A City of Superlatives

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES

Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest, there’s some debate.

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American chapel of San Miguel, by Wittick, Ben, 1845-1903

Santa Fe’s status as a Capital city of New Spain is undisputed, and it has held the title of Capital for over 400 years, making it the oldest Capital city in the United States. But is it the oldest inhabited town? No, that honor goes to St. Augustine.

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Juan Ponce de Leon | Image from the British Library

The shorelines and nearby interior of Saint Augustine, Florida, were first discovered in 1513 by the ambitious Spanish explorer, Juan Ponce de Leon. The verdant coastline was named, Florida (or flowery land), after the flora seen growing in abundance. Claims of De Leon’s mad quest for the Fountain of Youth are probably exaggerated contemporary tales, however, the restless De Leon did continue onwards, travelling many intercostal waterways and mapping the coast of Florida. He did not create settlements or forts to protect the Spanish claim, as he was more intent on mapping and understanding the coast.

It was not until 1562 and later in 1564 that the French mounted two separate expeditions to explore this area of Florida. The first French fort was established north of Saint Augustine and named Fort Caroline.  As a response, Spain dispatched Pedro Menendez de Aviles to establish a fort at Saint Augustine, which he did on August 28th, 1565. Following the sacking by Spanish soldiers of Fort Caroline, fears of future French colonization assured that Spain would maintain Saint Augustine as a permanent fort and settlement on America’s eastern coast. The first “registered” European child was born there in 1566. This date is 21 years before the first English settlement of Roanoke Island in Virginia, and 42 years before the establishment of Jamestown and Santa Fe.

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Pedro Menendez de Aviles

Having been to Disneyworld in August, and experienced the unremitting heat and humidity, there’s no denying the fervor and devotion of Spanish colonists in settling Florida several hundred years before air conditioning.

Hernan Cortes conquered Mexico in 1519, close to the same time that Juan Ponce de Leon named and mapped Florida. However, as with Saint Augustine, much time passed before colonization began in either parts of our country, and it was not until much later in 1598 that the explorer Don Juan de Onate traveled north from Mexico into what would be named the Provinces of New Mexico. He established a small settlement on the banks of the Rio Grande River about 30 miles north of present day Santa Fe. In 1607, Don Pedro de Peralta established a second city (Santa Fe) to which he moved the capital in 1610. These facts absolutely clear up any confusion over which two cities we are discussing is the older – Saint Augustine wins hands down! But Santa Fe claims to be the oldest capital in the U.S. and that is also true and deservedly so, without argument.

We always proudly describe Santa Fe’s San Miguel Chapel as the U.S.’s oldest church, having its first walls built in 1610 by Tlaxcalan Mexicans, most assuredly slaves brought north to help the colonization of the Provinces of Nuevo Mexico. Finished in 1620 and refurbished in 1710, it still stands today as the oldest church in the US.

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San Miguel Chapel

The first Spanish settlers of Saint Augustine were assuredly Catholics, it is hard to imagine any group of Spanish Catholics not building a church within the first decade of the establishment of a foreign outpost on the edge of an unexplored continent. These settlers came from a culture that had experienced the Inquisition to purge the world of non-Catholic religious believers. They would have wanted and needed a church for their souls as much as houses for their bodies. Despite a lack of archaeological evidence, we can assume that the establishment of a spiritual building was a priority in St. Augustine. Despite this, Santa Fe can definitely lay claim to oldest still standing church in the United States.

All Inn on the Alameda blog posts are written by Joe & Michael Schepps. Read more from the authors here.

Since the Inn on the Alameda is a 2-block walk to the oldest standing Church in the U.S...

We welcome you to join us here at the Inn for a stay or just dinner as you soak up a significant slice of history.

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest,...

read more
How the West Was Fed: A Tale of Fred Harvey and His Girls

How the West Was Fed: A Tale of Fred Harvey and His Girls

How The West Was Fed:

A Tale Of Fred Harvey And His Girls

 

Will Rogers described Fred Harvey as the man that “kept the West in food…and wives.” Fred Harvey pioneered many of the innovative approaches to food service, hospitality, and of the Southwest style in both jewelry and architecture.

As a young freight broker, Fred was appalled at the lack of any coordinated approach, inconsistency of service and food quality available to rail passengers. Partnering with the country’s biggest railroad company, the AT & SF, Fred Harvey began first building restaurants and then hotels along the RR route from Chicago to Los Angeles, bringing at the time “ New York and London” quality food to the West. The greatest challenge was to serve excellent meals that could be enjoyed in 20 minutes or less – the allocated time for dining stops.

