in title, we must intro­duce a third par­ty: the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Com­pa­ny, Inc. — a No Share­hold­er Lia­bil­i­ty inter­est head­ed by Roger S. Cox, Pres­i­dent. On the July 1961 plat that bears its name, the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Co. ded­i­cates ease­ments and rights of way for the new­ly imag­ined Tres Piedras Estates — ease­ments and land that, in fact, they do not yet own. Indeed, not until August 1962 do the records show title being trans­ferred from the bank to the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Co. How­ev­er, in high­ly incon­sis­tent chronol­o­gy, the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Co. had already trans­ferred own­er­ship of the land in ques­tion to the Great South­west­ern Land Co. in April of that same year, some four months pri­or to being grant­ed actu­al title.

Original Land Patent, transferring title from US Government to Leo David Wooden, 1939. Patent on file at the Taos County Commissioners Office.

To add to these incon­sis­ten­cies, the out-of-sequence title from Pan Amer­i­can to Great South­west­ern includ­ed erro­neous descrip­tions for the land being trans­ferred, includ­ing approx­i­mate­ly 65 acres of land not owned by said grantors. That lat­ter fact alert­ed the Taos Coun­ty Clerk to the incon­sis­ten­cies in fil­ing, and, at 9:50AM on March 1, 1963, in an instru­ment exe­cut­ed to cor­rect the record appear­ing in Book A‑76, Page 24, records of Taos Coun­ty,” the Great South­west­ern Land Co. quit­claimed the deed for the land in ques­tion to the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Co. At 9:52AM on that same day, the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Co. quit­claimed the cor­rect­ed land descrip­tion back to the Great South­west­ern Land Co.

Which is to say, the Pan Amer­i­can Trust Com­pa­ny had legal, unen­cum­bered own­er­ship over said land for exact­ly two minutes.

In the two years that the Great South­west­ern Land Com­pa­ny oper­at­ed before Golubin’s 1963 fed­er­al indict­ment on mul­ti­ple counts of fraud, it sold over 35,000 lots, mak­ing mil­lions for the pres­i­dent of the com­pa­ny. Golubin’s first tri­al in New Mex­i­co, in May 1964, result­ed in a hung jury; how­ev­er, a year lat­er, in August 1965, the case was retried, and Gol­u­bin was found guilty of six­teen counts of mail fraud and was giv­en three years on each count, with sen­tences to be served con­sec­u­tive­ly. With his case on appeal, Gol­u­bin relo­cat­ed to San Jose, Cal­i­for­nia, where he took up a job as a used car sales­man. How­ev­er, in March 1966, he was stopped for a rou­tine traf­fic vio­la­tion in his home state of Cal­i­for­nia where sep­a­rate war­rants per­tain­ing to land fraud in Cal­i­for­nia came to light. As a dis­tinct case, sep­a­rate from the fed­er­al indict­ment in New Mex­i­co, a Cal­i­for­nia com­mis­sion­er pressed charges and Gol­u­bin pled guilty to var­i­ous Busi­ness and Pro­fes­sions Code vio­la­tions — where he received sus­pend­ed jail sen­tences and paid fines on each count.11 Two years lat­er, in 1968, a fed­er­al judge revis­it­ing the appealed mail fraud case from New Mex­i­co upheld the dis­trict court’s deci­sion, affirm­ing the six­teen counts of fraud on the grounds that Gollubin’s scheme was rea­son­ably cal­cu­lat­ed to deceive per­sons of ordi­nary pru­dence and com­pre­hen­sion,” the thresh­old of pro­hi­bi­tion in the mail fraud stat­ues.12

Detail from Great Southwestern Land Co., Inc., letterhead. Collection of the author.

