WHERE HISTORY AND ART COLLIDE
The Historic Taos Inn
by Tamra Testerman
ROOM 102 IN THE HISTORIC TAOS INN, on 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte, is special. One of 45 unique guest rooms, this one room has a silver Nambé star on its door. It was the room reserved for Washington, D.C., writer Dee Strasberg every spring and fall, starting in 1951, until failing health kept her away.
Before her death in 2013, Strasberg asked that her ashes be buried in the inn’s courtyard. Strasberg left her old heavy typewriter at the inn so housekeeping could set it up in room 102, complete with fresh flowers, a bottle of wine and candies, for her arrival. The iconoclastic writer penned many of her 70-plus gothic romance and horror novels in room 102 under the pen name Daoma Winston.
This attention to detail, wonderful food, music, cheerful staff and historic ambiance have been attracting writers, artists, movie stars and Taoseños to the inn for decades. Referred to as “the Living Room of Taos,” by former owner Feeny Lipscomb, the name has stuck because of the eclectic melting pot of conversation and local camaraderie on any night.
The story of the inn begins near the turn of the 19th century, when Dr. Thomas Martin learned Taos was without a physician. In response, he and wife Helen, bought a sprawling adobe near the plaza and he devoted his life to taking care of the locals.
Helen was an artist and sister-in-law of one of the Taos founders. She supported her fellow artists in town by helping found the Taos Society of Artists in the Martins’ dining room in 1912. Later, she offered rental housing to writers and artists.
Doc Martin died in the mid-’30s, the same year the inn, Taos’ only hotel, burned down. Helen bought the property surrounding the courtyard and in 1936 opened the Hotel Martin. It became a favorite watering hole for artists, musicians, politicians and an occasional movie star.
Current Operations Manager Julie Sena described how experiencing the seasons at the inn is always special, “whether its lighting a fire in our lobby on a winter evening, walking the property seeing the flowers blooming and the great smell of our beautiful lilacs. The adobe patio filled with people sipping our famous margaritas on sultry summer days or just sitting in our courtyard when the leaves change color in the fall.”
Sena has been with the inn for 13 years. She started as a housekeeper, worked her way to the front desk and now is the operations manager. She said it is a pleasure to work there because “it’s a beautiful historic property with lots of character. Everyday we are meeting visitors from near and far. I enjoy working with the staff –they are my family – and interacting with locals.”
Sena said the classic neon Thunderbird sign was installed in 1946 and it is the only neon allowed in the historic district.
You can tell a lot about a place by how it treats its staff. Sena said there are a handful of employees who’ve been with the inn for many years. “Douglas MacLennan has been working for the Taos Inn since May 1988. He was the food and beverage manager for many years and the bartender for the Adobe Bar. Jessie Sanchez is our maintenance manager and has been working for the Taos Inn for 14 years.”
THE HISTORIC TAOS INN is located at 125 Paseo del Pueblo Norte in Taos. Call (575) 758-3322 for more information, or visit taosinn.com.