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THE BISHOP’S LODGE HISTORY

A Story Centuries Old

Nestled among the pink and orange foothills of Santa Fe's Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the Little Tesuque Valley was first traversed by the ancestors of today's Pueblo Indians (chipped flints and broken bits of pottery still turn up along old trails below North Lodge, which sits on an old ruin). Several miles downstream, Tewa-speaking people established the Pueblo of Tesuque, growing corn, squash, and beans in fields they irrigated from the river. They also gathered piñon nuts in the hills and hunted deer and small game in the mountain forests. The seasonal rituals of these times persist today.


In 1540, Francisco Vasquez de Coronado led an expedition of Spanish Conquistadors into the "New" Mexico searching for the "Seven Cities of Gold." All he found for his trouble was mud-walled villages like Tesuque. Very disappointed, the Spanish did not return to settle until 1598. A capital for this "kingdom," La Villa Real de Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi, was founded in 1610. The new masters set about naming the features of their domain, for the most part, after their faith, as in "Sangre de Cristo" ("Blood of Christ") and "Santa Fe" (Holy Faith), but the pretty stream and valley above the Tesuque were named for their pueblo.

The first known Spanish settler at what is now The Bishop's Lodge was Urbano Montaño who received a grant of land in the "Cañoncito de Tesuque" from Domingo de Mendoza, the Governor, on October 2, 1743. On later occasions the land passed on, in succession, to Juan de Ledesma, Maria Francisca de Seña, Pedro Dominguez and Navidad Romero. These colonial settlers, borrowing irrigation techniques from the Pueblos, grew wheat, corn and beans, and raised horses, cattle and sheep. The fact that they introduced fruit trees is well established by "The Old Apricot," a gray, gnarled skeleton that graces the final curve of the Lodge driveway. Succumbing to a hard freeze decades ago, this tree remains a much-admired relic from the colonial era.

Though a few beaver trappers may have wandered through on occasion, the Little Tesuque Valley remained removed from the changes and chaos of the times: Mexico's long fights with Spain for independence, Mexico's bitter loss of Texas, and finally, Mexico's ceding of New Mexico to the United States after the war of 1846. Americans had long ago been intrigued with Spanish Santa Fe, especially after hearing tales of "Fandangos" and dark eyed señoritas told by the travelers of the "Santa Fe Trail". And this "Second Conquest" brought many newcomers in its aftermath.

One of these was the young French missionary priest chosen by the Vatican as the first bishop for its newly created diocese for the American southwest. When Jean Baptiste Lamy (who had apprenticed for ten years on the Ohio frontier) arrived, after a Gulf Coast shipwreck and an overland horseback journey, he was well met by the people, but not by the local clergy, who refused to recognize his documents. To resolve the impasse he set off deep into Mexico to find the intransigent priest's former Mexican bishop. It was typical of Lamy, and of his times, that he undertook many long, often dangerous journeys. He usually traveled alone or with a single guide, and crossed the Santa Fe Trail many times. On at least one occasion he led the defense of a small wagon train against an all-day Comanche attack.

In his lifetime Lamy worked for the welfare of all within his "Desert Diocese": Indian, Hispanic and Anglo-American. The establishment of the first schools and a hospital were among his priorities. The Loretto Chapel and St. Francis Cathedral in Santa Fe reflect his efforts to bring finer architecture to what was then thought to be an architecturally impoverished area.

Over the years, as he traversed his diocese, bringing improvements and humane necessities to the territory, Bishop Lamy worked on his little ranch, the Villa Pintoresca, which he had begun to acquire, in bits and pieces, in the Little Tesuque Canyon in 1853. His lodge, on a little hill with a splendid view of the distant Jemez Mountains, consisted of a small dwelling attached to his tiny, private chapel. He laid out gardens and an orchard of apricot, apple, peach and pear trees; along with the ditches to bring them water (the "Mother Ditch" that fed them can still be followed from below the chapel to where it meets the stream).

Lamy enjoyed having visitors out to his lodge and his many guests were invited to partake in the pleasure of his gardens, orchard, fish-pond and the natural serenity of his country estate. In time, the path out to the ranch became a road and led the city's newspaper to remark, "Good work has been done on the Bishop's ranch road. It forms one of the best rides out of the city. This is the work, we presume, of Bishop Lamy." Though other people rode, Lamy preferred to walk out from Santa Fe. In 1889, when Bishop Lamy passed away, his beloved Villa passed to the Archbishopric, which by 1905 had sold it to private interests. There was a small dairy farm on the site when the property was bought in 1915 by the Pulitzer family of St. Louis who proceeded to build North and South Lodges — then two rambling "summer homes" (later North and South lodges) — and a two-story garage (the start of Central Lodge).