The num­ber of orig­i­nal pur­chasers of lots at Tres Piedras Estates who actu­al­ly made an effort to build and relo­cate to that patch of desert is not known. How­ev­er, con­tem­po­ra­ne­ous accounts in the Taos News sug­gest that, in 1963, the year in which charges were brought, hun­dreds of would-be home­own­ers made the trek to the Tres Piedras/​Taos area to inspect their free-lots.” Accord­ing to these reports, most pur­chasers were hap­py with their lots. Indeed, on the ground, the pri­ma­ry com­plaint had less to do with the qual­i­ty of land than on the Coun­ty Clerk’s inabil­i­ty to reg­is­ter war­ran­ty deeds as fast as they were being issued. Yet, dur­ing the tri­al, US Attor­ney John Quinn told a dif­fer­ent sto­ry when he quipped, Peo­ple might as well have won a ¼‑acre on the moon for all the good it did them.”

Dur­ing a 1964 Con­gres­sion­al hear­ing in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., focused on inter­state mail order land sales, Tres Piedras Estates was a recur­rent point of ref­er­ence. Yet, even pro­po­nents of reg­u­la­tion and pun­ish­ment agreed that the bur­den of proof was heavy under the mail fraud statutes. Pre­sid­ing Sen­a­tor Har­ri­son Williams, Jr., of New Jer­sey point­ed to that con­di­tion when he not­ed, All of the fin­gers of fraud must be shown and a lot of this is slip­pery mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tion, not hard and fast fraud.” Nev­er­the­less, the courts dis­agreed a year lat­er. The text of the 1965 rul­ing states,

[Gol­u­bin] dealt in deceit­ful state­ments of half truths and con­cealed mate­r­i­al facts. His actions were not those of a legit­i­mate busi­ness man engaged in the per­mis­si­ble puff­ing” of his prod­ucts. The ulti­mate issue is that of intent and it was resolved against the defen­dant by the dis­trict court which found that he act­ed with intent to defraud and that the scheme was rea­son­ably cal­cu­lat­ed to deceive per­sons of ordi­nary pru­dence and com­pre­hen­sion.“13

To this day, lots in the Tres Piedras Estates remain of dubi­ous enough prove­nance that few real estate bro­kers will list them, and no banks will lend. Yet, that is pre­cise­ly what draws many to the high desert in the first place. Now trad­ed at pub­lic auc­tion, a ¼‑acre lot can be had for as lit­tle as a few hun­dred dol­lars. Absen­tee own­ers are giv­en a cer­tain amount of time to respond to the county’s request for back-tax­es, after which time their lots are put up for auc­tion. And, while con­sol­i­da­tion of lots remains a com­mon prac­tice for those already liv­ing there, recent years have seen spir­it­ed new res­i­dents once again clear­ing the ground and test­ing their archi­tec­tur­al and social aspirations.


There is noth­ing which so gen­er­al­ly strikes the imag­i­na­tion, and engages the affec­tions of mankind, as the right of prop­er­ty; or that sole and despot­ic domin­ion which one man claims and exer­cis­es over the exter­nal things of the world, in total exclu­sion of the right of any oth­er indi­vid­ual in the uni­verse.14

Untitled I. Tres Piedras, New Mexico, 2013. Photo: Jesse Vogler.

Of the near­ly 2,300 lots in the square mile of Tres Piedras Estates, there are exact­ly 38 home­steads cur­rent­ly built. Of those, only a frac­tion are inhab­it­ed. From the air, the bones of the subdivision’s grid­iron plan is still vis­i­ble, but on the ground, roads light­ly etched into the sage­brush and sand 60 years ago now dis­solve into indis­tin­guish­able lines. All serve as reminders of the post-spec­u­la­tion vac­u­um that left this stretch of high desert with a rash of encum­brances block­ing clear title to the land. This has not, how­ev­er, stopped indi­vid­u­als from devel­op­ing a spe­cif­ic and unique archi­tec­tur­al lan­guage in their efforts to con­struct shel­ter and secure privacy.

