History of la Hacienda de los Martinez
More history and information about the Hacienda
La Hacienda de los Martinez is one of the few remaining northern New Mexico late Spanish Colonial period “Great Houses” (casas mayor) in the American Southwest.
Built in 1804 by don Severino Martinez & family, this fortress-like building with its massive adobe walls, located along the Rio Pueblo, 2 miles s.w. of the Taos Plaza, became not only the Martinez family home, but also an important trade center. During the late Spanish Colonial period, it was the last stop above the terminus of El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, or “Royal Road of the Interior Land.”
Moving from Abiquiu, NM, in 1803, don Severino Martinez (formerly Martin) and his wife Maria del Carmel Santistevan Martinez raised six children in the Hacienda.
The eldest Martinez son was the famous Padre Antonio Martinez who battled the French Bishop Lamy to preserve the Hispanic character of the Catholic Church in the territory.
Padre Martinez was also a dynamic social reformer who created the first co-educational school in New Mexico and brought the first printing press to Taos.
In addition to his merchant and trade activities, Severino Martinez was also the Alcalde (mayor) of Taos and managed the family’s extensive ranching and farming operations on their original five square miles of land.
After Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821, trade with the north opened. As a result, Severino Martinez and his family became active in trading with the Americans who were bringing badly needed trade goods in by the Santa Fe Trail.
Today the restored Hacienda’s twenty-one rooms surrounding two interior courtyards provide the visitor with a rare glimpse of the rugged frontier life and times of the early 1800s.
The Hacienda measures approx 95X200ft. Walls are 2 foot thick adobe block, exteriors covered with traditional mud plaster. Interior walls are white washed with tierra blanca (micaceous clay and wheat paste). There are 21 rooms in the floorplan. The front courtyard (placita) is surrounded by the main living areas and the rear courtyard is restored to display various crafts and arts of Spanish Colonial times of the early 1800s.
17. SANTOS DISPLAY ROOM
Collection of northern New Mexican santos (painted boards or sculptures of the saints) and other religious items. The deep faith of the Hispanic people is said to have sustained their ability to survive the rigors of this Spanish Colonial frontier. Daily life was easier to accept if there was some way to counterbalance and understand the hardships and chaos that were inherent to frontier life--these powerful figures helped fulfill that role in the lives of the people.
16. WEAVING ROOM
Looms and the weaving of churro wool were fundamental to the economic survival of New Mexico as woolen goods provided the most important trade goods that could be sent to
Chihuahua in exchange for the sorely needed manufactured goods and a few luxury items. The production of sheep and the processing and manufacturing of woolen goods employed the majority of the people in the area.
6. LA COCINA
This busy kitchen would have had to feed hungry family members, servants and visiting traders that could number from 15 to 30 or more people. The ‘shepherd’s fireplace’ is a remarkable construction as the lower level was to be used along its entire length for cooking. Coals from a large fire in the main chimney area would have been scooped up and placed under the cooking pots, the smoke being drawn along the bottom of the platform and into the flue. The deck provided a warm place to sleep on those cold Taos winter nights. Herbs and dried foods were both processed and stored in this room as well.
14. FURNACE and UTILITY ROOM
Most of the original structure at the rear courtyard was in ruin prior to restoration. Part of the area may have served to house livestock. A small fragment of the original wall can be seen in Rooms 16 and 17. As such, the original use of this room and some of the others in the rear courtyard are not known as this part of the Hacienda was reconstructed based on archaeology. (Today the Hacienda has radiant heat in the mud floors powered by the boiler system. )
7. LA DISPENSA
This room was originally used as a large refrigerator. The thick adobe walls maintain a constant cool temperature. The small window near the ceiling was opened to vent out excess heat. When this portion of the home was constructed there would have been only a single small door to the room. At some point after Severino’s death the double door facing the courtyard was added. (The doorway to the next room was constructed during the restoration of the building to allow for more access to the Sala Grande).
8. SALA GRANDE
The hand adzed floor, which was the only wooden floor in the Hacienda, was especially made for fandangos (Spanish dance parties). Community and political meetings also were held in this room.
9.10. & 11. Museum Offices
These three rooms were probably used by Severino’s sons and daughters when they became adults and needed their own accommodations. (Today they serve as a storage area, a modern kitchen for Museum events and a staff bathroom.)
This is one of the first four rooms constructed in 1804 and may have originally
supported a second story watchtower (torreon) as defense against possible attack from plains tribes such as Comanche and Apache. The ground level room was used for
storage. The front door entrance would not have been part of the original construction.
THE REAR PLACITA
The rear placita was connected through an arched passageway, which also may have also served as a meat drying area. The rooms surrounding the back placita were used as housing for the servants, storage facilities, and work areas. Servants produced various trade (i.e. socks, blankets, jergas or rugs, etc .). Some of these rooms may have not been enclosed and were probably used to keep livestock.
18. BLACKSMITH’S SHOP
Iron was a rare and precious commodity in frontier Taos. So much so that Severino Martinez accounted in his will for every nail and bit of iron he owned. Since he didn’t mention any blacksmithing tools indicates to us that there was no blacksmith shop until possibly sometime later after Severino’s death (1827) when his son, Pasquel, took over the family ranch and business.
19. & 20. SERVANTS’ QUARTERS
These two rooms would have housed Martinez family’s servants. During the archaeological excavations of the rear placita a fireplace was found here. This room now displays horse tack, leather working and ox farming equipment. From Severino’s will we also know that he owned large herds of horses and oxen that he used to work the extensive ranching and farming operation that also was centered at the Hacienda.
