Canyon Road is many things to many people. For art collectors, it’s a world-renowned address, home of some of the finest galleries in the United States. For locals, it’s a place of celebration – where Christmas is welcomed with flickering farolitos (candles in brown paper bags filled with sand), where special gatherings take place at some of the finest eateries that the Southwest has to offer, and where creativity is celebrated through art of all mediums. Canyon Road is a place rich with Santa Fe history as well, having been in use for hundreds of years – and the structures that withstood the test of time reflect this strong legacy even today. The Road is a street defined as much by the stories of the people who live, work and play there as it is by the land itself.
If the Plaza is the heart of Santa Fe, then the Acequia Madre has to be a main artery. The Acequia Madre, or the “Mother Ditch” is the irrigation canal built by the Spanish in the early 17th century. The canal brought water to the arid soil and essentially encouraged its development into a haven for farmers, and eventually, a mecca for artists. The acequia ran above Canyon Road and gravity allowed the Mother Ditch to supply water for the better part of the year into orchards, farms and family gardens.
One of the early farmers and homesteaders was named Geronimo Lopez. In the middle of the 18th century he settled on Canyon Road and established a small sheep ranch. He then built a fine adobe building in 1756. The Old Santa Fe Association named this building the Borrego Building, which means “sheep” in Spanish, to honor Mr. Lopez. The Borrego Building today houses “Geronimo’s,” which serves some the City Different’s finest cuisine. It’s enchanting to dine in this historical landmark that dates back to a time when the United States was only a dream.
In the 20th century, an artistic movement began to shape the Road and help bring it to national prominence. Struck by the natural beauty and culture of the area, numerous artists and gallery owners began to emigrate to Santa Fe. Among the first were the famous Los Cinco Pintores (the five painters): Freemont Ellis, Jozef Bakos, Willard Nash, Walter Mruk and Will Schuster.
Word of the area’s artistic potential began to spread “back east” within the art community, and as the Depression began to wreak its havoc within the national economy, more artists took advantage of the relative affordability and began to move here.
The cultural benefits associated with the area continued to encourage emigration. “By 1969 it is estimated there were 500 professional artists living and working in Santa Fe, with about 30 studios and galleries located on Canyon Road” (http://canyonrd-sf.nm-unlimited.net).
To understand the development that occurred in the area, it’s helpful to read the words of noted gallery owner Nedra Matteuci: “Canyon Road has been at the heart of the Santa Fe art experience since the turn of the century. The founding artists of the Santa Fe art colony built their homes and studios along and adjacent to Canyon Road. A myriad of galleries and local shops continue in that same tradition, celebrating the art and creative energy found in Santa Fe today.”
A recent ad campaign done by the Canyon Road Gallery Association described the Road as the ‘heart and soul’ of Santa Fe.
It’s that vibrancy and energy, still present today, that truly makes the Road special. Every 50 feet you can enjoy a visit to another gallery, one with its own unique ambiance and charm; and along the Road you can savor world-class food and drink. Visit The Compound, whose interiors were designed in the 1960s by famed Alexander Girard, for an unforgettable meal in an inimitable setting, or enjoy tapas and fine wine at El Farol, while the excitement of a live Flamenco performance fills the room. And if it’s a simple evening with a nightcap stroll that you’re after, the Road is an idyllic locale.
Every season brings a fresh, pulsing energy to Canyon Road: summertime carries long, picturesque days in the still dry heat; cottonwoods and aspens turn gold in the fall; in the winter, snow accentuates the soft outlines of the adobe buildings; and in the spring, lilacs and fruit trees bloom. One of the most magical times on the Road is on Christmas Eve with pinon smoke rising from bonfires and chimneys, setting a fragrant backdrop for the thousands that take part in the Farolito Walk. Glowing farolitos adorn every rooftop as the Acequia Madre and Canyon Road Associations welcome tourists and locals alike to the unforgettable scene.
The Inn on the Alameda is proud to serve as an ambassador to the Road for visitors from all over the world. As the closest hotel to Canyon Road, we offer our guests a welcoming and warm base from which to explore this artistically, culturally and aesthetically significant area. We encourage you to explore Canyon Road, whether you are an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply someone who loves beauty.