Historic Sites in New Mexico

Taos, New Mexico Downtown

Taos, New Mexico Downtown by Kathy Alexander.

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma Pueblo, New Mexico

Acoma – Located atop a high mesa, the Acoma Pueblo is one of the oldest continuously inhabited settlements in the United States. Popularly called “Sky City” because of its breathtaking views of the countryside, the pueblo consists of one to three-story adobe house blocks on three parallel streets, a plaza, and a mission complex. The National Historic Landmark is located 13 miles south of Casa Blanca, New Mexico, on NM 23.

Aztec Ruins National Monument Aztec Ruins Monument contains the remains of prehistoric Ancient Puebloan structures. The ruins were named when European settlers mistakenly attributed them to the Aztecs. The largest preserved structure is the West Ruin, a D-shaped great house constructed in the early 1100s. With close to 400 rooms, the site was occupied for over 200 years. Hubbard Site, dating from the early 1100s and one of only a handful of tri-walled structures in the Southwest, has three concentric walls divided into 22 rooms, with a kiva. Also of note is the Great Kiva, situated in the center of West Ruin’s plaza. It was rebuilt in 1934 by Earl Morris, an archeologist for the American Museum of Natural History. By 1300 A.D., the Anasazi had vacated the sites and left the river valley for unknown reasons. Aztec Ruins National Monument, administered by the National Park Service, is one mile north of Aztec, New Mexico, off US 550. Open daily.

Bandelier National Monument – Bandelier National Monument was first occupied by the Anasazi in the late 12th and early 13th centuries. The monument’s sheer canyon walls contain numerous cave dwellings as well as petroglyphs (pictures pecked onto rock surfaces) and pictographs (pictures painted onto rock surfaces) that date from this period. Surface dwellings include the remains of two large villages, Tyuonyi and Tsankawi. Most occupants had vacated the area by the mid-1500s for unknown reasons. The distinctive Pueblo-Revival style Visitors Center was built of hand-hewn stone by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the 1930s, and today the Bandelier CCC Historic District is a National Historic Landmark. Bandelier National Monument, administered by the National Park Service, is 10 miles south of Los Alamos, New Mexico, on NM 4.

Barrio De Analco Historic District – Barrio de Analco dates from before the recolonization of New Mexico by the Spanish that followed the 1680 Great Pueblo Revolt. A working-class neighborhood of Spanish Colonial design, the Barrio, is characterized by adobe-brick, flat-roofed, Pueblo-style buildings once found throughout the region. Of particular interest is the Chapel of San Miguel, built in 1620 and located on the corner of E. De Vargas and College streets. Originally constructed to serve the soldiers, laborers, and Indians who settled across the river from the Palace of the Governors, the chapel eventually acted as a focal point for the establishment of Barrio de Analco. Barrio de Analco Historic District, a National Historic Landmark, is roughly bounded by E. De Vargas, College Streets, and the Santa Fe River in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Chaco Canyon National Park, New Mexico

Chaco Canyon National Park, New Mexico

Chaco Culture National Historical Park – Chaco Canyon was the center of life for Pueblo Indians of the Colorado Plateau from 850 A.D. to 1250 A.D. Beginning in 900 A.D.; the people built large multi-storied stone structures on mesa tops and the canyon floor. This concentration of structures is thought to have served the region as a ritual, administrative, and trade center. The largest building, Pueblo Bonito, rose four stories and contained 600 rooms and 40 kievs in a D-shaped layout. Another nearby structure, Chetro Ketl, had close to 500 rooms and 16 kivas, as well as an enclosed plaza. The pattern of large public buildings with oversized rooms, surrounded by conventional villages, became the standard in Chaco Canyon and spread throughout the region. In the 1200s, change came to Chaco as new construction slowed, and Chaco’s role as a regional center shifted to new cultural centers. Administered by the National Park Service, the park contains over 4,000 cultural sites associated with Paleo-Indian, Pueblo, Navajo, and Euro-American occupation of the canyon. Chaco Canyon is located in northwestern New Mexico. The park can only be accessed by driving on dirt roads.

El Morro National Monument  – El Morro, also known as “Inscription Rock,” is a massive rock formation that rises more than 200 feet above the plains. On top of the formation are the remains of two Anasazi pueblos, the most complete of which is A’ts’ina, built in 1275 A.D. With almost 900 rooms, this pueblo is thought to have housed between 1000 and 1500 people. El Morro’s base contains hundreds of Indian petroglyphs and the chiseled names of numerous explorers, soldiers, settlers, and immigrants. The first European inscription was made in 1605 by Juan de Oñate, the first governor of New Mexico. El Morro National Monument, administered by the National Park Service, is 43 miles southwest of Grants, New Mexico, off NM 53. Open daily.

