The Fort’s Recipe for Authentic Adobe Clay

The Fort Restaurant began as a dream home for Elizabeth “Bay” Arnold – the mother of current proprietress Holly Arnold Kinney – in 1961. While reading a book about Bent’s Old Fort, Bay was inspired to build her own adobe castle in Morrison, Colorado so Holly and her brother, Keith, could grow up in the country with fresh mountain air, horseback riding and fishing.

The Arnolds hired William Lumpkins, a top architect in adobe construction from Santa Fe, as well as a contractor from Taos to build the first authentic replica of Bent’s Old Fort. With the help of 22 men, more than 88,000 adobe bricks weighing 40 pounds each were used to construct the main building. When the expenses of building the fort exceeded the Arnold family’s budget, they decided to run a business out of the first floor of their new home to cover the costs.

Since opening its doors in 1963, the Fort has become one of the most recognizable and unique restaurants in Colorado. In 2006, the National Register of Historic Places along with the Colorado Historical Society added The Fort to the register as an important part of Colorado and United States History. Historians say that the traditional adobe construction and architectural form reflect Colorado’s rich heritage.

If you’re willing to do the labor yourself, adobe is one of the most inexpensive and easy-to-make building materials still in use today. On various days throughout the week, our maintenance team is hard at work repairing and touching up our building with adobe made from nearby clay soil. Adobe is the most sustainable building material as it originates from our own soil and natural resources. Additionally, lower energy costs are often associated with adobe buildings, with thick mud walls keeping rooms cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Use our authentic recipe to construct your own adobe castle, large or small!

What you’ll need:

  • Clay soil
  • Shovel
  • Water
  • Bucket
  • Straw

Steps:

  1. Gather Soil: To make adobe bricks you’ll need quality loamy clay soil, which can often be found on the top or side of a hill.
  2. Prepare for Mix: Dig a large hole to mix the ingredients for your bricks (you can also use a large bucket). We recommend filling the hole with water and letting it drain out to prevent the walls from crumbling during the mixing process. Brick molds can either be purchased or built; Determine which route is better based on the desired size and the number of bricks you plan to build at one time (if multiple, it will be cheaper to build a ladder-like structure out of lumber, as pictured above).
  3. Mix and Mold Bricks: Once the water has drained from the hole, fill it halfway with the clay soil (we also include a small amount of straw to bind the bricks together), then add just enough water to make a firm mud. Mix until the ingredients are combined. From here, use a shovel to place the mixture into your brick molds (use your shovel to level each brick off to ensure they are even and to eliminate any air bubbles). Once set, remove bricks from the form and allow them to dry in the sun until they fully harden.