New Mexico had just become the forty-seventh state three years before, in 1912. The railroad that had brought an end to the Santa Fe Trail had since been bringing new settlers and new kinds of adventurers: archeologists, who discovered "lost cities," ethnologists who studied "lost peoples," writers and artists who enthusiastically described and painted them, and travelers and tourists who wanted to experience it all. As arts societies flourished in Taos and Santa Fe, efforts were mounted to preserve and encourage traditional Pueblo arts that had been in decline and to define and mandate a "traditional" architecture for a city that would eventually be famous for it.

Into this exciting time of rediscovery came James R. Thorpe, a Denver mining man, likewise intrigued by "Old Santa Fe" and determined to establish a fine Southwestern resort. Acquiring the property from the Pulitzers in 1918, Mr. Thorpe restored Bishop Lamy's Chapel, added to the original buildings and christened his endeavor, "The Bishop's Lodge." After 80 years of Thorpe family ownership, The Bishop's Lodge was sold in January of 1998. The current owners are dedicated to preserving the heritage and beauty of Lamy's ranchito and the traditions of hospitality that he initiated so long ago.

Today the simple little chapel built more than a century ago by this displaced French prelate continues to welcome its visitors for moments of peace and reflection.

Central Lodge: This building, now the center of The Bishop's Lodge, had a humble start as a two story adobe carriage house, built around 1915. Over time, many additions have added 15,000 square feet to the building. In the renovation of 2000, the original adobe walls were reinforced, as the old garage now houses the main kitchen and supports offices and guest rooms above.

Chamisa Lodge: During your stay in Santa Fe you will often see brilliantly colored, fragrant chamisa bushes for which the Chamisa Lodge has been named. The chamisa bush is found in abundance throughout the southwest. Related to the sagebrush family, chamisa bushes are tall and rounded with short branches and woody trunks. In the Fall, the chamisa bush comes into bloom with vivid, yellow flowers that are sweetly aromatic. The plants are a food source for antelope, mule deer, jackrabbits, and many species of birds. It is likely that as you peer out through your window you will see an array of wildlife frolicking in the sun and indulging in a snack of chamisa.

Cienega Lodge: Cienega is Spanish for "swamp, bog, or marsh," and this lodge is named for the wetlands located directly behind it. Freshwater marshes, also known as prairie potholes, develop in depressions in the terrain. The freshwater marshes along the Little Tesuque are home to an abundance of vegetation, the most predominant being the massive cottonwood trees. In addition to the cottonwood trees a variety of grasses, hedges, and small plants thrive near the streams and acequias here at The Bishop's Lodge. In fact, Bishop Lamy utilized these bountiful areas of water when cultivating his crops and lush gardens. The marshes are also a valuable source of water for wildlife. It is not uncommon while out on a leisurely stroll to see deer, squirrels, raccoons and birds sipping a cold drink of water from the Little Tesuque stream or at the trout pond behind the Cienega Lodge.

Cottonwood Lodge: Originally built in the 1940s, the name "Cottonwood" comes from the cottonwood trees that grow prevalently along the Little Tesuque River (which runs through the property). The Lodge suffered a major fire in February 2002 and was rebuilt as the resort's Presidential Suite.

East Lodge: This lodge, located slightly east of the Central Lodge, was built in the 1920's. During the economically depressed years of the Thirties, this building was one of several leased to the now-defunct Brownmoor School for Girls, a private preparatory school for young women.

Jemez Lodge: This lodge was aptly named for its westward views of the Jemez Mountains. In the 1590's when the Spanish first came upon the Native Americans who inhabited the foothills and mesas of this mountain range, they asked "What do you call yourself?" and they responded "Jemez," or "The People". Millions of years ago, the Pajarito Plateau was formed when the top 4,000 feet of the Jemez were lost in a volcanic explosion estimated to have been a hundred times stronger than Mount St. Helen's. The resulting volcanic ash covered this area to depths of 30 feet. While most this ash has washed away over time, our own Pin Cushion Hill, located directly west of the meeting hall, still displays a layer several feet thick. From the Jemez Lodge, Los Alamos is clearly visible on three eastern Jemez steppes. Both the Jemez Mountains and the Jemez Pueblo Indians continue to thrive and share their beauty and rich history with the residents and visitors of New Mexico. On August 2nd of each year, the Jemez Pueblo holds elaborate Bull and Corn Dances. While the Corn Dance emphasizes generosity and gratitude in humanity's relationship with nature, the Bull Dance evokes the power and wildness of the non-human world. During your stay in Jemez Lodge, be sure to catch one of the spectacular sunsets over the Jemez Mountains.