El Santuario de Chimayo  – Constructed from 1813 to 1816 as a private chapel, this small adobe church is considered to be one of the most beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial architecture in New Mexico. Set in a large wall-enclosed garden, the church includes twin front towers, each with a belfry. The interior is a colorful mixture of Spanish and Indian styles with a heavy timber ceiling of vigas (beams) supported on carved brackets, simple plaster walls with large religious paintings and screens, a carved and painted altar rail, and an elaborate reredos (altar screen) decorated with painted designs and religious symbols. The sands on which the church is built are thought to have miraculous healing powers, and today El Santuario de Chimayo is an active parish church. El Santuario de Chimayo, a National Historic Landmark, is located in Chimayo, New Mexico, on NM 76 (the High Road). Open daily.

Fort Stanton, New Mexico

Fort Stanton, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

Fort Stanton -Fort Stanton was established in 1855 to help defend against Mescalero Apache raids in central New Mexico. Used as a center for military activities and as a point of departure for numerous scouting expeditions and raids, the fort was also the economic center for the region. Fort Stanton is seven miles southeast of Capitan, New Mexico, via US 380, then south on NM 214.

Fort Union National Monument – Fort Union, a bustling center of frontier defense between 1851 and 1891, was one of the most important in a string of forts established in New Mexico and southern Arizona. Originally built to protect the Santa Fe Trail, the fort was the largest U.S. Army post and supply depot in the Southwest. The old fort is located eight miles north of Watrous, New Mexico, at the end of NM 161.

Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument – Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument preserves cliff dwellings and other significant archeological remains left by prehistoric American Indians of the Mogollon Culture. The well-preserved cliff dwellings, constructed in the late 1200s, contain 42 rooms and are located within five natural caves in a narrow side canyon above the Gila River. The TJ Ruin contains un-excavated remains of a small pueblo inhabited for roughly 900 years beginning c. 500 A.D. Gila Cliff Dwellings National Monument, administered jointly by the National Park Service and the Forest Service, is 44 miles north of Silver City, New Mexico, at the end of NM 15.

Hawikuh – Hawikuh, founded in the 1200s, was the largest of the Zuni pueblos and the first to be seen by Spanish explorers. Originally thought to be one of the fabled gold Cities of Cíbola, Hawikuh was conquered by Coronado in 1540 and served as his headquarters for several months. Hawikuh was referred to as the “Capital of the Zuñis.” La Purisima Concepcíón’s mission was established at the pueblo but was destroyed during the Great Pueblo Revolt of 1680 when the New Mexico pueblos rose against the Spanish. Hawikuh was permanently abandoned after the revolt. In its prime, Hawikuh had up to 125 rooms surrounding a central plaza and stood four stories high with multiple kivas. Remaining are extensive ruins atop a long low ridge and the adobe mounds of the mission church. Hawikuh, a National Historic Landmark, is 12 miles southwest of Zuñi, New Mexico, off NM 53 on the Zuñi Indian Reservation.

St. Augustine Church, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico

St. Augustine Church, Isleta Pueblo, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

Isleta Pueblo – Isleta Pueblo was established before the 1598 Spanish occupation of New Mexico and was burned during the Spanish attempt to reconquer the area following the 1680 Great Pueblo Revolt. During the 18th and 19th centuries, Isleta became one of the largest and most prosperous pueblos in New Mexico and was noted for its crops and orchards. The pueblo is south of Albuquerque, New Mexico, off I-25 in Isleta.

José de la Laguna Mission and Convento – Constructed between 1699 and 1701, this one-story adobe church is a well-preserved example of a Spanish Colonial mission. The interior has a beautiful 18th-century carved wood altar screen with spiral pillars, a hand-carved pulpit and sounding board, an adobe altar, and a rare early 17th-century painting on buffalo hide of San José. San José de la Laguna Mission and Convento are 40 miles west of Albuquerque, New Mexico, off I-40 in Laguna (Laguna Pueblo).