Tres Piedras Estates, Figure/Ground. Drawing by Jesse Vogler.

While it may be tempt­ing to see these set­tle­ments as either part of the col­lec­tivist, coun­ter­cul­tur­al projects of the 1960s or the mil­i­tant, anti-gov­ern­ment atti­tudes of the 1990s, nei­ther is a neat fit. Instead, this tract and its inhab­i­tants occu­py a more ambiva­lent space akin to Bartle­by the Scrivener’s I would pre­fer not to.” These inhab­i­tants have opt­ed for a mea­sured with­draw­al, a cal­cu­lat­ed side­step of either the pure com­mu­nal­ist or vir­u­lent indi­vid­u­al­ist mod­els of alter­na­tive social order. Their way is marked, rather, by an oppor­tunis­tic approach to bound­ary main­te­nance and build­ing construction.

Each home­stead is a loose agglom­er­a­tion of build­ings, out­build­ings, aban­doned cars, piles of scrap, and cleared sage­brush. Often incor­po­rat­ing the sur­plus of oth­er build­ing projects and demo­li­tions from around the region, each estate” car­ries with it an index of past ele­ments. Paint­ed sid­ing, mis-matched tim­bers, patch­es of roof­ing — this is an archi­tec­ture of the pro­vi­sion­al over the planned. At work is a range of build­ing tech­nolo­gies — from the tim­ber­frame to the dugout, from adobe bricks to tire infill. The pat­tern of home­stead improve­ment fol­lows those out­lined by own­er-built home advo­cates such as Ken Kern, the tem­po­ral stag­ing of J.B. Jack­son, and the archi­tec­tur­al insights of Bernard Rud­of­sky, where the process of home­steading usu­al­ly begins with the deliv­ery of a mobile home, a mod­i­fied school bus, or a trail­er of some sort. That rel­a­tive­ly fixed, con­tained, and weath­er­proof unit serves as the ker­nel for the home­stead in process. Some inhab­it those units for many years, while oth­ers con­tin­ue their mod­i­fi­ca­tions and are quick to remove the import­ed dwellings in favor of slight­ly more per­ma­nent and spa­cious quarters.

Sequential Lot Tactics. Drawing by Jesse Vogler.

Mir­ror­ing this pro­vi­sion­al archi­tec­ture is a sur­pris­ing­ly lax atti­tude toward bound­aries, both legal and phys­i­cal. Some home­steads begin with a sharply defined perime­ter fence — con­struct­ed of any­thing from mud to recy­cled bot­tles to scraps of wood to the ubiq­ui­tous chain-link fence. Oth­ers, on the con­trary, sim­ply dis­solve out­ward in a gra­di­ent of sage­brush and dirt, with the locus of inhab­i­ta­tion and extent marked sim­ply by the pat­terns of use. These two mod­els could not be more at odds with one anoth­er in terms of spa­tial def­i­n­i­tion, and each can be seen as an extreme response to the open field of the land­scape. The bound­ary main­te­nance of the fencers” reca­pit­u­lates the lot-log­ic of the orig­i­nal sub­di­vi­sion plat, with the 63.8’x167.9’ lots often re-inscribed by a lone perime­ter fence. Those of the dis­solvers” adopt the log­ic of the sage­brush — pri­or­i­tiz­ing con­ti­nu­ity over enclo­sure. But what both rec­og­nize is that, as a land­scape type, the fence car­ries with it a broad set of asso­ci­a­tions — from enclo­sure and bound­ary main­te­nance to clar­i­ty and neigh­bor­li­ness. It is as often the site of exchange and social­i­ty as it is the site of con­fronta­tion and con­flict. And as res­i­dents of gat­ed com­mu­ni­ties, ranch­ers, and bor­der-wall advo­cates all know, the fence is a fun­da­men­tal­ly polit­i­cal architecture.