Juniper Lodges I and II: Both of the Juniper Lodges derive their name from the many varieties of Juniper trees and bushes that are scattered across The Bishop's Lodge property and throughout the surrounding region. Having either rounded or conical crowns, juniper have rich, green needles and produce gray-green pea-size berries that have a distinct scent. Amazingly, juniper can live more than 2,000 years and become extremely massive in girth. During your hikes or horseback rides you will be able to see many of these long living beauties.

Lamy Lodge: This lodge is named for Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe and the Lodge's namesake. Bishop Lamy was a pioneer hero of the raw American frontier — a man as strong as he was unpretentious, as charming as he was wise. Shortly after his arrival in Santa Fe in 1852, Lamy built his hillside retreat (our Chapel) named "Villa Pintoresca," or "house with the beautiful view." During your time at the Lodge, you too will experience the beauty and serenity the surrounding land offers, just as Bishop Lamy did nearly one hundred and fifty years ago. In his last years, his fame spread as an ecological genius in the frontier region, especially as an arborist and gardener. Bishop Lamy's long and impressive life came to a close in Santa Fe, but his legend, influence and hospitality live on today at The Bishop's Lodge.

North and South Lodges: Built by the Pulitzer publishing family during their brief ownership of the property (1915-1918), these lodges were originally built as summer residences. Their two daughters had tuberculosis, and Santa Fe's warm, dry climate was thought to have a medicinal effect. Since the Pulitzers were from St. Louis, these buildings are a unique mix of mid-west and southwest architecture and interior design: some rooms have crown molding and chandeliers, while others have wood "vigas," or exposed ceiling beams. The North Lodge sits on a bluff that has yielded Native American artifacts, suggesting that at one time a small settlement resided there.

Piñon Lodge: This lodge was named for all the Piñon trees that cover the expanse of The Bishop's Lodge property and much of Northern New Mexico. Piñon trees are typically found in groupings across the landscape. Their crowns are rounded and conical in character and the abounding needles are usually in bundles of two. The needles are a deep green and are extremely aromatic. The Piñon tree produces egg shaped cones that are filled with small, edible nuts. Piñon nuts are a culinary favorite throughout New Mexico and can be found in some of the Nuevo Latino cuisine served in The Bishop's Lodge Restaurant, "Las Fuentes". The buds from Piñon trees are also used to enhance the flavor of coffee, which is a unique local tradition that we call "cowboy coffee." The Piñon tree is also a source of choice firewood because of its fragrance and long burning characteristics. During the cold winter evenings at the Lodge the fragrant smoke from the piñon wood burning in fireplaces and our horno oven can be smelled drifting through the crisp air.

Sunset Lodge: Built in the 1960s, this lodge faces directly west and offers guests a view of the southwest sunset.

Little Tesuque Lodge: This lodge is named for the nearby Tesuque Pueblo and the enchanting Tesuque Valley that it overlooks. The steep embankment just west of the lodge runs down to the Little Tesuque stream that originates in the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the east. The stream flows in the spring as the snow melts and in the summer with the run off from monsoons. A larger stream, called the Big Tesuque, runs year-round on the north side of the property. In the evenings the Little Tesuque can be heard flowing like a soothing song above the whispering treetops and the occasional howling of the coyote under the blanket of stars and radiant moonlight. The Tesuque Pueblo is surprisingly traditional for being so close to Santa Fe. Its people have managed to maintain their culture through reverence for religion and the cohesiveness of the pueblo's small population.

Vista Del Valle Lodge: Vista Del Valle is Spanish for "Valley View." Accordingly, the rooms of this lodge have an exceptional view of the valley between the Jemez Mountains on the west and the Sangre de Cristo ("Blood of Christ") Mountains on the east. In the foreground lies the Cañoncito del Rio de Tesuque (Tesuque River Canyon). The Pojoaque Valley and the Espanola Valley are further north, and to the northwest is the Abiquiu valley where Georgia O' Keefe lived and worked much of her life. The canyon in which The Bishop's Lodge is located and the valleys in the distance have a rich and engaging history. Some of the memorable events that have occurred in this area include Francisco de Cornado's 1540 visit to the region during his quest for the Seven Cities of Gold, the settling and farming of the land by Pueblo Indians, the Pueblo Indians' revolt against the Spanish in 1680, and the bloody Mexican American war of 1846. See the Concierge for interesting day trips through this historical region.

 
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