Travel to U.S.: West: Santa Fe
This is Santa Fe with a squint, Santa Fe almost entirely as though it weren't a city of commercial strips and traffic and apartment buildings. It's mostly Santa Fe as the place where a style called Santa Fe emerged. Almost everything shown here lies either in the center of town or on the upscale east side.
Santa Fe, elevation 7,000 feet, lies on the western side of a southerly extension of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. These are the Santa Fe Mountains, set aside in the Santa Fe National Forest. It's ski country, but it's also water-storage country. The snows in this aspen basin melt and drain west to the Rio Grande, but the snows on the far side of the peak at the right melt and flow into the tiny Santa Fe River, at whose outlet from the mountains Mexican colonists arrived in 1610.
Here, more or less, is what they saw: the Santa Fe River, just a hundred yards from the town plaza. Two upstream dams now capture the snowmelt, diverted into the city's water supply.
Originally, the major use was for irrigation. A little water still flows to gardens through the acequia madre. The "mother ditch" feeds this gated branch, near Acequia Madre Street.
Camino Ranchitos. Think you're way out of town? Wrong: you're less than a mile from the town plaza, which lies more or less straight ahead. So does the Santa Fe River and, this side of it, the Acequia Madre.
Looks remote, but the neighborhood consists of half-million-dollar adobes, all discretely hidden by the scrub pine. You're already within easy-walking of a latte and The New York Times. Such has Santa Fe become in the last century.
Nearby, a window in one of the "Cinco Pintores" houses. The name comes from five young men who about 1920 came to Santa Fe to paint. They also built a row of small adobes along the Camino del Monte Sol. It's only a 10-minute walk from the previous pictures.
A nearby door.
Entrance over the acequia madre.
A lot of the houses are tucked behind walls, but here's one that isn't.
Window and belfry of the San Miguel chapel, rebuilt 1710 on the site of a church built 1626-8.
Doorway along De Vargas Street, just south of the town plaza.
Gormley Lane, stretching north to Canyon Road. The Santa Fe River is straight ahead, flowing right to left, or east to west. The original town grid more or less lines up with the river and starts a bit downstream from this point. Still think you're in the boonies? Canyon Road, just ahead, is lined with galleries, and you're only a couple of minute's walk from restaurants serving roast elk.
Canyon Road: pricier than it looks.
The mouth of one of the lanes joining Canyon Road.
Along Canyon Road. This is El Zaguan (the "hallway"), once a house but now the home of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. It's just about the only patch of public space along the street.
Another former house: Sena Plaza, a block from the town center. Major Sena and his wife had 11 children, plus servants. Starting in 1831, his house grew to 33 ground-level rooms, arranged as a square around a courtyard.
A second story was added in 1920.
Time has converted the courtyard into a forest.
The whole place is now upscale shops and restaurants.
A two-minute walk from Sena Plaza, this is St. Francis Cathedral, built 1869-86 in a French Romanesque style. Why French Romanesque? The designer was the first archbishop of Santa Fe, and oddly enough he was French. Jean Baptiste Lamy's relations with the local clergy were poor. Money was tight. The spires were never completed.
Money was so tight that Lamy borrowed some from a local Jewish banker. When Lamy could not repay the loan, the banker forgave it on the condition that this Hebrew inscription ("Jehovah") was inscribed on the cathedral's keystone. There it remains.
The cathedral in discouraging context.
The plaza itself, seen from the center and looking almost due east. (The streets are gridded, but because they follow the river they're not quite oriented to the compass points.) The building is the Catron Block, 1888, just this side of a line drawn between the cathedral and Sena Plaza. In 1888 Santa Fe hadn't yet developed the Santa Fe style, and Boss Catron, a lawyer deep into land deals, ordered up an Italianate block from the same Italian masons who had just built Lamy's church. The portico was a later addition, when the city was experimenting with a territorial style.
On the approximately north side of the plaza: the portal of the palacio real (1610), or royal palace, now known as the Palace of the Governors. The form shown here was the result of a pioneering archaeological restoration undertaken in 1909 by Jesse Nusbaum, who later was superintendant of Mesa Verde National Park, and Sylvanus Morley, who later helped reconstruct the Maya ruins at Chichen Itza. Under the auspices of the Archaeological Institute of America, which took over the palace when the federal government considered it a hopeless ruin, Nusbaum and Morley peeled away a bric-a-brac balustrade and metal roof that had been added in 1877. They threw out what they considered to be the insufficiently massive, square-sawn posts that held up the portal. They replaced them with these columnar trunks, inspired by a column that Nusbaum found buried in an adobe wall. The result was an idealized version of the palace, far grander than anything known to the governors. It's massive and earnestly authentic, but it's also a fantasy. Even the adobe is fake, because Nusbaum and Morley rebuilt the structure in brick and stucco, painted.
This is the Santa Fe Museum of Fine Arts, at the southwest corner of the plaza and just a block from the Palace of the Governors. It's also ground zero for the Santa Fe style incorporated in thousands of buildings today. The line of descent begins at the Acoma pueblo and runs through (1) a 1909 replica of the pueblo that was commissioned by the Colorado Supply Company for its warehouse in Morley, Colorado, (2) the New Mexico Building at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego, and (3) this museum, built in 1917. With the exception of the Acoma pueblo, all were designed by Isaac Rapp. Rapp could have gone in other directions: for example, he also designed another Santa Fe landmark, the Alhambra-ish Scottish Rite Temple.
An interior detail of the same museum. The form has been copied so many times now that a building like this could house almost anything in Santa Fe today. Why copied so much? Largely because of local regulations, starting with the 1957 Historic Zoning Ordinance, which demarcated a historical district within which all construction had to be in a historic style, defined either as territorial or pueblo Spanish.
Thus arose pueblo gas stations and grocery stores. Here, a Woolworth's, driven away from the plaza by skyrocketing rents.
Occupants come and go, especially in properties near the plaza. Here, a block from the plaza and almost next door to the old Woolworth's, a currently stylish restaurant, in business since 1978. Before that, the same building housed Pogo's Eatery; before that, this was Golden Temple Conscious Cookery; before that, it was the Mayflower Cafe. Still earlier, it housed the KC Waffle House, complete with booths and a tile-sided counter. Ka-ching, ka-ching.
Tourists come from around the world, but rarely with a getup like this. Who could it be? Why, it's a U.S. senator running for Vice-President. Sharpshooters, dressed in black, are up top on all those buildings around the plaza, while these motorcycle policemen wait to provide an escort back to Albuquerque. There were sensitive souls who left the plaza because the security made them nervous, but the real Americans in the crowd thought it was supercool, like a movie.
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