The Hide­out

The Hide­out takes a jaun­ty approach to bound­ary def­i­n­i­tion. Com­posed of frag­ments of found fences and an array of jalop­ies, the Hide­out marks a clear, aggre­gat­ed fig­ure in the sage­brush land­scape. Its fence arcs and expands as each new frag­ment is insert­ed with­in the expand­ing fron­tier log­ic of the enclo­sure. Draw­ings by Jesse Vogler and Yi-Jung Lo.

The Care­tak­er

With its two-sto­ry frame out­post, the Care­tak­er watch­es over the hori­zon of Tres Piedras. Ten­u­ous­ly held togeth­er by the accou­trements of self-suf­fi­cient liv­ing — pit toi­let, water tank, com­post heap, sauna, trail­er, and scrap piles — the Care­tak­er hosts a soli­tary dweller as its loose col­lec­tion of out­build­ings dis­ag­gre­gate across the desert floor. Draw­ings by Jesse Vogler and Yi-Jung Lo.

The Earth­ship

As the most well-estab­lished estate” in the Tres Piedras sub­di­vi­sion, the Earth­ship is a play­ful meet­ing of well-known coun­ter­cul­ture build­ing tech­nolo­gies and a sort of farm-yard know-how. Bor­row­ing the earth-filled tire tech­nique from the more well-defined Earth­ship typol­o­gy just down the road, this instance eschews ide­o­log­i­cal and for­mal puri­ty in favor of the phased con­tin­gency of life that marks this con­test­ed stretch of desert. Draw­ings by Jesse Vogler and Yi-Jung Lo.

More than just a reca­pit­u­la­tion of the lot log­ic, how­ev­er, the perime­ter fence reg­u­lar­ly becomes a spa­tial agent as it is mobi­lized to dis­re­gard checker­board own­er­ship and to span across and incor­po­rate the pub­lic right-of-way in a pirat­i­cal effort to enclose ever more space. As the dia­gram above illus­trates, a fence can be used in the not-so-sub­tle incor­po­ra­tion of an un-owned tract into the body of a home­stead. Tak­ing advan­tage of both the para­dox­i­cal vis­i­bil­i­ty and dis­tance of the Tres Piedras Estates, it is com­mon prac­tice for adja­cent land-own­ers to claim own­er­ship over prop­er­ties that are not legal­ly theirs through a lib­er­al read­ing of the law of Adverse Pos­ses­sion — what are com­mon­ly referred to as squatter’s rights. Here, the pol­i­tics of the vis­i­ble prove cru­cial. The fence makes explic­it the occupier’s intent of adverse pos­ses­sion by 1. Declar­ing actu­al pos­ses­sion of the prop­er­ty, 2. Claim­ing open and noto­ri­ous use of the prop­er­ty, 3. Estab­lish­ing a claim for the con­tin­u­ous use of the prop­er­ty, and 4. Dis­tinct­ly stat­ing the exclu­sive use of the prop­er­ty. These are four of the five con­di­tions laid out in US law, with each state des­ig­nat­ing the dura­tion required for some­one to claim title through adverse pos­ses­sion. In New Mex­i­co, that dura­tion is 8 – 10 years.

What these fences make explic­it, then, is that prop­er­ty, rather than being an unam­bigu­ous object of fixed tit­u­lar ref­er­ence, is a sub­ject of reg­u­lar revi­sion and con­struc­tion — con­sti­tut­ed and re-con­sti­tut­ed in the steady process of trans­fer. Which is to say, fol­low­ing Wes­ley New­comb Hohfeld, one of the most impor­tant writ­ers on an updat­ed the­o­ry of prop­er­ty rights at the turn of the 20th cen­tu­ry, that prop­er­ty is not a thing, but a rela­tion. Rather than a sim­ple and non-social rela­tion­ship between a per­son and a thing, it is a set of legal rela­tions between peo­ple — what has come to be known as the bun­dle” of rights, pow­ers, priv­i­leges, and immu­ni­ties.15 And, while this de-cou­pling of thing and its own­er­ship has been posit­ed as a the­o­ret­i­cal mod­el, the land that has come to be known as Tres Piedras Estates has been con­sis­tent­ly revised, incor­po­rat­ed, and alien­at­ed through­out its 100-year his­to­ry of mis-reg­is­tered own­er­ship in an ongo­ing project test­ing the objec­tive sta­tus of belief.

