The museums and historical homes of Taos
Taos has no shortage of colorful and influential characters who have made their mark. If you’re an art and history hound, then be sure to explore the following places that helped solidify Taos as an art colony and a major player in frontier trading.
MABEL DODGE LUHAN HOUSE
240 Morada Lane
Hours: Call (the property is closed during workshops)
She was Mabel Gansen Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan – salon hostess, art patroness, writer and self-appointed savior of humanity. She was a woman of profound contradictions. She was generous. She was petty. Domineering and endearing.
Today as you approach the house of Mabel Dodge Luhan (now an historic inn and conference center), it’s easy to see why some of the greatest minds of the 20th century were inspired here. Situated at the end of a quiet road not far from the center of town off Kit Carson Road, the house appears much as it did in the days when Mabel admired her views of the sacred Taos Mountain from the third-story solarium.
One can only imagine the tantalizing conversations that must have taken place within these walls. After all, Georgia O’Keeffe stayed here. So did D.H. Lawrence, Ansel Adams and Martha Graham, among many other notables.
THE MILLICENT ROGERS MUSEUM
1504 Millicent Rogers Road
Hours: Tue.-Sun., Nov. 1 through March 31, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. The museum is closed Mondays, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Day and Easter Sunday.
Admission is $10 per adult; $8 for seniors (60+); $6 for military (active or veteran); $6 for students (16-21 with ID); $2 per child (6-16); free admission for children under 6; free admission for Taos County residents; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available. Docent tours are also available.
The museum was established as a memorial to Millicent Rogers whose inspiration, patronage and collections form the cores of its holdings. Rogers (1902-1953) was the granddaughter of Henry Huttleston Rogers, one of the founders of the Standard Oil Company. At her homes in New York, Virginia, Italy and elsewhere, she entertained the great and splendid from American industrialists to European nobility. She was the fashionista of her day. In her later years, she visited and eventually settled in Taos. Here, she became close friends with many of the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists and passionately supported Native American artists. Her namesake museum houses 15 galleries featuring the heritage of the Southwest, including jewelry, paintings, textiles and pottery, such as the family collection of heralded potter Maria Martinez.
The majority of the museum’s galleries, housing more than 6,000 objects, are representative of the diverse indigenous and Hispanic cultures of the Southwest with particular strengths in the traditional arts of Northern New Mexico.
THE E.L. BLUMENSCHEIN HOME AND MUSEUM
222 Ledoux Street
Hours: Mon-Sat., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.Admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors; $4 per child (5-15); free children under 5; free for Taos County residents on Sunday; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available.
Admission: $8 adults; $7 seniors; $4 per child (5-15); free children under 5; free for Taos County residents on Sunday; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available.
Maintained as when artist Ernest L. Blumenschein, an original member of the Taos Society of Artists, and his family lived there. Along with Bert Phillips, Joseph Henry Sharp, and fellow Taos artists, Oscar E. Berninghaus, E. Irving Couse and W. Herbert “Buck” Dunton, Blumenschein created the Taos Society of Artists in July 1915.
The rooms remain much as his wife and fellow artist, Mary, had decorated them, including their personal belongings and artwork. Some of the paintings by other members of the Taos Society of Artists and later artists were donated to the museum by members of the community as a tribute to the early years of the Taos art colony.
The 1797 home is filled with a superb collection of the Blumenschein family’s art (including daughter, Helen), a representative sampling of works by other famous Taos artists, fine European and Spanish Colonial style antiques and the family’s lifetime of personal possessions. The home beautifully illustrates the lifestyle of Taos artists in the first half of the 20th century.
THE COUSE-SHARP HISTORIC SITE
146 Kit Carson Road
Hours: Tours are made by appointment
The home of 20th-century artist Eanger Irving Couse and his family and studios of Couse and Joseph Henry Sharp — members of the Taos Society of Artists (TSA) who were instrumental in creating the cultural fabric of Taos as we know it today. Wander through the historic home and see how these pioneer painters lived. Ongoing this winter is an exhibition of Sharp’s life and work. Stand at his easel, see the model’s stage and props. Nothing is under glass. All remains as it was 100 years ago, even the machine shed complete with vintage truck, tools and an old pair of broken eye glasses. Witness this unbroken chain of history as it is preserved into the future, from the 1835 Luna Chapel that served as Sharp’s first studio, to the restored 1915 Sharp studio, and a future archive and research center next door in the Old Mission Gallery building (formerly the oldest gallery in Taos). The exhibition covers Sharp’s entire career and includes numerous works of art, correspondence and Native American artifacts that he collected and which appeared in his paintings. Each year the exhibition is refreshed with new artwork and ephemera.
D.H. LAWRENCE RANCH
San Cristobal Road off State Highway 522 North (make a right turn after mile marker 10; signs mark the rest of the way), San Cristobal
Also known as Kiowa Ranch, this site is situated on 160 pristine acres on Lobo Mountain, about 20 miles north of Taos. Frieda, the wife of the famed author, entrusted the ranch in her will to the University of New Mexico for the purpose of creating a public memorial to her husband. The ranch features buildings once used as respites for other writers and artists such as Georgia O’Keeffe. Still standing is the ponderosa pine tree O’Keeffe painted during her first visit to New Mexico in 1929 (“The Lawrence Tree”). The towering tree is in front of the main house. The ranch is also home to the D.H. Lawrence Memorial Chapel. The couple owned and lived at the ranch during their visits to Taos in the early 1920s.
Lawrence was a British novelist, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter. Among his most famous works were “Women in Love” and the once-banned “Lady Chatterley’s Lover.”
