Back On Bent Street

 

On Wednesdays we go shopping.

Or window shopping at the very least, as we continue our walk around Downtown Taos.

This weekend the Historic District will be taken over by the PASEO; the marvellous creation of  Matt Thomas and Agnes Chavez, that has in a few short years become a Taos treasure. Along with Twirl, a fellow non-profit who dedicate their time, energy and resources to working with our children in all of our schools,  insuring the heritage of art and culture, supported by science, remains up front and center in Taos in the future as well as the present. 

No wonder then, the two are long time partners (along with several other local businesses and non-profits including the LOR Foundation), and this year as every year, Twirl will be celebrating the festival at their magical location on Teresina alley, that leads from the Plaza to Bent Street.

In 1846 Charles Bent was appointed Governor of the newly acquired territory of New Mexico during the Mexican–American War. 

Bent had been operating as a fur trader in the region since 1828, with his younger brother, William and later with their partner Ceran St. Vrain. Bent was a well-respected trader who owned a number of wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail and trading posts in both Santa Fe and Taos. 

Though his main office was in Santa Fe, Bent as I noted in my first piece on Bent St., maintained his residence along with a trading post here in Taos. In 1835, Charles “Carlos” Bent had married Maria Ignacia Jaramillo, a local Taosena, whose younger sister, Josefa, would later marry Kit Carson, making the two men, brothers-in-law.

In addition to its store in Taos, the trading company established a series of “forts”, fortified trading posts, to facilitate trade with the Plains Indians, including Fort Saint Vrain on the South Platte River (a key trading center for Native Americans and early mountain men.)  Bent’s Fort on the Arkansas River in Colorado; and Fort Adobe on the Canadian River. Bent’s Fort has been restored and is now a National Historic Site.

Many New Mexico residents were unhappy with the new American rule. They mourned the loss of the old connection with Mexico and hated the new Governor serving under the U.S. war-time occupation, because of his negative attitude towards Mexicans. 

In December 1846, several influential families in the Territory fomented a revolt against the new rule. The Governor and Colonel Price revealed this conspiracy in advance and while some of the Taos Revolt leaders were arrested, two important leaders of the movement were able to escape.

It seemed as if the rebellion had been put down when Governor Charles Bent issued a proclamation, which some citizens thought was written in an arrogant and overbearing tone. 

As angry as local Hispanos were about Anglo-American rule, it was total culture shock to the Red Willow People and neighboring Tribes who had lived in the land for many centuries before being forced to  coexist with new settlers first during Spanish colonization, and then after possession by Mexico. 

On a cold day in January of 1847, Charles Bent had traveled to his adopted hometown of Taos, without military protection.

Later that evening, protesting American’s possession of the territory, an angry mob descended on the Governor’s home on what is now Bent Street, allegedly scalping him alive before murdering him. The women and children in the Bent home were not harmed by the insurgents, and fled to safety next door through a hole in the parlor wall.

Over the following few months, Colonel Price was able to reassure the country. Most rebels were caught and some of them executed. The uprising was finally crushed in July 1847.

Bent is buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe, while his family are interned in Kit Carson Cemetary in Taos.

Ironically, Bent had documented the indigenous Peoples of New Mexico in an essay which was published posthumously in Henry Schoolcraft’s study of American Indians: Bent, Charles (1846). “Indian Tribes of New Mexico”. In Schoolcraft, Henry R (ed.). Information respecting the history, condition and prospects of the Indian tribes of the United States. Vol. I. Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo & Company, 1851. pp. 242–246.

Located at 117 Bent Street, the Governor Bent House is now a private museum and gift shop, open to the public.  Inside the museum are Western relics, a few of the Bent family’s possessions and memorabilia along with artifacts of the uprising.

Within the house one can also see the hole in the wall that allowed his family members to escape. The museum also shows the work of local artists, while the gift shop sells books on Taos, as well as locally made jewelry and pottery.

The building is in the Pueblo Revival Vernacular built (or re-built), around 1835 of adobe stucco over adobe bricks and wood frame. The building has been on the State Register of Cultural Properties since 1969 and the National Register of Historic Places. The property is occupied by the museum, an art gallery and rental units.

It was one of the long-term residences on the historic street, and local lore has it, the original house was built prior to the first Pueblo uprising, in the 1600’s.

Apparently South West Ghosthunters checked the property with their instruments, and found smoke. As they say, where there’s smoke there’s fire, and perhaps the original home was burned down by Popay’s warriors!

During the 30’s Ida Gee ran a Boarding House here and here is where Tennessee Williams also stayed during his time in Taos. While there, do chat with Thomas Noeding, the manager of the museum, to discover even more about the building and the street!

The museum opens at 9am every day. Located at 117A Bent St.

Next door is Artemisia, named for the sagebrush that dots the desert landscape with the cedar and pinon, blessing the Land of Enchantment with its fragrant breezes. 

Owner Yvonne Swartz opened her store in 2002, in the same building also built during the 1830’s. (Until the 1950’s Bent Street was residential, and when I arrived in 1980, there were still apartments available for rent along the street.)

Artemisia has become a destination spot for visitors to Taos, for one of a kind hand-made wearable art, along with a selection of casual, yet elegant clothing all made with natural fibers.  Hand-woven originals by established fiber artists including Barbara Erlich, Elizabeth Jenkins, Bella Sue Martin and many others can be found here. 

Artemisia also represents a large group of wearable art designers; Alexis Abrams, Sylvia’s Couture, Linda St Angelo and Anne Vickery among them. 

Artemisia’s distinct style and aesthetic sets it apart from other clothing boutiques in Taos; Here you will truly find something unique that you won’t see everywhere on everyone. Whether you are shopping for yourself, or for a gift for a loved one, the friendly staff and excellent customer service will make your experience here very special and memorable. Which is why people return time and again!

For more on Artemisia  please visit their site linked below.

artemisiataos

Next Wednesday please join me as we stroll past the courtyard which once housed the coffee cart that morphed into World Cup Cafe and Elevation, past Lambert’s to the other end of Bent Street where there are more treasures to be discovered. At which point you’ll no doubt have almost everything on your Xmas gift giving list ticked off long before Black Friday arrives! But hold on because there’s more to come as we explore Taos, street by street, here on taoStyle every Wednesday!

For more on Bent Street and all of Downtown Taos,  please visit Taos.org.

taos.org

 

All images thanks to my trusty iphone, Artemisia and the Governor Bent Museum

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