A Look Back In Time

We’ve had a heat spell up here in the High Desert so I thought I would do a series of posts about ways to cool off as you explore Taos and its environs.

With its rich historical and cultural heritage, Taos is naturally home to several museums that are filled with art and artifacts. The museums are generally old adobe structures with massive walls that stay very cool during the summer (if swamp coolers or air conditioning have been installed, consider that an added bonus), making them the perfect places to spend time in during a heat wave.

Some would add Taos Pueblo and the Historic St Francis de Assisi Church in Ranchos de Taos to this list, and although I urge you to visit them, I’ve not included them here. Nor have I included Governor Charles Bent’s House (he was Governor of Taos during the Pueblo Uprising), or the Old Jail and Courthouse on Taos Plaza. If you wish to visit either, they are not difficult to find. Just ask a local.

Christopher “Kit” Carson was an American frontiersman, a mountain man, trapper, wilderness guide, scout and U.S. Army Officer. Carson was a legend in his own time. Stories of his infamous escapades were the subject of dime store novels and news articles.

The Kit Carson Home and Museum, at 113 Kit Carson Road in Taos, was built circa 1825 and purchased by Kit Carson as a wedding gift for his third wife, Maria Josefa Jaramillo, a member of a prominent Taos family.  The territorial style adobe building was to be their home for the next twenty-five years. Seven of their eight children were born and raised in the home. It remains as it was then, a great example of life on the American Frontier.

For more about the museum, which is a two-minute walk from Taos Plaza, please visit their site linked below this post.

The Kit Carson Museum was once part of the Taos Historic Museums which now consists of the Hacienda de los Martinez and the Blumenchein House.

The Hacienda de los Martinez is one of the very few (Northern New Mexico style), late Spanish Colonial period, “Great Houses” remaining in the American Southwest.

Built in 1804 by Severino Martin (later changed to Martinez), this fortress-like building with massive adobe walls became an important trade center for the northern boundary of the Spanish Empire.  The Hacienda was the final terminal on the Camino Real which connected Northern New Mexico to Mexico City.  The Hacienda was also the headquarters of an extensive ranching and farming operation.

Severino and his wife Maria del Carmel Santistevan Martinez raised six children in the Hacienda. Their eldest son was the famous Padre Antonio Martinez who battled the French Bishop, Lamy to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church in the territory.  Martinez was a forward thinking, social reformer who created the first co-educational school in New Mexico and brought the first printing press to Taos.

After Mexican Independence from Spain in 1821, Severino Martinez and his family became active in trading with (North), Americans who were bringing badly needed goods into the area via the Santa Fe Trail.

Today the Hacienda’s twenty-one rooms surrounding two courtyards provide visitors with a rare glimpse of the rugged frontier life and times of the early 1800s. Additionally, regularly scheduled demonstrations present the continuing traditions of northern New Mexico.

The Hacienda is on the National Register of Historic Places of the United States Department of the Interior.

Fechin purchased a two-story adobe house, and spent several years enlarging and modifying it  He added and enlarged windows, extended the porch and opened up  the rooms. He carved doors according to Russian style, created triptych windows, and carved furniture for use in the house, which reflects a combination of modernist, Russian and Native American sensibility.

Sixty-eight of Fechin’s works in a variety of genres can be seen at his former home, as part of the Stark Collection of the Taos Art Museum. A few of the personal spaces have been preserved. In 1979 the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1947, Millicent Rogers, the Standard Oil heiress and socialite, a talented designer and Patron of the Arts, moved to Taos. A passionate collector, her collection of Native American jewelry, pottery and textiles are an important contribution to the history of Southwestern Art and Culture.

In 1956, the Millicent Rogers family founded the Millicent Rogers Museum. Initially the artworks were from the multi-cultural collections of Millicent Rogers and her mother, Mary B. Rogers, who donated many of the first pieces of Taos Pueblo art. In the 1980s, the museum was the first cultural organization in New Mexico to offer a comprehensive collection of Hispanic art. The jewelry Millicent designed while in Taos is on display here and one can purchase reproductions of her designs from the museum.

Millicent died  in 1952 in Taos. The museum was first opened in a temporary location in the mid-1950s. In 1968 the museum moved to its permanent site on Millicent Rogers Road near Blueberry Hill.

Staying cool while immersing oneself in the cultural  history of the region is one way to beat the heat aqui en Taos!







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7 thoughts on “A Look Back In Time

  1. Good article, Lynne, gracias. And our Taos ‘museums’ especially La Hacienda de los Martinez and the Blumenschein House are literally more than artifacts of history to visit: They are living and dynamic as part of our comprehensive overall continuum of past, present, and future experience; and this is due to the active care and diligence of the caretakers, for example, the dedicated President and Board of Directors and Staff and Volunteers of Taos Historic Museums. And, all the caretakers of all the Taos ‘museums’ and ancient churches and etc. deserve all of our thanks and support for their caring diligence. David Fernandez de Taos

    • Thank you so much for commenting David. These museums ARE ” living and dynamic as part of our comprehensive overall continuum of past, present, and future experience.” I could not have said it better!

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