Kit Carson House – Kit Carson was a trapper and a mountain man of great renown. He served as an army guide, an Indian Agent and was a highly celebrated Army officer during the Indian Wars. The one-story adobe house, built in 1825, is in the Spanish Colonial style in the shape of a “U” with a front portal and wooden beams. The interior consists of nine rooms, seven of them original, which surround an open patio with a traditional Mexican mud oven and a well. The Kit Carson House, a National Historic Landmark, is ½ block east of the Taos Plaza on Kit Carson Rd. in Taos, New Mexico.

Kuaua Ruin (Coronado State Monument) – The prehistoric Pueblo Indian village of Kuaua was one of many large settlements established during the Classic Period (1325 to 1600 A.D.) of Anasazi Culture. The site on the west bank of the Rio Grande includes the remains of 1,200 interconnected adobe-walled surface dwellings and storage rooms, six kivas, and three ceremonial plazas. The design is considered to be a typical village plan of the period. Also located on the site is a Spanish Pueblo Revival-style museum. Kuaua Ruin (Coronado State Monument) is 20 miles north of Albuquerque, New Mexico, on NM 44 (two miles northwest of Bernalillo).

Our Lady of Sorrows in Las Vegas, New Mexico Plaza by Kathy Alexander.

Our Lady of Sorrows in Las Vegas, New Mexico Plaza by Kathy Alexander.

Las Vegas Plaza  – Las Vegas Plaza, officially laid out in 1835, is where Brigadier General Stephen Watts Kearny proclaimed New Mexico a U.S. territory in 1846. The square plaza, surrounded by simple adobe buildings, served as an open-air supply depot and marketplace on the Santa Fe Trail. Impressive trade establishments were built around the plaza from the 1860s to 1870s. Las Vegas, New Mexico, is 20 miles south of Watrous on US 25.

Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo  –  Previously known as the San Juan Pueblo until returning to its pre-Spanish name in November 2005, the Tewa name means “place of the strong people.” Founded around 1200 A.D., the pueblo became the site of the first Spanish colony in 1598, when Conquistador Don Juan de Oñate established the first Spanish capital of the new province of Santa Fe de Nuevo Mexico near the pueblo. The community is about 25 miles north of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Ohkay Owingeh Pueblo, P.O. Box 1099, San Juan Pueblo, New Mexico 87566; 505-852-4400.

Palace of the Governors – The Palace of the Governors, the oldest extant public building in the United States, was constructed in about 1610 by Don Pedro de Peralta, the first Spanish royal governor of New Mexico and the founder of Santa Fe. The low one-story adobe building faces the open Santa Fe Plaza and has a carved portal (open porch) supported on wooden posts that runs the length of the building. The Palace served as the territorial capital and governor’s residence during the Spanish and Mexican regimes and the seat of the American government, which began in 1846. Today it is part of the Museum of New Mexico. The Palace of the Governors, a National Historic Landmark, is on E. Palace Ave. on the Plaza in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico. The Palace contains a museum with exhibits on the history and cultures of New Mexico.

Pecos Pueblo Mission, Pecos National Park, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

Pecos Pueblo Mission, Pecos National Park, New Mexico by Kathy Alexander.

Pecos National Historical Park – The large mounds, restored kivas, and stone and adobe ruins of Pecos National Historical Park mark the location of Pecos Pueblo and an adjacent Spanish mission complex. The pueblo was an important center for trade between Pueblo farmers and nomadic Plains Indians. The first mission complex, built in 1621, included the largest of New Mexico’s mission churches. This church was destroyed during the 1680 Great Pueblo Revolt. A smaller church with a larger Convento (mission quarters) was built after the Spanish reconquest in 1692. Pecos National Historical Park is two miles south of Pecos, New Mexico, on NM 63. Open daily.

Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument  – Salinas Pueblo Missions National Monument, in central New Mexico, protects the sites of three Pueblos and the ruins of three Spanish missions near Mountainair, New Mexico. The site protects the remains of the San Buenaventura and San Isidro churches at Gran Quivira, the Mission of San Gregorio at Abo, and the Quarai Church at the Pueblo of Quarai. Severe drought, Apache raids, and an epidemic forced the abandonment of the pueblos in the 1670s. The Visitors Center is in Mountainair, New Mexico, one block west of the junction of US 60 and NM 55. Admission is free. Self-guided tours are available.

