The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

The Lensic – Santa Fe’s Grande Dame

On June 24, 1931, alongside the beginning of the Great Depression, The Lensic motion picture “palace” opened in our fair city of just 11,000 souls.

Built by Nathan Salmon and John E. Greer, and named for Mr. Greer’s six grandchildren, the Lensic was an anagram of the first letter of each grandchild’s name. Built in the Spanish Baroque style, the Lensic’s distinct architecture has defined Santa Fe as much as John Gaw Meem’s Pueblo Revival style. She was the social center of town with her own ballroom and a stage for vaudeville acts, with a 6 musician orchestra pit.

Historic Lensic Exterior-EDIT

By the 1990’s, the wear and tear of passing decades made her look worn down. Because of Bill Zeckendorf’s vision that Santa Fe could and would support a downtown performing arts center, his wife Nancy and other civic minded Santa Feans began the arduous task of raising $9,000,000 necessary for its expansion and historic preservation. Without the foresight and shared vision of Alexis Girard and her family, the Lensic Board would have never been able to eventually own the theater, a critical requirement for philanthropic support.

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View from Stage

Throughout the years, this “wonder theater of the Southwest” hosted performers as diverse as Chet Grass and his Frontier Knights Orchestra to vaudeville shows with skimpily clad dancing girls like Maria Y Sable. When the Lensic premiered Santa Fe Trail in 1940, Roy Rogers Errol Flynn, Ronald Reagan and Olivia de Haviland all were in attendance. In 1934, Claudette Colbert appeared at the premier of Cleopatra, a young Judy Garland performed here, Rudy Valle crooned, and for the 1982 film festival, Lillian Gish, Ray Bolger, Gene Kelly and Ginger Rogers smiled, blew kisses and danced across the stage.

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With this sort of history, most of our citizens felt the Lensic had to be one of the finest performing arts centers in America. The Lensic Performing Arts Center opened on April 22, 2001 featuring violinist Pinchas Zuckerman, Marc Neikrug, David Grusin and Eddie Daniels among many others, including a hundred National Dance Institute students performing on stage.

Future Voices of New Mexico Awards 2016

The Lensic was off and running, creating in the past 20 years countless diverse community oriented programs including dance, voice, musical, theatrical performances and lecture series.

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Santa Fe is a city whose citizens pine with love for all the performing arts, and the Lensic is one of the major pillars supporting our City Different’s unique position in our land. The foresight of Nathan Salmon and E. John Greer, along with the drive and determination of the Zeckendorfs and Alexis Greer Girard, plus countless donors, big and small, including the State of NM and the City of Santa Fe, gave us this bountiful gift.  Any trip to Santa Fe should include a visit to the Lensic for a performance or two. Before your visit to the Inn on the Alameda, check out Lensic.org for a list of the coming attractions and get your tickets early. The Lensic is truly a gem in the crown of the Performing Arts in New Mexico, and is fortunately located right here in Santa Fe.

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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.

santa-fe-market-street

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!

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Of all the thousands of archaeological sites you can visit on a trip to the American Southwest, the remains of the Chacoan Great Houses, preserved in Chaco Culture National Historical Park – a three-hour drive west of Santa Fe – have to be the most remarkable. They...

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Madrid Miners and the Game of Baseball

Madrid Miners and the Game of Baseball

Historic Madrid, New Mexico, and Baseball

Historic Madrid, NM, as it appears today.

If you haven’t ever visited Madrid, New Mexico, consider adding it to your tourism bucket list. Located outside of Santa Fe, near the mineral-rich Ortiz Mountains, Madrid offers you a fascinating trip into the history of art, coal mining, and even baseball!

Madrid originated as a coal mining town known as Coal Gulch. In the 1850s the town began to grow in size and importance. This trend continued through the 1880s with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad created a tremendous demand for coal, which fueled the expansion of the town to 2,500 people. During the 1920s, Madrid was even known for a Christmas light display with over 150,000 lights. The display was powered by coal generators that also supplied electricity to the entire town.

Like many company towns, the residents of Madrid relied on their employers to provide stores, amusement, schools, and hospitals. Employers even sponsored entertainment and social activities in order to prevent “idle hands from becoming workshops of the devil.” In 1919, the recently hired town superintendent, Oscar Huber, created a baseball team known as the Madrid Miners. Along with the team, he also oversaw the construction of the first lighted ballpark west of the Mississippi.

Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark, Image courtesy of ‘visitmadridnm.com’.

Madrid quickly became a model for mining towns across the country. Baseball teams like the Madrid Miners popped up around country, and the sport grew into a popular pastime for laborers on their days off. The Madrid Miners were instrumental to the development of baseball in our country, and the Oscar Huber Memorial Ballpark can still be seen today.

After World War II, the demand for coal diminished, and by the late 1950s, Madrid became a ghost town. Still, the houses and cabins that were built during the boom still remain. In the 1970s, the town started to repopulate again with artists, artisans and other “free spirits.” Along with the new influx came new art studios, bars, galleries, and restaurants.

Just a 45-minute drive from the Inn on the Alameda, Madrid offers a fascinating piece of New Mexico history. Shop, eat, drink and experience the architecture and community spirit that has revitalized this important historical gem.

The perfect end to the perfect day!

After you’ve finished touring historic Madrid, it’s just a short drive back to the Inn on the Alameda to relax with a nice dinner and a comfortable bed.

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