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.

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

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.

The Galisteo Studio Tour

The Galisteo Studio Tour One of the great joys of the autumn season in Northern New Mexico is the annual round of village studio tours. Artists open their homes and studios to wandering aficionados of the arts in many of the picturesque small towns around Santa Fe...

read more
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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