San Felipe de Neri Church – San Felipe de Neri was built in 1793 to replace the original 1706 mission church. The adobe church is built in the traditional colonial style with Spanish overtones and mixtures of 18th and 19th century decorative and building elements. The interior has wood-paneled wainscoting, a stamped metal ceiling, an elaborate altar, and plaster walls painted to resemble marble. San Felipe de Neri Church presents an interesting combination of the old and new building traditions of New Mexico. San Felipe de Neri, an active parish church, is located in Old Town Plaza in downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico.

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico still serves a congregation today.

San Francisco de Assisi Mission Church in Ranchos de Taos, New Mexico, still
serves a congregation today. Photo by Kathy Alexander.

San Francisco de Asís Mission Church – San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, c. 1772, is one of the best-known and most photographed churches in New Mexico. The Spanish Colonial adobe building has twin bell towers and an arched portal entrance that overlooks an enclosed courtyard. The interior has a large carved reredos (altar screen) divided into painted panels, a ceiling of vigas (beams) that rest on elaborately carved double brackets, and a traditional choir loft. San Francisco de Asís Mission is an active parish. San Francisco de Asís Mission Church, a National Historic Landmark, is in the Ranchos de Taos plaza four miles southwest of Taos, New Mexico, on NM 68.

San Ildefonso Pueblo – Occupied since the 14th century, San Ildefonso Pueblo is one of the best-known New Mexico “living” pueblos. The pueblo contains adobe buildings, ceremonial kivas, a central plaza, and a 1905 church built on the remains of a 17th-century mission church. San Ildefonso is famous for its matte and polished black-on-black pottery, popularized in the early 20th century by Maria and Julian Martinez. San Ildefonso Pueblo is south of Española, New Mexico, on NM 502. The pueblo can be visited daily.

San Jose de Gracia Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico by Carol Highsmith.

San Jose de Gracia Church, Las Trampas, New Mexico by Carol Highsmith.

San José de Gracia de Las Trampas – San José de Gracia de Las Trampas mission church is located in Las Trampas, a Spanish colonial village established in 1751, set in a beautiful mountain valley south of Taos on the old “High Road” (NM76). Originally a lay chapel, San José de Gracia is situated on the original town plaza. The church was completed in 1780 and is considered one of the best-preserved examples of Spanish Colonial Mission architecture in New Mexico. San José de Gracia de Las Trampas is still an active parish church and was fully restored in the 1970s. San José de Gracia de Las Trampas, New Mexico, a National Historic Landmark, is located in the town of Las Trampas on NM 76 (the High Road).

Santa Clara Pueblo – Santa Clara Pueblo was first visited in 1541 by part of Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s expeditionary force. A mission was established in 1628 as a visita (satellite community) for San Juan Pueblo. In 1680 the inhabitants of Santa Clara took an active part in the Great Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish. The historic section of the pueblo complex consists of one- and two-story adobe houses surrounding two main plazas with two rectangular ceremonial kivas and a church, c. 1918. Santa Clara is a “living” pueblo and is home to a community of highly skilled artisans famous for their black polished and red polychrome pottery. Santa Clara Pueblo is two miles south of Española, New Mexico, on NM 30.

This 800-year old Adobe house in Santa Fe, New Mexico is claimed to be the oldest house in the United States by Kathy Alexander.

This 800-year old Adobe house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, is claimed to be the oldest house in the United States by Kathy Alexander.

Santa Fe Historic District – The oldest capital city in the United States, Santa Fe was founded c. 1610 as the site of the provincial capital for the northern frontier of the Viceroyalty of New Spain (Mexico). The original settlement consisted of low adobe buildings creating a defensive wall ringing the main plaza. This plaza remains essentially intact and is the heart of the historic district. The district includes numerous buildings in the Spanish-Pueblo, Territorial and 19th-century non-indigenous architectural styles. Santa Fe Historic District is roughly bounded by Camino Cabra, Camino de las Animas, W. Manhattan Ave., S. St. Francis Dr., and Griffin St. in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Santa Fe Plaza -Santa Fe Plaza has been the commercial, social and political center of Santa Fe since about 1610, when Don Pedro de Peralta established it. The original Plaza was a presidio (fort) surrounded by a large defensive wall that enclosed residences, barracks, a chapel, a prison, and the Governor’s Palace. Eventually, the wall gave way to large houses built by high-ranking Spanish officers and officials. In 1822 the famed Santa Fe Trail, a trade route from New Mexico to St. Louis, was opened with its terminus in the Plaza. Today the Plaza is ringed by structures in the Pueblo, Spanish and Territorial styles that reflect its diverse history. Among the most noted are the original Palacio, the Palace of the Governors, built between 1610 and 1612, and the San Miguel Mission, a noted landmark built in about 1640 and one of the oldest churches in the United States. Santa Fe Plaza, a National Historic Landmark, is bounded by Washington, E. Palace and Lincoln Avenues and by San Francisco St. in downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Taos Downtown Historic District – Taos (Don Fernando de Taos), established between 1780 and 1800, is one of the oldest European settlements in the Taos valley (a key area of northern New Mexico) and consists of a central plaza and surrounding residential areas. Originally constructed as a Spanish fortified plaza ringed by low adobe buildings, the town grew beyond its original defensive walls. It became an important center for trade on the Santa Fe Trail. Taos continued to expand in the late 19th century when artists settled in and around the plaza. This led to a cultural revival for which Taos is still well known. Today, aspects of each of its periods of history are evident in the Downtown Historic District, where Spanish Colonial Style residences stand side by side with Territorial, Mission Revival, and Pueblo Revival style houses. Taos Downtown Historic District is roughly bounded by Ojitos, Quesnel, Martyr’s, La Placacitas, and Ranchitos sts. in Taos, New Mexico.