Fred Harvey

Fred Harvey’s commitment to excellence and a standard of quality and service set the tone for the changes the Railroad would bring to this new and growing part of our country. The opening of the Raton, NM pass to rail traffic in 1879, heralded the beginning of the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail, and this new mode of transportation, stretching all the way to the Pacific, required the creation of the first chain of restaurants, and then hotels. Standardization, so necessary then, later sadly grew into rampant American led, world-wide “white bread” commercialism. But then, understandably, everything had to be done the “Fred Harvey way,” which assured excellence and predictability to the diners heading west. This was how Fred Harvey fed the West.

Fred Harvey Lunchroom, Santa Fe Hotel, Canadia, Texas

Fred Harvey Lunchroom, Santa Fe Hotel, Canadia, TX

Scene from The Harvey Girls

Scene from “The Harvey Girls” Film

And how to keep the restaurant service consistent? Fred Harvey created a service army of honest, skilled, educated and attractive women – quickly dubbed “The Harvey Girls,” and from the 1880s until the end of the 1940s, the Harvey Girls totaled 20,000 young ladies spread out along the Western railroad stops. Here were the brides-to-be for the ranchers, merchants and entrepreneurs that grew this country.

The Harvey Girls Film Poster

And to assure a definitive style and architectural excellence, Fred Harvey brilliantly employed the great architect Mary Coulter to design his beautiful hotels…from Las Vegas, NM to Santa Fe, to Albuquerque and on past the Grand Canyon. Mary Coulter is credited with creating what would become the world recognized “Santa Fe Style.”

And finally, from simple counter sales in Gallup, NM, Fred Harvey brought together the Indian jewelers with their one-of-a-kind handicrafts, potters and weavers – orchestrating and coordinating their efforts into a look that became, like everything else Fred Harvey, a distinctive style that would lead the way for the future successful refinement and commercialization of Southwestern arts and crafts that we know so well today.

So, within a score of years, what began as an idea brought on by Fred Harvey’s distaste of bland and inconsistent railroad fare, turned into the first chain of restaurants, hotels and gift shops in the West. Today, “Fredheads” keep his legacy alive, honoring a man whose vision literally changed the West for the better in everything he touched.

Presently, the New Mexico History Museum has a “must see” show on display commemorating the great visionary and his Harvey Girls. And if you wish to delve more into this historical time, watch The Harvey Girls, a 1946 musical film starring Judy Garland about the opening of a “Harvey House” at a remote whistle stop to provide good food and company to railway travelers.

Judy Garland in The Harvey Girls

Discover the tradition of delicious fare & high service standards that Fred Harvey began

The Agoyo Lounge and the accommodations of the Inn on the Alameda embody Fred Harvey’s tradition of service.

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest,...

read more
World Class Art in Santa Fe

World Class Art in Santa Fe

World Class Art in Santa Fe

There is a building in downtown Santa Fe that houses a world class collection of contemporary art, a building that is itself an example of the cultural synthesis that defines Santa Fe style and New Mexico culture: The New Mexico Museum of Art. Located within an easy walk to the Inn on the Alameda, the Museum offers exciting and challenging exhibits of contemporary art coupled with a permanent collection featuring many of the artists and artworks that define New Mexico.

NM Museum of Art Exterior

The structure housing this collection is itself a work of art. The incorporation of Santa Fe into the United States had brought architectural styles that were largely incongruous with the cultural surroundings. The exposure of modern trained architects in the early 20th century to the organic forms of Puebloan architecture resulted in a revolutionary synthesis of styles known as Pueblo Revival. Consciously building on the historical innovations of the Spanish Colonial era and the Pueblo peoples’ monumental structures, the Pueblo Revival movement helped define Santa Fe for the coming 20th century.

The New Mexico Museum of Art

The New Mexico Museum of Art is a masterpiece of this movement. Designed by New York-born architect Isaac Rapp, known as the “creator of the Santa Fe style,” this 1917 building has become an iconic example of Santa Fe architecture, melding elements of all the defining cultural influences in New Mexican society into a cohesive and attractive whole.

Georgia O’Keeffe – Lake George Reflection 1921 – 22

The permanent holdings of the collection are devoted to the history of contemporary New Mexican art. They include the Cinco Pintores, Georgia O’Keefe, the Taos Society and Gustave Baumann. The museum also has an extensive collection of American photography and multimedia works.

