Historic Sites in 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.

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 of the 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 to be 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.

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 c. 1610 when it was established by Don Pedro de Peralta. 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 San Miguel Mission, a noted landmark c. 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 Aves. 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 and 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, Martyer’s, La Placacitas and Ranchitos sts. in Taos, New Mexico.

Taos Pueblo and River

Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. Kathy Weiser-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. The pueblo was first visited by Europeans 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 centers of trade 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 the role it has played 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 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 from the 13th century. Zía Pueblo is 16 miles northwest of Bernalillo, New Mexico, on NM 44.

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 which had 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.

Compiled and edited by Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February 2019.

Also See: 

The American Southwest

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

New Mexico Main Page

Spanish Missions in New Mexico


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