21. MOUNTAIN MAN ROOM
Taos was a major trade center during the 1800s and mountain men were an integral part of that activity.
The room displays Mountain Man and Military aspects of early New Mexico: traps, furs and rifles.
The granary has three large bins for the storage of grains. Food storage and production were essential to survival and constituted a daily pursuit. Summer harvests provided food that would have to last throughout the long cold winters. The large bins, which may have been much deeper originally, would have been used to store wheat, corn and barley.
5. TRADE ROOM
In the earlier years, due to Spanish rule, most of Martinez’ merchandise was imported from Chihuahua, Mexico. After 1821, when Mexico gained her independence, more trade routes were opened north and south. During the years that followed, more variety of goods were displayed and sold/bartered here. The Hacienda was a commercial hub and possibly the first year-round mercantile operation for the Taos Valley. Local products from the surrounding area were bartered for imported trade goods (iron, cloth, tools, or that special hat). While specific functions have been assigned to the various rooms, quite likely every room served at least in part for storage, thus helping to explain the eleven-foot ceilings throughout the structure !
The primary living area for the Martinez family. The sala would have served as a living room, dining room, classroom and even bedroom for the family. Furniture was at a premium on the Spanish frontier in the early 1800s, thus the sparse look of the room. All timber had to be cut, hauled and adzed into usable lumber with only minimal hand tools. The large chests are made from single boards, some over 16” across. Imagine the work that went into just making the boards!
This small room may have served as Severino’s and Maria’s bedroom. The fireplace is unique in the house for both its shape and location in the middle of a wall compared to the more typical corner position.
Personal altars like the one were common to every home. For these early settlers, their religion was a matter of daily life and is said to have provided the necessary spiritual strength to endure the hardships of rugged frontier life.
13. VISITOR’S CENTER - Reception/Gift Shop
Also part of the original 1804 home, this room was used as a living area and sleeping quarters for family members when they first came to Taos (before the Hacienda was expanded).
More history and information about the Hacienda
More History of the Martinez Hacienda
Throughout the 1700s New Mexico had suffered from continuous Comanche raiding. The economy was at a standstill and the province was in danger of collapsing. In 1786 a permanent peace was established with the Comanche and the once threatened province began to flourish and assume a new and unique Hispanic identity within the Spanish Empire. The citizens of New Mexico began to express a new entrepreneurial spirit not based on the old Spanish class system but centered more on individual achievement. Among these emerging vecinos (citizens) was don Severino Martinez.
In 1803 Severino Martinez came to Taos and purchased 66 varas of land (a vara is roughly equivalent to a walking pace or 33 inches) along the Rio Pueblo that ran to the ridge top to the west. In the spring of 1804 he brought his wife, Maria del Carmel and their family from their home in Abiquiu to Taos.
The front four rooms (10,11,12,13) of the Hacienda were the humble beginnings of what would become an important commercial and political hub for the Taos Valley. By 1827, the year of Severino’s death, the Hacienda had grown to encompass 21 rooms enclosing two placitas, or courtyards.
The casa mayor (great or main house) now referred to as an hacienda, with its two-foot thick adobe construction and windowless exterior walls had been designed to serve as a refuge for family and neighbors against possible Indian raids (no attacks against the structure were ever recorded). Valuable livestock, particularly horses and mules, could have been driven through the heavy zaguan gates, into the protective placitas until such raids were over.
Much of Severino’s wealth came from his commercial trade ventures with Chihuahua, Mexico, and after 1821, with America over the Santa Fe Trail. Severino owned caravans of pack mules and horses that he used to transport raw and finished wool in the form of blankets, rugs, socks and clothing, as well as processed animal hides and other efectos del pais (products or goods of the land) on the arduous round trip journey to Chihuahua. On the return trip he brought back finished goods such as iron, cotton, silk, medicines, books, retablos, Majorca ceramics and numerous other manufactured wares to sell or barter to the local people.
In Severino’s later years he turned his attention toward politics, holding the important office of alcalde (mayor) for the Taos area under both Spanish and Mexican governments. After Severino’ s death the Hacienda was passed on to his younger son, Pascual Bailon, who further increased the family’s holdings and influence in the area. The eldest son, Antonio Jose, on the death of his young wife, became a priest and later emerged as the legendary spiritual and social leader of the northern Rio Grande area. B
oth Padre Martinez and his brother Pascual Bailon served in the New Mexico Legislature under both the Mexican and United States flags.
Until the mid-1930s, la Hacienda de los Martinez was occupied by the direct descendents of Severino. It then changed hands several times and continued to fall into further disrepair until 1961 when Jerome Milord and his family began an extensive reconstruction of the ruin. In 1972 the Museums acquired the building and three and one half acres of the original land from Milord.
Nearly ten years later, the Hacienda had been restored to its former eminence as a monument to the late Spanish Colonial era in northern New Mexico.
Working from Severino’s will, all attempts had been made during the restoration to keep the Hacienda as accurate to the 1820s time period as possible. Hand-adzed beams and floorboards , mud plaster and hand-forged door hardware are evidence of the skill and care that went into the restoration. Most of the floors are made of adobe mud and sealed with boiled linseed oil (traditionally, a mix of mud, ox blood and wood ash was used to make hard, non-dusting floors).
The roofs are supported by large vigas (beams) that are in turn covered with either rajas (split cedar boards) or latillas (aspen poles). On top of the sticks, layers of grasses, cattails, or chamiso (sage) were placed and 24 inches or more of earth piled on top as the final covering from the elements.
The shuttered window openings, which would have been considerably smaller than the current ones (based on more recent scholarship), would have been totally open or covered by oiled rawhide or the occasional sheet of mica.