It is a world class artistic institution that has been home to numerous travelling shows challenging exhibits on the nature and function of contemporary artistic representation and media, and a continuance of their mission to expand their holdings.

Few exhibits better represent the complex and continuing mission of the museum than that of their past show: “Hunting + Gathering: New Additions to the Museum’s Collection” that exhibited in 2015. It was an illuminating exhibit designed to educate visitors to the complexity of the roles of “museum” and “observer,” the duty to challenge as well as curate, and the necessity to adapt and evolve to a very changing cultural and academic landscape. Encompassing multiple forms, the exhibit highlights works of sculpture, photography, prints, textiles, painting and mixed media, and displays them in a way as to challenge the viewer.

“Classic” pieces such as Ansel Adams’ photographs and Gustave Baumann’s paintings are juxtaposed with more challenging items such as Barbara Diener’s hauntingly composed and staged photographs and Sarah Magnuson’s evocative structures made of butterfly wings preserved under glass. These contrasts help to define for the viewer the paradoxes and challenges apparent within the collection, and hopefully, present a cohesive whole greater than the sum of their parts. This cohesion is mirrored in the Pueblo Revival building that houses it.

Gustave Baumann - El Rito Canon

The New Mexico Museum of Art is a quick 5-minute drive or 10-minute walk from the Inn via Paseo de Peralta, a main thoroughfare on the north side of town. The museum is open Tuesdays through Sundays 10am-5pm and welcomes visitors for free admission on Friday’s from 5-8pm, May through October, and the first Friday of the month, November through March.

Discover other amazing cultural offerings here in Santa Fe

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest,...

read more
Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

Day of the Dead

If you have lived in Mexico as I have, the Day of the Dead is an absolutely wonderful time to visit a town such as San Miguel de Allende. This traditional celebration of the dead is not a sad ceremony at all. Families come together to share their fondest memories of the deceased family members. In preparation of the big night and day, the entire town is busy cleaning graves, decorating them with their dead relatives’ favorite foods, brands of alcoholic beverages, candies, and cigarettes. Later in the evening at the cemetery, everyone enjoys singing their loved one’s favorite Spanish songs. Here, death is seen as just a part of life, a returning guest with nothing to fear; the Day of the Dead is about sharing fond memories with friends and family. Not coincidentally, Day of the Dead begins October 31 and ends November 2. Halloween also has its roots in All Saints’ Day.

Day of the Dead Altar
Traditional Day of the Dead Altar

Bright orange marigold pedals are the calling cards for the departed souls and they decorate the home-made altars. These pedals line the pathways of the Jardin (Plaza) and potted marigold plants adorn every home. It is believed that the pungent and distinctive odor of the marigold leads the souls to their respective families for a visit and a nostalgic get-together between the living and the dead.

tradition ORIGINs

The origins of this predominately central and southern Mexican tradition are an interesting mixture of Catholic and Aztec rituals. Of course, the invading conquistadors, as here in New Mexico, brought with their military invasion a slew of new Catholic holidays and traditions, completely alien to the indigenous peoples. As is always the case, the conqueror makes the rules and enforces his religions onto the conquered. However, in Mexico, there was such a disproportionate number of Aztecs to the very small European military and religious presence, a melding of the two religious and traditional culture’s rituals was necessitated. While every effort was made to force the Spanish’s beliefs upon the Aztec, the indigenous peoples found a way to weave the new ways into their old ways.

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All Saints Day began in the 4th century in Europe as a day to honor and remember the Saints and those humans who had entered Heaven. In present-day Mexico, the Aztecs also had a day of celebrating their dead, and the Day of the Dead traditions were born. An Aztec festival dedicated to the spirit of the Aztec god Mictecacihuatl is considered the first remembrance of a departed soul in current-day Mexico. From Europe came All Saints’ Eve, All Saints’ Day and All Souls’ Day which all fall during a three-day period. Both cultures shared an appreciation and respect through ceremonies for departed souls, reaching back to souls from past lives. Both were a common tradition of the continuance of someone’s life, and a marriage of these two traditions merged. Now, for instance, the altars for the Day of the Dead feature crosses and the Virgin of Guadalupe as well as skull masks with calavera make-up that came from the ancient Aztec rituals.

