Welcome Visitors and Taoseños!
Explore the diversity of this region through a self-guided tour.
The two-hundred-year-old Taos Plaza and the streets that radiate from it like spokes form the National Historic District of Taos. It contains a number of national and state landmarks that are testimonials to the rich and complex cultural history of Taos.
Center of Taos
The original Spanish settlement of scattered farms evolved in Taos Valley about 1615. But in 1680, the settlers were driven out by the Pueblo Revolt. Spanish authority was not reestablished until 1696 with the reconquest by Don Diego de Vargas. The area was firmly resettled by 1710.
In 1796 the Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant was given to 63 families by the King of Spain. This resulted in the establishment of the current Taos Plaza and surrounding community. Don Fernando de Taos became the most important settlement in the area outside of the ancient San Geronimo de Taos Pueblo, two miles to the north.
Homes were built in large quadrangles, offering a fortress-like structure. Hostile raiding Indians from outside the Taos area were thwarted in their attempts to enter the village. A huge gate offered the only means of entry and exit to and from the Plaza.
Hotel La Fonda
108 South Plaza
There has been a hotel at this location since 1820. The first establishment, called the St. Vrain Mercantile Store, supplied locals and travelers with everything from tack and seed to rooms and a saloon. While there were numerous fires in the Plaza, the hotel was never affected.
In 1880, Aloysius Liebert built the Columbian Hotel and Bar on the site. Then in 1900 Robert and Maclovia Poole purchased the hotel and ran it until Robert was shot by a disgruntled customer in 1909. Maclovia Poole’s heirs sold the property to the Karavas brothers in 1932, who changed the name to the Hotel la Fonda de Taos.
575.758.2211 • lafondataos.com
Old County Courthouse
North side of the Plaza
On May 9, 1932, the Taos County Courthouse, along with the other buildings on the north side of the Plaza, was destroyed by one of a series of fires in the early thirties. This led eventually to the incorporation of the Town of Taos in 1939 and the establishment of a fire department and public water system.
The current Spanish-Pueblo style courthouse was built with partial funding from the W.P.A. in 1934. Between 1934 and 1935, interior murals depicting social justice were commissioned by the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) Public Works of Art Project for the courtroom on the second floor. Emil Bisttram had studied fresco painting techniques with Diego Rivera in Mexico and enlisted other Taos artists for this project.
Our Lady of Guadalupe Church
205 Don Fernando Street
The Franciscans founded the first mission in the Taos Valley in the late 1500s. This was destroyed during the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. After 1693, when the Spanish came back into the area, a mission was refounded, as San Gerónimo de Taos at Taos Pueblo.
As settlement continued, the first Spanish church was built at Ranchos de Taos around 1776. This new church, named Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe in Don Fernando de Taos, was built in the early 1800s. It then became the head church or a visita for the Pueblo Church—San Gerónimo de Taos, and the Ranchos de Taos Church. Padre Martínez was its first pastor and the parish itself is the oldest parish in the United States.
Guadalupe Plaza and Santistevan House
122 Doña Luz
Guadalupe Plaza was once a thriving village which included the original Guadalupe Church of the 1800s. It extended three blocks to the west to include Doña Luz, Padre Martínez Lane, and Manzanares Street. The oldest building on the commercial block of Doña Luz was built in the 1870s.
Other businesses in this building included a gift shop, artists’ studios, and cafés. One of these was the House of Taos, mentioned in the book The Hippies’ Guide to Taos. The millstones in front came from an old flour mill in the area. Another building was once the courthouse, jail, and town garage.
222 Ledoux Street
In 1919 Ernest Blumenschein, one of the founders of the Taos Art Colony, purchased a four-room house on Ledoux St. from fellow artist W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton. Later the Blumenscheins acquired several adjoining rooms and adapted the home to its present layout in 1931. Ernest and his wife Mary, both European-trained artists, were accomplished painters. In 1898 Blumenschein was traveling through the Southwest with Bert Phillips; both young artists from the East were on a sketching trip.
While crossing northern New Mexico, a wheel from their surrey slipped into a deep rut and broke. Blumenschein rode 23 miles into Taos to have the wheel repaired. They remained, becoming so entranced with the beauty of Taos Valley that they decided to make it their home.
575.758.0505 • taoshistoricmuseums.com
Harwood Museum of Art
238 Ledoux Street
The Ledoux Street neighborhood, where the Harwood Museum stands, probably had its first adobe houses built in the early part of the nineteenth century. There were buildings standing on what would later become the Harwood property when Smith H. Simpson acquired it in 1861. Simpson had come west to serve in a military campaign against the Ute Indians, and later worked as a clerk for the nearly illiterate Kit Carson. After Simpson’s death in 1916, his heirs sold their family house to Burritt and Elizabeth Harwood.