Taos Pueblo and River

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. Kathy Alexander.

Taos Pueblo – Built on either side of the Rio Pueblo (Pueblo River), Taos Pueblo, is the final site in a chain of Pueblo Indian dwellings in the Taos Valley dating back to the 900s. Europeans first visited the pueblo in 1540. In 1598 Mission San Gerónimo de Taos was founded. Rebuilt on three separate occasions, the mission was officially abandoned in 1846. Taos Pueblo was historically one of the major trade centers between the Rio Grande pueblos and the Plains Indians. The pueblo is still inhabited and consists of impressive adobe two to five-story residential blocks, many still accessible only by ladder, the original defensive wall, kivas, and the ruins of the -mission. Taos Pueblo, a National Historic Landmark, is 2.5 miles north of Taos, New Mexico.

Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian – Constructed in 1937 by Mary Cabot Wheelwright, the Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is significant for its role in assembling, preserving, and studying the artifacts and recordings of the Navajo religion. Mary Cabot Wheelwright (1878 to 1958), a member of the distinguished Cabot family of Boston, and Hastiin Klah (1867 to 1937), the highly respected Navajo medicine man, collaborated in collecting and preserving important aspects of Navajo religious ceremonies at a time when many of the ceremonies were in danger of being lost. The building is designed in the style of a Navajo ceremonial hogan. The interior walls have carvings, panels, sandpaintings, and statuary that symbolize aspects of the Navajo religion. The lower levels are open upon request and used as research facilities. The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian is located at 704 Camino Lejo, Santa Fe, New Mexico (two miles SE of the Plaza).

Zía Pueblo – Over 600 years old, Zía Pueblo has two plazas, each with a kiva, surrounded by one- and two-story traditional dwellings of native rock surfaced with mud. Also located on the plazas is the church of Nuestra Señora de la Asunción, built in 1692 in the Spanish Colonial style. Zía is known for its pottery, redware with white slip, and its symbols, particularly the Sun Symbol, which appears on the state flag of New Mexico. Zía is a “living” pueblo and has been continuously occupied since the 13th century. Zía Pueblo is 16 miles northwest of Bernalillo, New Mexico, on NM 44.

Zuni Pueblo, NM-Edward S. Curtis, 1903

Zuni Pueblo, NM, by Edward S. Curtis, 1903.

Zuñi Pueblo – The Zuñi Pueblo occupies the site of Halona, one of six historic Zuñi pueblos in existence when the Spanish entered New Mexico in 1539. These were the pueblos, seen from afar, that had given credence to the Spanish legend of the seven gold Cities of Cíbola and led Coronado on his 1540 to 1542 expedition into the Southwest. Today the pueblo incorporates adobe house blocks, modern sandstone dwellings, plazas, hornos (outdoor baking ovens), traditional “waffle gardens,” named for their unique irrigation system, and corrals. Zuñi Pueblo is among the largest of the still inhabited or “living” pueblos in the United States. Zuñi Pueblo is on the Zuñi Indian Reservation, two miles north of Zuni, New Mexico, on NM 53.

©Kathy Alexander/Legends of America, updated September 2022.

Also See: 

The American Southwest

Ancient & Modern Pueblos – Oldest Cities in the U.S.

New Mexico – Land of Enchantment

Spanish Missions in New Mexico