Santa Fe is one of the most beautiful and romantic towns in the world. Nestled in foothills and located in the high desert of northern New Mexico at 7000 feet, there are dramatic views of five mountain ranges – Sangre de Cristo, Jemez, Sandia, Ortiz, and Manzano. The skies are incredibly blue and clear and landscapes are breath taking. Santa Fe’s climate is temperate and the humidity is low. There are four distinct seasons with gorgeous colorful springs and falls. Summer evenings may be cool and winter may bring occasional snowfall, but there is so much sunshine it rarely stays long on the ground. People come to Santa Fe from around the globe to enjoy our unique setting, cultures, and attractions.
Santa Fe style and “The City Different”
“This year we are making a studied conscious effort not to be studied or conscious. Santa Fe is now one of the most interesting art centers in the world and you, O Dude of the East, are privileged to behold the most sophisticated group in the country gamboling freely… And Santa Fe, making you welcome, will enjoy itself hugely watching the Dude as he gazes. Be sure as you stroll along looking for the quaint and picturesque that you are supplying your share of those very qualities to Santa Fe, the City Incongruous… Be yourself, even if it includes synthetic cowboy clothes, motor goggles and a camera.”
– 1928 Santa Fe Fiesta Program
The Spanish laid out the city according to the “Laws of the Indies”, town planning rules and ordinances which had been established in 1573 by King Philip II. The fundamental principle was that the town be laid out around a central plaza. On its north side was the Palace of the Governors, while on the east was the church that later became the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi.
An important style implemented in planning the city was the radiating grid of streets centering from the central Plaza. Many were narrow and included small alley-ways, but each gradually merged into the more casual byways of the agricultural perimeter areas. As the city grew throughout the 19th century, the building styles evolved too, so that by statehood in 1912, the eclectic nature of the buildings caused it to look like “Anywhere USA”. The city government realized that the economic decline, which had started more than twenty years before with the railway moving west and the federal government closing down Fort Marcy, might be reversed by the promotion of tourism.
To achieve that goal, the city created the idea of imposing a unified building style – the Spanish Pueblo Revival look, which was based on work done restoring the Palace of the Governors. The sources for this style came from the many defining features of local architecture: vigas (rough, exposed beams that extrude through supporting walls, and are thus visible outside as well as inside the building) and canales (rain spouts cut into short parapet walls around flat roofs), features borrowed from many old adobe homes and churches built many years before and found in the Pueblos, along with the earth-toned look (reproduced in stucco) of the old adobe exteriors.
After 1912 this style became official: all buildings were to be built using these elements. By 1930 there was a broadening to include the “Territorial”, a style of the pre-statehood period which included the addition of portales (large, covered porches) and white-painted window and door pediments (and also sometimes terra cotta tiles on sloped roofs, but with flat roofs still dominating). The city had become “different”. However, “in the rush to pueblo-fy” Santa Fe, the city lost a great deal of its architectural history and eclecticism. Among the architects most closely associated with this “new” style are T. Charles Gaastra and John Gaw Meem.
By an ordinance passed in 1957, new and rebuilt buildings, especially those in designated historic districts, must exhibit a Spanish Territorial or Pueblo style of architecture, with flat roofs and other features suggestive of the area’s traditional adobe construction. However, many contemporary houses in the city are built from lumber, concrete blocks, and other common building materials, but with stucco surfaces (sometimes referred to as “faux-dobe”, pronounced as one word: “foe-dough-bee”) reflecting the historic style.
Click through for an interesting list of various ‘Architectural Terms’ one is likely to encounter in Santa Fe.
Artists and tourists
The mainline of the railroad bypassed Santa Fe, and it lost population. However artists and writers, as well as retirees, were attracted to the cultural richness of the area, the beauty of the landscapes and its dry climate. Local leaders took the opportunity to promote the city’s heritage making it a tourist attraction. The city sponsored bold architectural restoration projects and erected new buildings according to traditional techniques and styles, thus creating the “Santa Fe style”. Edgar L. Hewett, founder and first director of the School of American Research and the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe, was a leading promoter. He began the Santa Fe Fiesta in 1919 and the Southwest Indian Fair in 1922 (now known as the Indian Market). When he tried to attract a summer program for Texas women, many artists rebelled saying the city should not promote artificial tourism at the expense of its artistic culture. The writers and artists formed the Old Santa Fe Association and defeated the plan. The old “mud city” – which short-sighted modernizers laughed at for its adobe houses – was transformed into a city proud of its peculiarities and its blend of tradition and modernity. San Miguel Mission is in Santa Fe.
Visual art and galleries
The city and the surrounding areas have a high concentration of artists. They have come over the decades to capture on canvas and in other media the natural beauty of the landscape, the flora and the fauna. One of the most well-known New Mexico–based artists was Georgia O’Keeffe, who lived for a time in Santa Fe, but primarily in Abiquiu, a small village about 50 miles (80 km) away. The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum in Santa Fe is devoted to exhibitions of her work and associated artists or related themes. As of early 2006, it holds over one thousand of her works in all media. O’Keeffe’s friend, western nature photographer Eliot Porter, died in Santa Fe.
Canyon Road, east of the Plaza, has the highest concentration of art galleries in the city, and is a major destination for international collectors, tourists and locals. The Canyon Road galleries showcase a wide array of contemporary, Southwestern, indigenous American, and experimental art, in addition to Russian, Taos Masters, and Native American pieces.
There are many outdoor sculptures, including many statues of Francis of Assisi, and several other holy figures, such as Kateri Tekakwitha. Given that Francis of Assisi was known for his love of animals it is not surprising that there are great numbers of representations of crows, bulls, elephants, livestock and other beasts, all over town. The styles run the whole spectrum from Baroque to Post-modern. Notable sculptors connected with Santa Fe include John Connell, Luis Jiménez, Rebecca Tobey and Allan Houser.
Numerous authors followed the influx of specialists in the visual arts. Well-known writers like D.H. Lawrence, Cormac McCarthy, Kate Braverman, Douglas Adams, Roger Zelazny, Alice Corbin Henderson, Mary Austin, Witter Bynner, Dan Flores, Paul Horgan, Rudolfo Anaya, George R. R. Martin, Mitch Cullin, Evan S. Connell, Richard Bradford, John Masters, Jack Schaefer, Michael Tobias, Susan Gardner, Hampton Sides and Michael McGarrity are or were residents of Santa Fe. Walker Percy lived on a dude ranch outside of Santa Fe before returning to Louisiana to begin his literary career.
Music, dance, and opera
The interior of the Crosby Theatre at the Santa Fe Opera; viewed from the mezzanine
The Santa Fe Opera’s productions take place between late June and late August each year. The city also hosts the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival which is held at about the same time, mostly in the St. Francis Auditorium and in the Lensic Theater. Also in July and August, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale holds its summer festival. Santa Fe has its own professional ballet company, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, which performs in both cities and tours nationally and internationally. Santa Fe is also home to internationally acclaimed Flamenco dancer’s Maria Benitez Institute for Spanish Arts which offers programs and performance in Flamenco, Spanish Guitar and similar arts for children and adults year round. Other notable local figures include the National Dance Institute of New Mexico and German New Age musician Deuter.