The D.H. Lawrence Ranch is open for visitors to visit the cultural properties on Thursdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. (weather permitting). If you have any questions regarding your visit to the ranch, please call the UNM Physical Plant Department at (505) 277-1109 or the property directly at (575) 776-2245. For programmatic questions, please contact the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Initiatives at email@example.com or call (505) 277-6347 (English Department front desk).The ranch is on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties.
GOVERNOR BENT HOUSE AND MUSEUM
117 Bent Street
Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.
Admission: $3 adults, $.50 children
The home of the state’s first American governor — a trapper, trader and mountain man. Charles Bent was appointed governor of New Mexico in 1834 when the state became an American territory. Outside the home on Jan. 19, 1847 during the Mexican War (1846-1848), he was scalped alive and killed by an angry mob protesting the American rule who dragged his maimed body around town. Many of the Mexican families naturally resented the American conquest of their home, and the Taos Indians had long disliked Bent because of his trade relations with their northern enemies. During the chaos, Bent’s wife, Ignacia and her first-born daughter Rumalda, and Ignacia’s sister (Kit Carson’s wife Josefa) dug a hole inside the home as an escape route into the adjoining house. Although partially filled in, the hole remains. This tucked-away house was converted into a quirky museum in 1969, offering tours around the property. Exhibits include artifacts, paintings, photographs and publications that talk about Bent’s exploits during the Mexican War. And be sure to check out the surprise oddity.
HACIENDA DE LOS MARTINEZ
708 Hacienda Way off Ranchitos Road
Hours: Mon-Sat. 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sunday noon-5 p.m.
Admission: $8 for adults; $7 seniors; $4 per child (5-15), free admission for children under 5; free admission for Taos County residents on Sundays; tour rates and discount cards for multiple visits are available.
This thick-walled adobe, fortress-like trading post with 21 rooms surrounding two interior courtyards is on the National Register of Historic Places and gives a glimpse of rugged frontier life. It was constructed in 1804 by Severino Martínez. Severino and his wife, Maria del Carmel Santistevan Martínez, who raised six children here. Their eldest son was the famous Padre Antonio Martínez, who battled New Mexico’s first archbishop Frenchman Jean Baptiste Lamy to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church and defend the penitentes in the territory. The Hacienda is one of the few examples of Northern New Mexico style, late Spanish Colonial period “Great Houses” remaining in the American Southwest. Serving as an important trade center and gathering place, the Hacienda was the final terminus for the Camino Real, which connected Northern New Mexico to Mexico City. It was also the headquarters for an extensive ranching and farming operation.
The New Mexico Architectural Foundation awarded the Hacienda de Los Martinez a first-place award for “A Historic New Mexico Structure that brings our community together in a lasting way.” The hacienda embodies the Hispanic legacy of the area.
THE HARWOOD MUSEUM OF ART
238 Ledoux Street
Hours: Wed.-Fri., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Sat.-Sun., noon-5 p.m. Closed Monday and Tuesday.
Admission: $10 per adult; $8 for seniors; $8 per student; free admission to youth (18 and under), free admission to UNM students and faculty; free admission to members of the Harwood Museum of Art Alliance; free admission to Taos County residents on Sunday.
The Harwood Museum of Art showcases a permanent collection of more than 4,700 works and an archive of 17,000 photographs from the 19th century onward. In the early part of the 20th century, many artists — such as Agnes Martin — were drawn to the Taos area to pursue a new, truly American art devoid of industrial influence, inspired instead by New Mexico’s landscape and light, and the traditional Native American and Hispanic cultures of the region. One of the museum’s most-prized assets is its Agnes Martin Gallery. The Harwood Museum collection brings to the public a unique record of this artistic convergence from its beginnings to the present day. The embracing spirit of the Harwood was established by artists Burt and Elizabeth Harwood.
KIT CARSON HOME AND MUSEUM
113 Kit Carson Road
Hours: Daily November through April, 10 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $7 per adult; $6 for seniors; $5 for Veterans, teens and students; free to children under 12; $5 tour groups of five or more; free to Kit Carson Home and Museum members; free to Taos County residents every Sunday; free to active military personnel and Masonic members.
Taos’ oldest museum is the home of Christopher “Kit” Carson, frontiersman, trapper, soldier and scout. The Kit Carson Home and Museum, still standing in its original footprint on Kit Carson Road in Taos, was built circa 1825 and purchased by 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 25 years. Seven of their eight children were born and raised in the home, along with several Native American children who had been freed by the Carsons from captivity. The Carsons moved to Fort Garland, Colorado, in 1866, leaving many of their possessions behind. After the death of Josefa on April 27, 1868, and Kit shortly thereafter on May 23, 1868, the home changed ownership six times before it was purchased in 1911 by the Grand Masonic Lodge of New Mexico to be maintained as a memorial to Freemason Kit Carson in perpetuity.
TAOS ART MUSEUM AT FECHIN HOUSE
227 Paseo del Pueblo Norte
Hours: Tues.–Sun., 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Close at 1 p.m. on Thanksgiving Eve, Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve. Closed on Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
Admission: $10 per adult; $9 for seniors; $6 for students; $8 per person in groups of 10 or more; free admission to children under 12; free admission on Sundays for Taos County resident; private tours by appointment. It is always free to visit the museum grounds and store.
The former home and studio of artist Nicolai Ivanovich Fechin, showcasing a blend of early 20th century Russian and Southwestern artworks. Fechin built the home for his family between 1927 and 1933. Fechin, born in Kazan, Russia, in 1881, carved and molded the adobe buildings into a fascinating, harmonic marriage of Russian, Native American and Spanish motifs. Also home to the Taos Society of Artists.
— Compiled by Scott Gerdes