In 1923, a year after her husband’s death, Elizabeth Harwood, joined by members of the art and business community, Bert Phillips, T.P. Martin, Victor Higgins, William M. Frayne, and B.G. Randall, created what would become one of New Mexico’s most enduring art institutions, the Harwood Foundation.
In 1929, the Harwood and the University of New Mexico developed a partnership that existed up to 1937, at which time ownership was transferred to the University.
575.758.9826 • harwoodmuseum.org
Padre Martinez House
108-A Padre Martinez Lane
(Private residence—please do not disturb the occupants.)
In 1835 Padre Martínez acquired what some historians claim was the first printing press west of the Mississippi. On it, he published the first books and a newspaper. From his home this visionary operated a coeducational school, a seminary, and in anticipation of annexation by the U.S., a law school, drawing students from prominent families throughout the region.
Aside from training a generation of leaders, Martínez himself served regularly in the Mexican territorial assembly. As one of the first New Mexicans to become an American citizen, he was elected president of the initial territorial constitutional conventions and the upper house of the First Legislative Assembly.
As a powerful defender of the existing populations, the friction generated by the transition to American rule inevitably led Martínez to clash with the new order, including Governor Bent.
In spite of this, Martínez provided refuge to survivors of the revolt of 1847, and permitted the American army to headquarter itself in this house.
La Loma Plaza
On the north side of Ranchitos Road just west of the Salazar intersection, La Loma Plaza was one of the first settlements in the Taos area, established in the 1870s by settlers of the Don Fernando de Taos land grant. This plaza was built as an enclosure of homes with common walls, creating a defensive style plaza for the inhabitants.
Teams of horses, cows, pigs, and chickens were kept in corrals in back of the houses. The families that settled in this compound were some of the founding fathers and artists of the community. In 1874-75, Gabriel Jeantet and his son Filiberto and members of the community built the San Antonio Chapel.
Long John Dunn House
120 Bent Street
In 1887 John Dunn arrived in Taos, evading the law in Texas. Over the years, he opened up four saloons, a gambling hall, livery stable, and built a house on Bent Street. He bought the bridge at Taos Junction and the new bridge at Manby Springs in Arroyo Hondo. Both bridges were wiped out by floods. But Dunn rebuilt the bridges and contracted with the Post Office to run daily mail service from Tres Piedres to Taos.
On his mail route, which included Embudo and Taos Junction, much of the parcel post was paintings and painting supplies for the artists who had begun to arrive in the area. His toll bridges across the Rio Grande gave Dunn a monopoly on road travel in and out of town. He set up a hotel at the Dunn Bridge and called it “The Bridge Hotel.” He owned the first car in Taos — a Ford.
Long John Dunn’s lanky six-foot frame, spicy vocabulary, broken nose twang, and diverse range of business interests made him a legend in northern New Mexico.
Governor Bent House
117 Bent Street
Charles Bent was appointed Governor of New Mexico in 1846 when New Mexico became an American territory during the war between the United States and Mexico. On a visit to his home in Taos in January of 1847, he was killed by an angry mob protesting American rule. His wife and children survived the attack.
The new Anglo-American government was symbolized by, and embodied in, its first governor, and it is for those very reasons that he was murdered. It was a clash of cultures and a reaction against the upstarts who took over what had been Native American, then Spanish, and then, comparatively briefly, Mexican. Suddenly, it was American.
Bent was a highly respected, much-loved figure of the Old West. He was a trader and owned a number of wagon trains on the Santa Fe Trail. He owned trading posts in Santa Fe and Taos and had many dealings with early mountain men, providing them with supplies and buying their furs and buffalo hides. The museum is open to the public.
Bert Phillips House
136 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Bert Phillips’ house was built in the early 1800s and remodeled in 1905 with the addition of a studio and tower loft.
Bert Geer Phillips (1868-1956) was born in Hudson, New York, and studied art at the Art Students League and the National Academy of Design, then at the Académie Julian in Paris. In 1898, at the age of thirty, he was the first Eastern artist to make his home in Taos, where he would remain until shortly before his death in 1956. He was traveling on a drawing expedition with Ernest Blumenschein when their surrey broke down. Repairs were made by the nearest blacksmith, 23 miles to the south in Taos.
Blumenschein left, but eventually returned. Phillips married Rose Martin, sister of the local doctor, and never left, playing an aggressive role in promoting Taos as an art mecca. Until Phillips was able to firmly establish his own reputation as an artist, he supplemented his income by buying and selling Indian artifacts, developing mining interests at Twining, and working as a forest ranger. He was instrumental in the creation of Carson National Forest. He was also instrumental in the establishment of the Taos Society of Artists in 1915.
