Santa Fe, N.M., has been dubbed “The City Different” for good reason.
Artists and writers have been inspired by its beauty to seek out Santa Fe as a place to live and create since the early 19th century.
A high percentage of residents are affiliated with the arts, with more than 80 art galleries on Canyon Road alone. Many quality museums and theatrical venues reflect a rich cultural life. It is a home for New Age healing, with many centers for yoga, massage and acupuncture.
Santa Fe is nestled in the foothills of the Sangre de Cristo mountains in northeastern New Mexico. Under enormous blue skies, with seemingly boundless high desert landscapes framed by the Sandia peaks to the south and the Jemez mountains in the west, the city invites visitors. At an altitude of 7,199 feet, Santa Fe is the highest and oldest state capital in the United States.
It is not unusual to hear Tewa, Navajo, Spanish and English spoken on the streets of Santa Fe. The unique mix of the tri-cultures of Anglo/Hispanic and Native American (population at just under 70,000), and its colorful history have encouraged tourism to this architecturally beautiful city.
High on the list of “must see” places in the world, Santa Fe has survived a remarkable, diverse events since the arrival of the Conquistadores in 1540 searching for gold in the fabled Seven cities of Cibola.
The city of Santa Fe sits on a site originally occupied by a number of Pueblo villages dating back to 900 A.D. Efforts to colonize the region began in 1598 under the first Spanish governor, Don Juan de Onate. It was its second governor, Don Pedro de Peralta, who founded the city in 1607, made it capital of the province in 1610.
The Pueblo Revolt drove the Spanish out in 1680, but was reconquered a dozen years later by Don Diego de Vargas. It was Spain’s provincial seat until the Mexican War of Independence (1810-1821) when this Mexican territory became known as Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico.
The Mexican government opened the northernmost territory up to trade, something the Spanish refused to do. The Santa Fe Trail from Missouri to New Mexico brought flourishing business to the area. Santa Fe became a booming commercial hub where Mexicans and Americans exchanged goods and hard currency.
The Mexican-American War in 1846 was an easy victory for the Americans, bringing the territory under U.S. control. The Palace of the Governors constructed by the Spanish on the plaza in Santa Fe became the residence of Governor Lew Wallace, who wrote Ben Hur in 1870 while contending with Indian conflagrations. (The portal running the length of the palace facing the square is a lively enclave today of Native Americans who commute daily from their pueblos to sell their jewelry and small pottery.)
The Palace of the Governors
Willa Cather’s immortal “Death Comes to the Archbishop” relates Frenchman Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy’s three-decade struggle with both Spanish Catholic and Native American cultures to “elevate” Santa Fe to European standards during the late 19th century. His grandiose St. Francis Cathedral near the plaza is a major tourist attraction today.
St, Francis Cathedral
After much turmoil, New Mexico achieved statehood in 1912 as the 47th state of the United States. At this time, a collective vision of the Santa Fe town council determined that the city should adopt a distinctive look to appeal to tourists. The Spanish Pueblo Revival became official. Many territorial buildings were demolished so that “the City Different” could appear more cohesive in architecture. Regulations limiting the height of buildings and the use of adobe became official. Adobe (sometimes mockingly called “faux-dobe”) charmingly adorns “the City Different,” and it is a continuing visual delight to tourists and residents alike in this Land of Enchantment.
Santa Fe boasts a wide selection of hotels, motels and bed-and-breakfasts. Dining choices cater to all tastes and pocketbooks.
For more information, including the annual Indian Market, Spanish Market, the International Folk Art Market or daytrips to Santuario de Chimayo, Abiquiu, or Ghost Ranch, contact Tourism Santa Fe at (800) 777-2489 or visitwww.santafe.org.
Rough and tumble, brash and bawdy, Silver City during the 19th century was a mixture of miners, inn keepers with their saloons and “soiled doves” together with ranchers and pioneers from the East trying to establish a new life for themselves in the Wild West.
Ever watchful were the Apaches, who had long before occupied this area as their campsite. Hostile to the intrusive newcomers, they perfected a talent for sudden bloody attacks and rapid retreats that were a constant challenge to the settlers. Geronimo and Cochise were among their war leaders.
Legendary Butch Cassidy and Kit Carson, as well as other infamous desperadoes, were always drifting through to add their own color to this disparate melange.
The infamous “Billy the Kid” grew up in Silver City during the 1870s. Thought to be a scrawny little student with delicate hands and an artistic nature, Henry McCarty (later Atrium when his mother remarried, aka William Bonney), took to burglary while in his teens. The skulduggery and killing led “Billy the Kid” to the Arizona territory where he became an icon in Old West outlawry.
Billy the Kid was born in a log cabin similar to this one in Silver City.
At an altitude of 6,000 feet and perched on the edge of the 3.3 million acre Gila National Forest in a high desert wonderland, Silver City enjoys an incredibly moderate climate.
The natural beauty, favorable climate and low cost of living have encouraged artists and writers to take up residence. Every Saturday, some two dozen galleries encourage visitors to enjoy the work of local artists and artisans.
Aside from a wide range of contemporary paintings and sculptures displayed in the many galleries, unique jewelry, pottery and weavings make a broad selection for visitors to peruse. Hosana Eilert, owner of Wild West Weaving is a transplant from Chimayo, N.M., where her family has had a tradition of hand weaving. She, like many other artists, came to Silver City for the practical reasons mentioned, and enjoys a lively community of like minded artists.
Gaily painted store fronts line the streets in downtown Silver City.
In this unusual city of a little more than 10,000 residents, there are a surprising number of very delightful culinary retreats to reward diners.
The Curious Kumquat is on the top of the list. Award-winning Chef Rob Connoley forages the adjacent mountainsides to add to his freshly grown produce in creating what he calls “New American Cuisine.”
