Built Environment Reference

Turquoise Tavern, New Mexico

Although there are a few bars and taverns along Route 66 (formerly Railroad Avenue) in Gallup, NM, there is no evidence that a place by that name currently exists. The Turquoise Tavern could be either a reference to a place that has closed down or changed name and ownership over the years, or it might be a fictional establishment invented by Tony Hillerman.


A large, fast U.S. road system that crosses state boundaries. The term refers specifically to express, or high-speed roads, constructed as a result of the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1956, a law initiated by President Dwight D. Eisenhower, which authorized the building of a network of highways spanning 41,000 miles across the nation. Eisenhower, who was a leading army general before becoming president of the U.S., was determined to build such a network primarily for Cold War national security purposes. Cross-country expressways, he reasoned, would enable efficient transportation of military weapons and supplies, fast troop deployment, and easy evacuation of big cities should the need arise. The interstate system served other purposes as well, such as relieving traffic congestion and encouraging motor vehicle use and consumption during the post-World War Two boom of suburban development and associated conspicuous consumption associated with leisure time and travel in the U.S. Under the 1956 act, the Federal government was responsible for paying 90 percent of the cost of the project, with individual states contributing only 10 percent. The money for the construction work came mostly from an increased federal tax on gasoline. According to the terms of the act, the new high-speed freeways were designed to have at least four lanes, no traffic lights, and controlled access through overpasses and underpasses, rather than intersections.

The interstate system has had long lasting effects on the American landscape and lifestyle. It promoted automobile and gasoline consumption, and, despite the conveniences it offered, had many undesirable consequences. In many areas throughout the country, the construction of interstate freeways has raised environmental and social concerns. In the 1960s, activist groups organized in various large cities, after it was clear that the construction of freeways damaged neighborhoods, destroyed homes, displaced people, and severed communities. Protesting was successful in many cases, and activists managed to prevent interstates from going through a number of big cities such as San Francisco, New York City, Baltimore, New Orleans, and Washington D.C.


A low embankment, usually artificially constructed, that runs along the edges of a river or stream designed to protect inhabited river valleys against flooding. Ancient levees were found along large rivers in places such as Egypt and China and are considered among the earliest works of human engineering. During the 1950s, the United States Bureau of Reclamation and the United States Army Corps of Engineers built an extensive system of levees along the Rio Grande River in the Albuquerque Basin of New Mexico in order to monitor the river's flow, control irrigation, and prevent seasonal flooding

irrigation drain

A canal or ditch dug near a water source, such as a river, to artificially control and direct water flow toward or away from nearby agricultural lands. These canals are used both to irrigate farmlands in dry times as well as to drain water in times of flood. In the Albuquerque basin, as in many other parts of New Mexico, a system of irrigation drains, called acequias in Spanish, parallels the Rio Grande River. Acequias have been used since the early days of habitation near the river, first by the native peoples of the area and later on by European settlers, to irrigate as well as protect their plantings.

Strong-Thorne Mortuary, New Mexico

A mortuary is a funeral service agency that specializes in planning memorial services, cremation options, and burial services. This includes preparing the body of the deceased for the funeral; helping choose a casket or an urn, music, and flowers; and arranging transportation to the cemetery. The Strong-Thorne Mortuary is a long-standing, renowned funeral home in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

terminal ward

A section of a hospital that houses patients with terminal (incurable) diseases. The treatment in terminal wards, which is often referred to as hospice or palliative care, does not include attempts to cure the illness, but instead is focused on managing symptoms, easing pain, and making sure dying patients are as free of discomfort as possible.

Folsom State Prison, California

The second oldest correctional facility in California (after San Quentin), Folsom State Prison was opened in 1880, following the California Gold Rush. It is located on the bank of the American River, about 20 miles northeast of Sacramento. It is currently one of 33 prisons managed by the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Folsom's original 1,800 inmate capacity grew over time to hold up to 2,314 prisoners, although the actual inmate population often exceeds capacity. Some of its notable prisoners include Eldridge Cleaver, who was a leader of the Black Panthers; the LSD guru Timothy Leary; and the cult leader and murderer Charles Manson. The musician Johnny Cash made Folsom Prison famous by first writing the popular song "Folsom Prison Blues," and then, in 1968, recording a live album of a performance he gave at the prison's cafeteria to an audience of enthusiastic inmates.

Taylorville, California

In the context of Hillerman's 1980 novel PEOPLE OF DARKNESS, Taylorville appears to be the name of a juvenile reform school in California. Preliminary research reveals that no such institution existed in California. However, the town of Taylorville, California was a small settlement in Marin County, named after Samuel P. Taylor, who was the founder of the West Coast's first paper mill. The community no longer exists and was last recorded in maps in 1914. However, Marin County has housed the Juvenile Services Center, located in the city of San Rafael, since the 1970s. Formerly run as a family rehabilitation center, the center currently serves as the Probation Department's Juvenile Services Division.

A larger town by the same name exists in the state of Illinois, but no reform schools of the same name were found there either. Within the novel's storyline, it is unlikely that Hillerman's character, who grew up in San Diego, would be sent at age fourteen to a correctional facility outside of California. This is one of the unsolved mysteries involved in tracing the origins of Hillerman's work, some of which is based on concrete historical and geographical facts, and some of which is entirely fictional.


The term literally means "opposing sepsis," which is an inflammation in the body caused by infection. In medicine, an antiseptic is an antibacterial substance that can be applied topically to skin or mucous membranes. Antiseptic also refers to disinfectant solutions used to sterilize medical instruments and surfaces in order to prevent the growth of potentially harmful microorganisms. Colloquially, the term refers to something or someone that is exceptionally clean, neat, and orderly, to the point of being cold and impersonal.

canteen (dispensary)

A snack bar or small general store at a military base or prison. At a prison, inmates who are not allowed to use cash have canteen accounts from which they can buy small items such as cigarettes, snacks, hygiene products, etc.


Subscribe to RSS - Built Environment Reference