227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
One of the architectural treasures of Taos is the house of artist Nicolai Fechin (1881-1955) born in Kazan, Russia. After a visit to Mabel Dodge Luhan House in 1926, he moved to Taos. He immediately began constructing his home and studio, prized for its interior carvings and handcrafted furniture.
Fechin lived in Taos for just six years with his wife and daughter before a divorce split up his family. Nicolai moved back to New York and then on to Santa Monica, California, where he died in 1955. After her parents’ deaths, their daughter, Eya, promoted the preservation of their Taos home, acting as caretaker for 30 years. Following her death in 2002, it was acquired by the Taos Art Museum.
575.758.2690 • taosartmuseum.org
133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Arthur Rochford Manby was the second son of English nobility who came to the United States to make his fortune. Using what were thought to be unscrupulous methods, he acquired major tracts of land in northern New Mexico.
In 1898, he bought seven parcels of land, about 23 acres, on Paseo del Pueblo and built a nineteen-room Spanish-style adobe hacienda, set in a square with three wings, stables, and outer walls. Manby landscaped the hacienda in the English style, with a lilac garden that extended to what is now Kit Carson Park. At the time, Manby’s home was considered the largest and most attractive house in Taos.
He was often seen in town wearing his English riding attire, an unusual sight for the traditional Southwestern cowboy. Due to his many shady dealings, Manby was not a popular man. In 1926, a beheaded body was found in his home. To this day it is uncertain whether this was Manby or whether he had staged his own death and left the area. Today, the Manby house includes the Stables Gallery and offices of the Taos Center for the Arts.
575.758.2052 • tcataos.org
125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
The town doctor, T.P. Martin, initially purchased one house from a cluster of old adobes around a small plazuella anchored by a community well. The original building dates back to the early 1800s and was once owned by Arthur Manby.
The doctor and his second wife, Helen, eventually acquired all of these houses and named the complex the Martin Apartments. They lived in the northern part of the complex and Doc set up his practice in what is now Doc Martin’s Restaurant. One of the sections of the dining room was the operating room. In exchange for his services, Doc was known to accept goats, chickens, or produce as payment.
The Martins were involved in the emerging art community. Dr. Martin’s sister, Rose, married artist Bert Phillips, and in the early days of the colony, the Martins rented studio apartments to visiting artists. Over the years, the hotel lodged many celebrities, including such notables as Greta Garbo, Thorton Wilder, and Anthony Quinn.
575.758.2233 • taosinn.com
El Rincon Trading Post
114 Kit Carson Road
Built in 1809, this was the home of La Doña Luz in the mid-1800s. It later became the home of Ralph and Rowena Meyers, who opened the Mission Shop in 1909, the first trading post in Taos that carried Native American arts and crafts.
Ralph traveled to the surrounding reservations, buying and trading; few white men were as well-loved and accepted by the Taos Pueblo Indians. Ralph Meyers was an artist, photographer, trader and a craftsman in his own right. He created exquisite carvings and furniture, studied dyes from all over the world, wove magnificent blankets, and made fine jewelry. He taught Navajos the craft of jewelry making and developed a wonderful photographic archive of Taos history.
575.758.4874 • elrincontaos.com
Walter Ufer Studio
on Des Georges Lane
The studio of Walter Ufer, east of the plaza, was incorporated into the back of the shopping complex known as Cabot Plaza when that building was remodeled into shops. Ufer (1876-1936) made his first trip to New Mexico in 1914 under the sponsorship of a group of art collectors led by Chicago’s former mayor, Carter Harrison, Jr. He soon made his home in Taos, living in a lovely Victorian house rented from the Des Georges family, located across the lane from his studio.
In 1917, Ufer was elected to the Taos Society of Artists, serving two years as its secretary/treasurer and two years as its president. After moving to Taos, he received wide acclaim for his paintings depicting the brilliant light of New Mexico. He died of appendicitis in 1936. The studio was next used by Henry Cabot.
Kit Carson House
113 Kit Carson Road
settled in Northern New Mexico. Of these mountain men, Kit Carson was perhaps the most famous.
Born in Kentucky in 1809, Carson was a trapper, guide, Indian agent, and Army officer. In 1861, Carson began the final stage of his career as a military officer, first in the Civil War and later in the campaigns of the Indian Wars.
In 1843, when he married Maria Josefa Jaramillo, daughter of a prominent Taos family, Carson bought a single story adobe house. At least six of their eight children were born there. After Carson died in Colorado in 1868, his body was brought back to Taos and buried in Kit Carson Park. Today, the Kit Carson Museum is open to the public.