At the heart of this belief struc­ture lies the ques­tion of prop­er­ty and the mate­r­i­al and dis­cur­sive encum­brances that stand in and per­pet­u­ate its sta­tus as real, indeli­ble, and imma­nent — in short, at the heart of this struc­ture of belief lies the sur­vey. With­in the cat­a­log of spa­tial prac­tices, the sur­vey car­ries the incom­pa­ra­ble bur­den of being at once the most spe­cif­ic as well as the most abstract doc­u­ment per­tain­ing to land. The sur­vey and the sur­vey­or qui­et­ly medi­ate, and there­by shut­tle mean­ing across, some of the more endur­ing inter­vals in west­ern thought — between the con­crete and the abstract, the self and the state, the per­son­al and the polit­i­cal, and affect and administration.

As I use it here, the sur­vey is dis­tinct from the map in one pri­ma­ry way: it fore­grounds the idea of prop­er­ty, of own­er­ship, and of use. It is, as such, not a syn­thet­ic, panop­tic whole but, rather, an inti­mate reg­is­ter of accu­mu­lat­ed sub­jec­tiv­i­ties. Where­as the map can dis­card cer­tain cul­tur­al residues in favor of nat­ur­al total­i­ties, the sur­vey clings tight­ly to the human space of inhab­i­ta­tion and val­ue. Record­ed in so many coun­ty reg­is­ters and accu­mu­lat­ing in asses­sors’ archives, sur­veys par­tic­i­pate in two key com­po­nents of state pow­er: repro­ducibil­i­ty and ver­i­fi­a­bil­i­ty. With its roots in tax­a­tion, allot­ment, and descrip­tion, the sur­vey is by its very nature a polit­i­cal instru­ment. Pol­i­tics is inte­gral to the work of the sur­vey­or, whose charge is ulti­mate­ly that of the state. The reg­istry of prop­er­ty, the cadas­tre, is at once a frag­ment of the cen­sus project and an instru­ment of ter­ri­to­r­i­al account­ing. It is no acci­dent that, in the past, to be was to be count­ed, which meant to be prop­er­tied. Until rel­a­tive­ly recent times, then, the sur­vey served to ver­i­fy one’s sub­jec­tiv­i­ty and sub­ject-hood, and, ulti­mate­ly, dis­cur­sive address­abil­i­ty (as, for exam­ple, a con­stituent unit with­in the expand­ing postal matrix of the state).

In the US, the invi­o­la­bil­i­ty of the pri­vate prop­er­ty sys­tem, unre­mark­able and near­ly invis­i­ble in the land­scape, con­sti­tutes the fun­da­men­tal, foun­da­tion­al ori­en­ta­tion and tex­ture of the built envi­ron­ment in a way that belies its own silence. Bound­aries, fences, prop­er­ty, spec­u­la­tion — these are all con­stituent parts in Max Weber’s mon­strous cos­mos” of the con­tem­po­rary cap­i­tal­ist eco­nom­ic order. Prop­er­ty rela­tions overde­ter­mine modes of socia­bil­i­ty as well as out­line a lim­it to indi­vid­ual action and affect. Yet, with­in the design dis­ci­plines, such rela­tion­ships are rarely, if ever, con­sid­ered. This reflec­tion on fences, sur­vey­ing, bound­ary main­te­nance, and spec­u­la­tive archi­tec­ture, as exem­pli­fied at Tres Piedras Estates, seeks to redress that short­com­ing by link­ing the mate­r­i­al speci­fici­ties of prop­er­ty — its his­to­ries, descrip­tions, and lim­i­ta­tions — to its abstract gen­er­al­i­ties — geom­e­try, law, and bureaucracy.

