In this second episode of our Taos visit during July 2021, we visit the Taos Plaza and Kit Carson Home and Museum.
The plaza is the place to be for gatherings, the farmers market (May through October), live music, parades, demonstrations, and art displays. Surrounding the plaza are various shops, studios, and galleries. A day or so before we arrived, there was a big to-do because city staff had mistakenly covered up a public art display in the crosswalks. Oops! Sorry! What else could the city say?
From a distance, the gazebo looked in fine shape. Although, a closer look revealed trip hazards of broken and sunken bricks in the walkway.
The veteran’s memorial recognizes all military branches. The black cross is dedicated to New Mexican service members involved in the Bataan Death March during WWII.
Prominently displayed nearby is a statue of Padre Antonio Jose Martinez (1793-1867). He is recognized as a person of influence in New Mexico’s history through the Spanish, Mexican, and American territorial periods.
Here are a few buildings that surround the plaza. Some of them are holding up pretty well, while others are showing their age.
The Hotel La Fonda de Taos is an appealing-looking place to stay. Hotels have occupied the site since 1820 when a mercantile store that also rented rooms opened. According to the website, a recent renovation of the building retained many historical features while including modern amenities for 21st-century travelers.
One store had emptied out its stock, and a sign in the window said it had to close because of pending demolition. Further research revealed the building, which once served as the former county courthouse, was slated for demolition and renovation.
The building includes ten murals created by four Taos artists in 1934 under the commission of the Works Progress Administration (WPA) Public Works of Art Project (PWAP). I had to look them up online because we couldn’t see them in person. I hope the contractors can save the paintings from destruction. It would be a shame to lose such a treasure. To see the murals, go to The Living New Deal.
Lunch at The Alley Cantina
After walking around the plaza and visiting Kit Carson’s home, our stomachs growled with hunger. Our map app led us away from the plaza, down an alley, and past Taos Adobe Quilting to The Alley Cantina. We ducked in for a plate of chicken enchiladas and adovada, a red chile pork stew. Both were delicious, as were the margaritas.
Kit Carson Home and Museum
The Kit Carson Home and Museum (owned by Bent Lodge No. 42 of Taos and operated by the Kit Carson Memorial Foundation) seemed like an excellent place to soak up a bit of history, so we sought it out.
One might think Kit Carson would have found a fancy mansion for his family. Not so. As I walked through the four rooms, I tried to imagine seven children running around, plus several Indian children Carson took in after he rescued them from their captors and countless other extended family members from time to time.
We started our visit with a movie where several of us gathered along with a docent. When the movie ended, she told other stories of the man and his family and described the home, explaining the use of the various rooms.
She led us through the four small rooms, stopping to point out photos, memorabilia, and artifacts. Much of the furniture was not original to the home because Carson’s heirs sold off most of the belongings along with the house when he died. Luckily, collectors have donated some of the objects back to the museum.
Kit Carson purchased the adobe home in 1843 as a wedding gift for his bride, Josefa Jaramillo. They lived there for twenty-five years, although Carson traveled extensively while on scouting trips with John C. Fremont and serving as an Indian Agent and Army Officer during the Civil War.
Historical photos show a humble home in this circa 1863 photo
A 1920 photo shows the home when one room housed a licensed Indian Trading Post.
Thanks go out to the masonic lodge and foundation for having the forethought to purchase the home in 1910 and turn it into a museum to honor their Freemason brother, Kit Carson.
Murals are a common sight in historic towns, and Taos was no exception. Across the street from the Kit Carson Home and Museum, I spied the mural shown below.
When we returned to our campsite at Taos Canyon Stop, we found a not-so-nice surprise. Before we left for the day, Jon had secured the awning to our picnic table to keep it from flying away during the afternoon wind. What we didn’t count on was a hail storm rolling through the canyon that unleashed rocks of ice the size of marbles. Rain we expected. Hail? No way.
On the bright side, replacing the awning fabric gave Jon a project to work on when we got back home.
Next up: Red River, Cimmaron, and Cimmaron State Park