Luna Chapel and Sharp Studio
146 Kit Carson Road
The Oratorio of San Antonio of Padua was built by Juan de Luna as a family chapel ca. 1835. Because of its occasional use for Penitente ceremonies, this family chapel is sometimes mistakenly referred to as a Penitente Morada. Its ownership eventually passed to the Diocese of Santa Fe, and it was sold in 1909 to the artist J. H. Sharp.
By adding two large windows, Sharp converted the building into a studio, naming it the Studio of the Copper Bell after an old bell that he bought at the Pueblo in 1910. Joseph Henry Sharp (1859-1953) was born in Bridgeport, Ohio. He began his art studies at the McMicken School of Design in Cincinnati and continued his studies in Germany, Holland, and France. Sharp first visited Taos in 1893 where he continued to paint for short periods during the summers while devoting his major artistic efforts to recording the Plains Indians in Montana. By 1909 the focus of his work had shifted to the Southwest and he purchased a house on Kit Carson Road that was his home until his death. The chapel is now owned and preserved by The Couse Foundation and Museum. Tours by appointment only.
146 Kit Carson Road
E.I. Couse bought his home on Kit Carson Road in 1909. The oldest part of the structure was built in 1839 by Pedro Luna and grew over the years with additions made by later owners, one of whom was James Quinn, a scout captain serving with Kit Carson in the 1850s. In the 1860s the house was occupied by Gabriel Ussel, the parish priest, who used it as a boys school. After their purchase in 1909, the Couses added a large studio wing and Mrs. Couse began to develop a garden that became famous in the region.
Eanger Irving Couse (1866-1936) came to Taos in 1902 in search of a good location to paint Native American subjects. Couse was born in Saginaw, Michigan in 1866. He studied art at the National Academy of Design in New York and at the Academié Julian in Paris. In 1902, he was introduced to Taos by Ernest Blumenschein. The Couse house remains today essentially as it was during the artist’s lifetime, making it the most significant building to survive from the early days of the Taos Art Colony. Open to the public by appointment.
575.751.0369 • cousefoundation.org
Mabel Dodge Luhan House
240 Morada Lane
Mabel Ganson Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan, author and friend of prominent artists and intellectuals, was born in New York in 1879. She was well-known in the New York art scene, holding salons for artists and writers, before moving to Santa Fe in 1917 to join her third husband, painter Maurice Sterne.
After moving to Taos, they divorced and Mabel bought land adjoining the Taos Reservation in 1918. She began to remodel and expand the small buildings, blending Pueblo, Spanish Colonial, and Tuscan styles together.
During construction, she met her next husband, Tony Luhan of Taos Pueblo, who was the construction foreman of the project.
She later built five more houses on the property and this complex became a mecca for artists and writers, including D.H. Lawrence and Willa Cather. The house is now an historic inn and conference center.
575.751.9686 • mabeldodgeluhan.com
Victor Higgins House
239 La Morada Road
Victor Higgins had his first home and studio at the site of Tony Abeyta’s Gallery on Kit Carson Road. In 1946, he moved to the property on La Morada Lane.
Born in 1884 in Indiana, he studied art at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts and the Art Institute of Chicago. He came to Taos in 1914, where he found the landscape, color, and light a refreshing change. In 1934, he was one of four artists employed by the Works Progress Administration Public Works of Art Project to paint murals in the Taos County Courthouse. Higgins was greatly influenced by the artist John Marin, who was in Taos in 1929 and 1930, and was considered the most progressive member of the Taos Society of Artists.
575.758.1331 • taoscasitamorada.com
Special Thanks to Contributors –
Lynn Fitzgerald, the late Peter Mackaness, Virginia Couse-Leavitt, Robert Torrez, John Otis, Karen Young, Joan Phillips, Nita Murphy, Jacque Chase, Bob Romero, Cathy Connelly, the Town of Taos, Griffin & Griffin & Associates, and Webb Design Inc. All photos and text are compliments of the Town of Taos and its traveler education effort, www.TaosSacredPlaces.com
The Taos Historic Walking Tour in its entirety, along with many other printable resources, can be found at www.taosvacationguide.com/printable-resources. Printed brochures of the Walking Tour with a comprehensive map are available in Taos. For information visit www.TaosVacationGuide.org
This article appeared with permission on page 22 of HighCountry Magazine 2010.
THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY NOT BE USED IN ANY FORM WHATSOEVER WITHOUT PERMISSION OF THE TOWN OF TAOS, NEW MEXICO. www.TaosVacationGuide.org