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Paper Houses, Glass Mountains


I just spent the weekend in a magical little town, forty miles north of Big Bend National Park, called Marathon, Texas. Though the 2000 census reports there are only 107 houses in the whole town (around 30 streets total, with a three-block long commercial strip), at least three of them are crafted out of papercrete.

It’s papier maché-cum-construction: a mixture of old newspapers and magazines (should you someday be able to part with Plenty), sand and Portland concrete, sculpted to any shape you desire. Apparently it works well in the hot and dry West Texas plains and hills, as evidenced by Eve’s Garden Organic Bed and Breakfast and Ecology Resource Center, a “research level organic gardening demonstration site and an urban hacienda.”

This five-room inn huddles around a flower-filled courtyard (there’s a little flower shop, too, catering to those who choose to get married here), where friendly stray cats scuttle through—this is a pets allowed kind of town. They grow as much of their own food as they can right outside the rooms: dark leafy greens thriving along with night-blooming jasmine and the occasional rose.

The architecture is hippie-meets-Middle East, with terra cotta-colored domes amid the adobes and wood framed houses around it, rooms painted in ochre and orange and every shade of purple. Added to the majesty are a solar-heated lap pool/meditation room and a hidden hot tub.

I met one of the owners, Clyde Curry, at a gathering on the other side of town (less than a mile away); neighbors collected to watch the sun set behind the Glass Mountains and dine from the outdoor pizza oven at another papercrete house. He spoke of creating an entire eco-village on the Eve’s Garden model, should enough interested folks happen upon the town and decide to stay, which is the story of many residents I met.

I wasn’t lucky enough to stay at Eve’s—book fast, if you plan to go, which you should—but I stopped by in the morning for a tour from Kate Thayer, the other owner, and to see the crosshatched baked pears emerge from the oven. I’ll be going back.

By Lisa Selin Davis