Today’s customs

Enough history. More to the fun. The young teenagers dress impeccably in tuxedos and evening gowns with calavera skulls painted on their faces. Everyone lines up in the Plaza to be painted by make-up artists to make sure to look their best. The original calavera was a fancily dressed woman of Spanish culture with a parasol. This was a parody of the Spanish ladies who did not deem it respectful to attend and participate in indigenous festivals. The food is fantastic, like during the Fiestas here in Santa Fe. But in Mexico, instead of chimichangas and tacos like here at Fiestas, chocolate and sugar skulls are both eaten and placed around the altars. Light and fluffy chicken tamales with tomatillo-cilantro salsa are served, along with classic chicken breast with Mole (chocolate) sauce. Candied pumpkins and Oaxacan hot chocolate are enjoyed everywhere, at home and in the streets.

Day of the Dead Face Paint

Even pets wear skeleton costumes and everyone from babies to old folks participate in the fun. A parade usually closes the celebration, and the most outlandish and fascinating costumes and faces all gather at the Jardin for one last evening of celebration, respect and remembrance of the Dead. We at the Inn on the Alameda serve some of these dishes on the Dead of the Dead and you (while still living) can enjoy your favorite foods, drinks and desserts in our beautiful Agoyo Lounge.

Best,

Joe Schepps

Owner, Inn on the Alameda

Mark your calendars for several visits to the International Folk Art Market this year. And afterwards, relax at the Inn on the Alameda for a drink – or for the night!

A City of Superlatives

A CITY OF SUPERLATIVES Santa Feans will gladly tell you the many superlatives that define the city. The oldest. The highest. The best. While there’s no denying the city’s altitude, the veracity of the best is up to you because when it comes to oldest,...

read more
Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

Santa Fe, Frozen in Time

 

I arrived in Santa Fe early on May 23, 1971. I remember it like it was yesterday.

I drove in from Las Vegas, NM, where I had toured Highlands University for a NM State teacher’s credential. At the time, I knew that I wanted to reside in New Mexico. Through years of college friendships and familial bonds in western New Mexico, I had developed close ties to the state. I was 23.

 

Day 1: Santa Fe Plaza, 1971

While passing the College of Santa Fe, I stopped, went in, and discovered that they had a teacher’s credential program. I told them my educational background and they accepted me into their summer program right on the spot. Just like that. No security checks, no contacting my university. The old days.

The same day, I opened my checking account on the historic Santa Fe plaza at First National Bank. No Homeland Security, background check, or tax ID number needed – just money and a signature. Nearly 44 years later, I still have the same checking account number.

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At the time, the plaza was open to traffic on all sides. There were shoe and clothing stores, pharmacies, a barbershop, and a flower shop. I don’t recall a single gallery. Gas stations were situated catty-corner to the plaza on two sides, and the central obelisk still spoke of “savage natives.” This was before the word, “savage” was chiseled off.

There were only 3 or 4 realtors at the time, and I found a place on Cerro Gordo through the Richard Mares Agency. We put down our deposit and our last month’s rent, and moved in later that same afternoon. No credit checks on Credit Karma, no references to call. Just me, my wife, and our new home.

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Even with its modern changes, the history of Santa Fe remains captivating etched in stone.

Day 2: A Different Santa Fe

The next morning I was driving on St. Michael’s Drive, which was a still a two-lane street surround by mostly vacant land, when I heard my name on the radio! The since-departed Santa Fe Welcome Wagon was welcoming my wife and me to Santa Fe. They even mentioned some factoids about our lives that I had shared with the realtor.

Late that evening, my grandfather died in Dallas. Since we didn’t have cell phones, and it took a while to get a phone line, my father’s secretary began trying to locate us. The second realtor she called was Richard Mares, and he informed her of our whereabouts. As a courtesy, he also called the Santa Fe Police Department on our behalf. Soon after an officer pulled up to our house and respectfully informed me of my grandfather’s passing. He also told me where the nearest pay phone could be found, so I could call home.

When I think back on Santa Fe, it’s hard to imagine that there were more pawnshops and trading posts than galleries. I vividly remember Bob Ward’s “oldest trading post” on San Francisco, and The Pink Adobe and The Bull Ring were the only two “fancy” restaurants downtown. Can you imagine?
santa-fe-original-trading-post
Those were the times, not really that far-gone, that welcomed me here and successfully beckoned me to stay.

Let us be your Santa Fe Welcome Wagon

We hope we can captivate you the same way Santa Fe captivated me all those years ago.
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