The author would like to acknowl­edge the gen­er­ous sup­port of the Gra­ham Foun­da­tion and the bril­liant founders of PLAND, an artist’s res­i­den­cy where the fore­go­ing research was undertaken.


By Catrin Gers­dorf

As a Euro­pean trav­el­ing through the Unit­ed States, the ver­nac­u­lar archi­tec­ture of makeshift homes and set­tle­ments that is thin­ly scat­tered across the wide planes and open deserts of the South­west has always been a cause of won­der and dis­be­lief. Do peo­ple real­ly live here, in the mid­dle of this dry nowhere? What has tempt­ed them to set­tle forty, fifty, six­ty miles away from the next town that pro­vides the basic infra­struc­ture of food and gas? Not to speak of such mod­ern ameni­ties as med­ical ser­vices and edu­ca­tion? How do the peo­ple who live in these few and far-apart homes make a liv­ing? And what do they do all day long if they don’t work for a liv­ing? Jesse Vogler does not answer any of these ques­tions. But then again, he didn’t ask them either. Instead, he draws atten­tion to the pathos of land spec­u­la­tion that emerges from a sto­ry in which the soil, and what can be found in it or what grows on it, no longer mat­ters. The spec­u­la­tor sells a dream, an image. At its core is the idea that prop­er­ty pro­vides free­dom and exis­ten­tial secu­ri­ty. Thus prop­er­ty becomes the onto­log­i­cal hall­mark of mod­ern sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. I pos­sess, there­fore I am. More than three hun­dred years ago, at the dawn of cap­i­tal­ism, labor was nec­es­sary for con­vert­ing the earth’s com­mons into pri­vate prop­er­ty, at least in John Locke’s the­o­ry. For Locke, the labor of a man’s body and the work of his hands” mix the prop­er­ty in his own per­son” with the mate­ri­als that are in the state that nature hath pro­vid­ed.” Con­se­quent­ly, as much land as a man tills, plants, improves, cul­ti­vates, and can use the prod­uct of, so much is his prop­er­ty.”15 But in prac­tice, fences became much more effec­tive sig­na­tures of prop­er­ty than labor. And in the his­to­ry of set­tler colo­nial­ism in Amer­i­ca, spec­u­la­tion pre­ced­ed cul­ti­va­tion. The speculator’s grid, and the prop­er­ty rela­tions it pre­scribes, Vogler sug­gests, out­line a lim­it to indi­vid­ual action and affect.” This may be true. But his exam­ple, Tres Piedras Estates in the New Mex­i­co desert, reveals some­thing else: those who choose to make a dwelling out of the speculator’s lot tend to push the lim­its set by his­to­ry, the law, bureau­cra­cy, and geom­e­try. I still don’t know what peo­ple do and how they spend their time in the deserts of the Amer­i­can West. But I now know how to read the archi­tec­tur­al brico­lage they call their homes, and the places they make for them­selves in land­scapes that belie the speculator’s cun­ning fic­tions of lus­cious­ness and beau­ty — as spaces pro­duced by the joined forces of Amer­i­can mythol­o­gy, psy­chol­o­gy, and the spec­u­la­tive econ­o­my of capitalism.



Adapt­ed from Edward L. Glaeser. A Nation of Gam­blers: Real Estate Spec­u­la­tion and Amer­i­can His­to­ry.” Tran­script of Ely Lec­ture, Har­vard Uni­ver­si­ty. 2013.


U.S. Sen­ate Sub­com­mit­tee on Frauds and Mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions Affect­ing the Elder­ly of the Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Aging. Inter­state Mail Order Land Sales. 88th Con­gress, 2nd sess. Part 1. Wash­ing­ton, DC: GPO, 1964. P. 102.