Another place to dine well is Tre Rosat. Nearby at the Hub Plaza is a small eatery for an unusual lunch of stuffed crepes: the Tapas Tree Grill.
A few predictable motels are on the southern outskirts of Silver City along Route 180, but an outstanding choice of lodging can be found at the Bear Mountain Lodge, located a few miles north of town. Only 10 minutes from the heart of Silver City, this historic 1928 lodge is fully restored with 12 guest rooms, each with a private bathroom (some with jacuzzi).
Sitting on 178 secluded acres bordering on the Gila National Forest, the lodge has four miles of on-site walking trails. The Cafe Oso Azul serves breakfast, lunch and dinner by reservation only.
The Mansard-Italianate Ailmann House, built in 1881, houses the Silver City Museum. Displays include pottery and relics from the Mimbres and other Mogollan cultures who lived in the vicinity until the 12th century. Extensive local artifacts and large photograph collection indicate life in Silver City over the centuries.
The Mansard-Italianate Ailmann House (1881)
The largest and most complete collection of Mimbres pottery and materials in existence is housed at the Western New Mexico University located at 1000 College Avenue. In 1893, the New Mexico Normal School was founded. In 1963, the university was officially established.
Fascinating side trips from Silver City could be taken to the Mattocks Ruin Site where the Mimbres built their homes from 550 to 1140, and the Gila Cliff Dwellings built by the Puebloans of the Mogollon Area who abandoned them around 1300.
Traces of ancient people, the Spanish, Apache, and the 1870s establishment of Silver City in the midst of a mining boom all are part of this unique city’s ambiance.
Further information about restaurants and hotels in the downtown historic district can be obtained from the Murray Ryan Visitor Center at 210 N. Hudson Street. A map of the city and nearby points of interest are available there as well. Call (575) 538-5555 or visit www.silvercityacd.org for more information.
At the turn of the 20th century, Las Vegas, N.M., was considered the Queen of the West. It was also considered the wildest town in the West.
The arrival of the railroad in 1879 inspired the building of the rail side Depot Hotel. English restaurateur Frederick Henry Harvey opened a lunchroom/dining room there, providing the Harvey Girls to wait on the customers.
Will Rogers quipped that Fred Harvey “kept the West in food – and wives.”
Many a lonesome cowboy or railway worker fell in love with a Harvey Girl working in the hotels and dining houses servicing the AT&SF Railway. It has been estimated that out of the 100,000 girls hired to be Harvey Girls, 20,000 of them married cowboys or railroad men, much to the exasperation of Fred Harvey.
Yet he should not have been too surprised. The girls had been handpicked for being of good character, single and attractive. They were trained in rules of etiquette and in providing first class service in their serving high quality food. Before Fred Harvey’s innovations, travelers suffered poor food and little service while on their trips through the Southwest.
The Depot Hotel was later destroyed by fire but replaced by the Spanish Mission Revival-styled La Castañeda, which opened in 1898. The Harvey Girls worked here, as well as at the Montezuma Castle up the road from Las Vegas. Two previous hotels at the hot springs burned down, but the third version, a Queen Anne Revival exists today but is now the United World College – USA.
Rough Riders Reunion
La Castañeda Hotel was the site for the first Rough Rider Reunion in 1899, attended by New York Governor Theodore Roosevelt, who served as Lt. Colonel for the Rough Riders. Las Vegas provided 21 Rough Riders to Teddy Roosevelt’s 1898 Cuban Campaign of the Spanish-American War. The City of Las Vegas and the Rough Riders Memorial trace the history of the Rough Riders, and their official reunion home is Las Vegas.
Some years ago, Allan Affeldt purchased and restored La Posada in Winslow, Ariz. This was also a Harvey hotel prestigiously located on the AT&SF route. In 2014, Mr.Affeldt expanded his interest in restoring historic hotels by purchasing both the Plaza Hotel and La Castañeda. Today, the historic Plaza Hotel is in full operation complete with a haunted room (#310), a full service dining room, saloon and expanded ballroom. The restoration of La Castañeda at the railway station is a work in progress, with partial occupancy projected for later this year. These two vintage hotels will bring a renewed energy into Las Vegas along with the lingering spirit of the Harvey Girls.
Wild West Oasis
Las Vegas has had a colorful history. During the 19th Century, it enjoyed a prestigious location on the old Santa Fe Trail where the Great Plains meet the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and trade flourished. Being on the Mexican frontier with the United States to the east was a boon to this bustling town. It was the first town of any size to be encountered after 600 miles of travel along the Santa Fe Trail from Kansas.
Earlier, the Mexican colonists were awarded Las Vegas in a land grant in 1835. The plaza was built as a complete square of adobe buildings with gates to the north and south for communal protection from Apache Indian raids. From atop one of these buildings in 1846, General Stephen Watts Kearny declared New Mexico a United States territory. Las Vegas was a quasi-military fort until the opening of Fort Union in 1851. The Las Vegas Hotel was built in 1850, the first two-story adobe building in New Mexico. The growth of the town exploded with the arrival of the railway.
John Henry “Doc” Holliday, a dentist from Georgia, opened a saloon that year. Wyatt Earp visited him for a month and convinced him to move with him to Tombstone, Ariz.
Las Vegas was a wild frontier town hosting the Dodge City gang and other outlaws. It was thought to be the worst of the worst places in the West for violence. Gambling, gun fights, robbery and murder prompted the town to organize vigilantes, whose main leader was Miguel Antonio Otero, Jr. He later became the Governor of the Territory of New Mexico (1897-1906).
Law breaking diminished as Las Vegas embraced the Twentieth Century. The train bought visitors as prosperity increased with the availability of good hotels and the fine service of the Harvey Girls. The West was tamed!