New Mexico Historic Preservation Division | New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs

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New Mexico Historic Preservation Division

Dynamic Events and Unfolding Stories told at New Mexico’s National Historic Landmarks

Quarai Ruin is a National Historic Landmark and one of three mission pueblos in the Salinas Valley. It was a Tiwa-speaking pueblo colonized by Spaniards who built a majestic mission church and made it an important religious center. Photo: Pilar Cannizzaro.

New Mexico has thousands of cultural sites and 46 of them are of such exceptional value to the nation’s heritage that they were designated National Historic Landmarks (NHLs) by the Secretary of the Interior. They are managed by the National Park Service, which celebrated its centennial in 2016.

Among the first announced in the October 1960 launch of the NHL program were the pueblos of Acoma, Pecos, and Hawikuh — a ruin at Zuni — along with the Erie Canal in New York, Santa Barbara Mission in California, and the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Histories of New Mexico’s 46 NHLs are kept with the official records of the Historic Preservation Division in the Department of Cultural Affairs. They were encapsulated for the new Cultural Atlas of New Mexico. (Read more about this new app on page 2.) Visiting them digitally, you start to experience the diversity of New Mexico’s history. But step away from your device to experience first-hand where history was made.

Some NHLs are part of our daily lives, such as the plazas at Santa Fe and Mesilla. Others are associated with notable people — the Georgia O’Keeffe Home and Studio in Abiquiú and the Mabel Dodge Luhan House in Taos. The Lincoln Historic District is as much about folklore surrounding some of its more notorious citizens and politics as it is about preserved adobe buildings. While all of them are good cause for a road trip, here are three off the beaten path that tell stories unique to New Mexico but of consequence to the nation and, in one case, the planet.

Seton Village

Ernest Thompson Seton, Boy Scout co-founder and author of Wild Animals I Have Known and The Boy Scout Handbook, built a 32-room “castle” within view of the Rocky Mountains’ southern terminus or the beginning of their ascent north to British Colombia, depending on how you look at it. It was an eccentric amalgamation of Tudor and Spanish Pueblo styles complete with a tower and grand rooms that housed his library of first-edition books and extensive collections of paintings and ceramics. Seton hand-painted carved doors and decorative trim. He tacked on small rooms seemingly at whim when he needed more space. Begun in 1933, over time the castle reached 6,900 square feet. It burned to the ground in 2005 during a restoration by the Academy for the Love of Learning. Its stone walls have been stabilized by the Academy to form a meditative garden that gives the public a chance to ponder what once stood here. Designated in 1965, it is seven miles south of Santa Fe.

Trinity Site

At dawn on July 16, 1945, the course of history was altered when the first atomic bomb was exploded in the New Mexico desert. Witnesses were stupefied by the blast. Three weeks later a second was dropped on Hiroshima and a third on Nagasaki on August 9, ending World War II and ushering in the Cold War. Trinity Site is on a barren stretch of the infamous Jornada del Muerto where travelers in wagons and on foot risked death taking the waterless shortcut on the Camino Real. It can be visited only on the first Saturdays of April and October with guided tours leaving from Stallion Gate. Trinity Site was named an NHL in 1965. Located 10 miles south of Socorro, travelers can experience the desolation of the site by stopping to read the roadside historic marker on U.S. Hwy 380, the road to Stallion Gate.

Quarai Mission

Quarai is one of the three Spanish missions comprising the Salinas Pueblos National Monument west of Mountainair and near the eastern slopes of the Manzano Mountains. Its majestic stone ruins rival those of Chaco Canyon and evoke awe among visitors surprised to find buildings of this stature in a remote location. Quarai was an important ecclesiastical post during the mid-1600s. It was the northern headquarters of the Holy Office of the Inquisition based in Mexico City during the Catholic Church’s persecution of Jews, sorcerers, and people who did not conform to its teachings. Quarai was a Tiwa-speaking pueblo from 1250–ca. 1400 and resettled 200 years later before the Spanish arrived. The 40-foot tall church had six-foot thick walls and was part of a complex of kivas, plazas, and homes. The pueblos of Abo and Gran Quivera complete the trilogy of stone-built pueblos and mission churches. Gran Quivera is the only one built of limestone, giving it a blue-grey cast in just the right light. All three are on the Salt Missions Trail Scenic Byway and can be toured in one day. Quarai was designated an NHL in 1962.

New Mexico Historic Preservation Division
407 Galisteo St #236, Santa Fe
505-827-6320 |

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