Robert N. Gol­u­bin, Appel­lant, v. Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, Appellee, 393 F.2d 590 (10th Cir. 1968).


From A. M. Sakol­s­ki. The Great Amer­i­can Land Bub­ble. New York, NY: Harp­er and Broth­ers, 1932.


Robert A. Caro. 3 Indict­ed in Top Mail-Land Gyp.” News­day. March 151963.


Robert A. Caro in U.S. Sen­ate Sub­com­mit­tee on Frauds and Mis­rep­re­sen­ta­tions Affect­ing the Elder­ly of the Spe­cial Com­mit­tee on Aging. Inter­state Mail Order Land Sales. 88th Con­gress, 2nd sess. Part 1. Wash­ing­ton, DC: GPO, 1964. P. 92.


See, for exam­ple, W. E. Fuller. The Amer­i­can Mail. Chica­go, IL: U of Chica­go Press, 1980.


J. Selden, in Wyne­hamer v. Peo­ple, 13 N. Y., 378, p. 433, cit­ed in Jus­tice Jere­mi­ah Smith, Eaton v. B.C. & M.R.R. Co., 51 N. H., 504511.


I. J. Wino­grad. Tech­ni­cal Report No. 12: Ground-water Con­di­tions and Geol­o­gy of Sun­shine Val­ley and West­ern Taos Coun­ty, New Mex­i­co. San­ta Fe, N. M.: State of New Mex­i­co, State Engi­neer Office; pre­pared in coop­er­a­tion with the Unit­ed States Geo­log­i­cal Sur­vey, 1959.


In an antic­i­pa­to­ry effort to fore­stall spec­u­la­tive land ven­tures of the very type that would come to define the land in ques­tion, typ­i­cal US Land Patents make explic­it the governmen’t intent To Secure Home­steads to Actu­al Set­tlers on the Pub­lic Domain.” Actu­al Set­tler sta­tus was meant to encour­age the actu­al set­tle­ment of the pub­lic lands of the U.S., rather than in the accu­mu­la­tion of title for spec­u­la­tive pur­pos­es. Actu­al Set­tler sta­tus was con­firmed through evi­dence of labor and improve­ments — from till­ing soil to plant­i­ng trees to run­ning fences to con­struct­ing a house — but with Mr. Wood­en only hav­ing title to his land for one year, it is now not pos­si­ble to deter­mine if he tru­ly intend­ed to set­tle the land in question.


Gusow v. Unit­ed States, 10 Cir., 347 F.2d 755, 756, cert. denied 382 U.S. 906, 86 S.Ct. 243, 15 L.Ed.2d 159.


Quot­ed in Robert N. Gol­u­bin, Appel­lant, v. Unit­ed States of Amer­i­ca, Appellee, 393 F.2d 590 (10th Cir. 1968).


William Black­stone. Com­men­taries on the Laws of Eng­land. Vol. 2: On the Rights of Things. Ch. 1: Of Prop­er­ty in General.”


Wes­ley New­comb Hohfeld. Some Fun­da­men­tal Legal Con­cep­tions as Applied to Judi­cial Rea­son­ing.” In The Yale Law Jour­nal. 23:1 (1913).


John Locke. Two Trea­tis­es of Gov­ern­ment (1690). New Haven, CT: Yale Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003. Book II: Sec­ond Trea­tise. Chap­ter V: Of Property.”


