Programs & Services

History of the New Mexico Museum of Art Building

May 1st, 2017

Built between April 1916 and November 1917, the Museum of Art is considered an adaption of traditional Hispanic and Pueblo Indian Architecture. The museum design incorporates elements from many historic buildings, most predominantly, the oldest surviving Mission church built in 1629 (pictured above), which still stands at Acoma Pueblo.

The design of the Museum of Art building can safely be called a group effort. The architect of record is Isaac Rapp and his firm. By all accounts, the architect showed a great deal of flexibility and accommodation of the concerns and ideas posited by the team assembled by Edgar Lee Hewett. 

Archaeologist Sylvanus Griswold Morley is credited with spotting a photo of a Colorado mining camp with a warehouse façade based on the Acoma Mission and recommending it to the group as a possible design prototype. Morley contacted the architect of the warehouse, Isaac Rapp, and asked him to make a watercolor of the mining camp warehouse façade to use in a display promoting a regional style of architecture.

At about that same time in 1915, Hewett was invited to be director of exhibits at the Panama California Exhibition in San Diego. Hewett asked Rapp to develop the Acoma-inspired warehouse to serve as the State of New Mexico’s pavilion at the San Diego exhibition.

The pavilion proved to be so popular in San Diego that it prompted the New Mexico State Legislature to approve it as the model for a new art museum in Santa Fe. The construction budget was $60,000. Half of the $60,000 came from the legislature and half from private sources. Attorney Frank Springer raised the funds just in time. The new art museum opened its doors to the public on Thanksgiving weekend in 1917.

# # #

NMMoA Centennial logo - Color Square

New Mexico CulturePass

Your ticket to 15 exceptional Museums and Historic Sites.
From Indian treasures to space exploration, world-class folk art to awesome dinosaurs—our museums and monuments celebrate the essence of New Mexico every day.
More Info »

Cultural Atlas of New Mexico Mobile App

Where do you belong?
The Cultural Atlas of New Mexico leads you to historic and cultural places throughout the Land of Enchantment. Organized by region, proximity and interest, the Cultural Atlas will help you find where you belong.

Get it on Google Play

Featured DCA Exhibitions

Setting the Standard: The Fred Harvey Company and Its Legacy

Will Rogers noted that Fred Harvey “kept the West in food—and wives.” But the company’s Harvey
more »

John P. Stapp Air & Space Park

Named after International Space Hall of Fame Inductee and aeromedical pioneer Dr. John P. Stapp, the Air and Space Park
more »

Voices of the Counterculture in the Southwest

At a time when concerts and gatherings on the West Coast gave birth to 1967’s infamous “Summer of
more »

Icons of Exploration

Showcases some of the Museum’s most celebrated objects including a real "moon rock," rare replicas of the first
more »