While talking about the history of La Mesita Ranch (LMR), it is important that we start with a little history of the area and talk about the original inhabitants of the property, who they were and how it lead to the creation of LMR. Around the turn of the 20th Century, the Pueblo of Pojoaque was hit with an outbreak of smallpox. Most of the people living in this valley were forced to leave and move to Colorado or the surrounding areas. The Pueblo of Pojoaque sold most of its land, including a large portion, what is now LMR, to a real estate developer.
The Pueblo of Pojoaque has a history that dates back to about 500 AD. And several times during its history the Pueblo has actually relocated or has abandoned its land and come back.
During the 1500-1600 century when the Spanish were exploring North America from Mexico searching for the fabled Seven Cities of Gold. They explored the area, bringing Catholic missionaries with them. They identified the small villages where the Native Americans were living and in order to catholicize them, they built mission churches in each of those small villages. Each of the mission churches was named after a patron Saint. Santa Clara (Saint Claire), San Juan (Saint John). The churches adopted those names, as well as the small villages. The Term Pueblo actually means village in Spanish. The Spanish tried to catholicize the Native Americans. The only successful Native American revolt of Northern American History happened in New Mexico in the 1680s, where all the pueblos banded together and the Spanish retreated back into Mexico. Shortly after, there was a re-conquest of the land and the Spanish came and reoccupied the territories again.
Native Americans living in New Mexico use the term Pueblo to identify the tribal nation or reservation that they live on. They refer to themselves as Pueblo Indians or Puebloans. The Pueblo of Pojoaque is actually the smallest pueblo in NM. Today, it is one of the most progressive and adventurous in economic development. La Mesita Ranch has brought a piece of the Pueblo of Pojoaque’s history back to where it originally started. In the early 1900s, a 140-acre portion of land was sold to Clarence Mott Woolley. Mr. Woolley was at the time the president of American Radiator Company in New York City. The Woolleys bought this land as a summer retreat. It was always intended to be an equestrian property, and they built the first polo field west of the Mississippi. At the turn of the century, it was very fashionable for wealthy families on the east coast to buy properties out west; it was very bohemian of them to bring their artist friends and other large entrepreneurs out here to experience the Wild West. Coming by train into Santa Fe would have been an adventure on its own. Travelling from Missouri to Santa Fe would have been, probably a breathtaking and amazing experience for most guests.
Santa Fe was a bustling little town in the Wild West. With its lush and cool river valley climate, it was a very desirable place to spend the summer.
In the late 1920s, Clarence Mott Woolley merged his company with Standard sanitation to become American Standard – still today America’s largest producer of faucets and fixtures. The Woolleys kept La Mesita Ranch and in the 1930s hired John Gaw Meem to design three main homes. Meem is considered to be the most important architect in New Mexico’s history. Originally from Brazil he was educated in Chicago and is credited with mastering the standard for pueblo revival architecture, which is the pervasive pattern of architecture that you see throughout the state.
Mr. Woolley and his wife Isabelle were huge patrons of the arts. In fact, Salvador Dali, painted a famous painting of Isabelle Baker Woolley. Her portrait that Dali painted actually belongs to the Museum of New Mexico and hangs in the Museum of Art on the plaza in downtown Santa Fe. Another close friend was Georgia O’Keeffe. Georgia O’Keeffe painted the American Radiator building in New York City in 1929 that she showed in her husband’s gallery, Alfred Stieglitz.
The Woolleys lived at La Mesita until about 1959, when it was sold to who was then the current president of the American Standard Faucet Company.
It’s a little unclear who actually lived on the property between 1959-1980. There are some wonderful rumors and stories, however in the 1980s the property really fell to ruins. There were squatters on the property, many of the structures had been demolished or burned, and it wasn’t until the late 80s when the previous owner purchased the property that it was restored in its entirety to what it looks like today.
The previous owner was an American heiress who bought the property as a summer retreat as well. When she purchased the property, she built the equestrian complex that is here today. It features an Olympic sized climate controlled indoor riding arena. She also completed renovations on the house.
The three main homes that John Gaw Meem designed in the 1930s were never completed. However, she finished the development of the houses and the property today is completely restored to its original state. It is absolutely beautiful.
In November 2008, the Pueblo of Pojoaque repurchased the property with the intention of reintroducing the land into the Tribal Land Trust. Reintroducing the property into its original Land Trust, their ancestral land, is most important.
La Mesita Ranch means “Little Mesa” and there is a small mesa ridge in the center of the property, and on top of that ridge lie the original ruins of the ancient kiva and other structures that were thought to be originally part of the Pueblo of Pojoaque. Today it’s deemed as a sacred site and is off limits to anyone who is not a tribal member.
So, the Pueblo of Pojoaque and La Mesita Ranch in a lot of ways are like a phoenix. Many years ago, this land was abandoned by its original ancestors, today the remaining portion of the land is whole again.
What Deborah brings to the table at La Mesita, is her extensive experience in hospitality, her genuine passion for creating the “experience”, and her natural ability to be comfortable in any country, she is living in, and contribute fully to the community she is working with. Her love for the people and culture of Pojoaque is evident in all of the Homes at La Mesita. Her unique background in food and beverage, and producing events, has put La Mesita Ranch Estate on the map as the the premier venue for Santa Fe Destination Weddings, Galas, and retreats.