Jesse Vogler is an artist and design­er whose work sits at the inter­sec­tion of spa­tial prac­tices, mate­r­i­al cul­ture, and polit­i­cal econ­o­my. Drawn to ques­tions that attach them­selves to the periph­ery of archi­tec­tur­al pro­duc­tion, his projects take on themes of work, law, prop­er­ty, exper­tise, and per­fectibil­i­ty. Recent projects include a series of exhibits on the admin­is­tra­tive land­scape with The Cen­ter for Land Use Inter­pre­ta­tion (CLUI), a per­for­ma­tive project on com­mon­ing with the Cen­ter of Con­tem­po­rary Art Tbil­isi, a set of site-spe­cif­ic instal­la­tions at PLAND, and a col­lab­o­ra­tive, mul­ti-plat­form project of crit­i­cal geog­ra­phy cen­tered on the Amer­i­can Bot­tom. Vogler’s work has been sup­port­ed by awards from the Gra­ham Foun­da­tion, Mel­lon Foun­da­tion, Mac­Dow­ell Colony, and the Ful­bright Schol­ar Pro­gram and has been exhib­it­ed at the Venice Archi­tec­ture Bien­nale, the CLUI, the Cen­ter for Con­tem­po­rary Arts San­ta Fe, and the Urban Insti­tute for Con­tem­po­rary Arts. Recent pub­li­ca­tions fea­tur­ing his writ­ings and work include [brack­et], MONU, Ground Up, Art­fo­rum, Domus, and the Los Ange­les Times. In addi­tion to his art prac­tice, Vogler is a land sur­vey­or, co-directs the Insti­tute of Mark­ing and Mea­sur­ing, and is an assis­tant pro­fes­sor of land­scape archi­tec­ture in the Sam Fox School, Wash­ing­ton Uni­ver­si­ty in St. Louis. Email: jessevogler@​gmail.​com

Catrin Gers­dorf is Pro­fes­sor and Chair of Amer­i­can Stud­ies at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Würzburg, Ger­many. She com­plet­ed both an under­grad­u­ate degree and a Ph.D. (Lit­er­ary Studies/​American Stud­ies) at Karl Marx Uni­ver­si­ty in Leipzig. Between 1991 and 2012, Gers­dorf taught at the Freie Uni­ver­sität Berlin; the Uni­ver­si­ties of Han­nover, Kiel, and Leipzig; Lud­wig-Max­i­m­il­ians-Uni­ver­sität in Munich; and the War­saw School of Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties. She has also been a vis­it­ing schol­ar at the Crit­i­cal The­o­ry Insti­tute of the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia, Irvine, and the South­west Insti­tute for Research on Women at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ari­zona, Tuc­son. Gers­dorf is the author of The Poet­ics and Pol­i­tics of the Desert: Land­scape and the Con­struc­tion of Amer­i­ca (2009) and co-edi­tor of six vol­umes, includ­ing Natur, Kul­tur, Text: Beiträge zu Ökolo­gie und Lit­er­atur­wis­senschaft (2005), Nature in Lit­er­ary and Cul­tur­al Stud­ies: Transat­lantic Con­ver­sa­tions on Eco­crit­i­cism (2006), The Cul­tur­al Career of Cool­ness: Dis­cours­es and Prac­tices of Affect Con­trol in Euro­pean Antiq­ui­ty, the Unit­ed States, and Japan (2013), and Amer­i­ca After Nature: Democ­ra­cy, Cul­ture, Envi­ron­ment (2016). Her essays have appeared in numer­ous edit­ed vol­umes — for exam­ple, Cer­e­monies and Spec­ta­cles: Per­form­ing Amer­i­can Cul­ture (2000), Tran­scul­tur­al Spaces: Chal­lenges of Urban­i­ty, Ecol­o­gy, and the Envi­ron­ment (2010), Ecol­o­gy and Life Writ­ing (2013), and Cos­mopoli­tanism in the Age of Thomas Jef­fer­son (2013) — and in dis­tin­guished jour­nals, such as Amerikastudien/​American Stud­ies, Anglia, Buck­nell Review, Jour­nal of Amer­i­can Cul­ture, and Ecozon@: Euro­pean Jour­nal of Lit­er­a­ture, Cul­ture and Envi­ron­ment. Email: catrin.​gersdorf@​uni-​wuerzburg.​de