Visiting Mabeltown

That’s what D.H. Lawrence dubbed Taos when Mabel Dodge Luhan invited him to visit.  And he had good reason.  During the 20’s, this rich Eastern salonista had a steady stream of visitors such as Greta Garbo, Willa Cather (!!!) Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe and Carl Jung.  (He must have been a barrel of laughs during cocktails.)  Her home is now a lovely bed & breakfast.  One interesting owner following her death was Dennis Hopper, who filmed Easy Rider here and in Las Vegas, NM, as well as other parts of New Mexico.  It was the coziest place.  Next time, we stay there, maybe in Greta Garbo’s room.

Mabel was gifted at identifying budding artists and writers, and encouraged many of them to come to Taos and meet each other.  She was right on the heels of two Eastern artists, Bert Geer Phillips (of Hudson, New York) and his friend Ernest Blumenschein who had to stop at Taos when their wagon wheel broke outside of town in the summer of 1898.  They loved it and stayed to found the Taos Society of Artists in 1915.  Following them in the 60’s – the hippies and communal life, with all the related ideologies.  The result: Taos of today, all about art, organic food, alternative energy, yoga, spirituality and skiing.

We were surprised to see how heavy the traffic is in the middle of town.  Someone patiently explained to us that’s because there is only one main road here, but I think this town really needs a ring road.  We found it treacherous and noisy, and this is the off-season.  At any rate, it is a pretty town and its five block center is easily walkable.

We started our day in Las Vegas and the drive (the scenic one, of course) was spectacular.  Before going into Taos, we stopped at Rancho de Taos, to see the famous church of St. Francisco de Asis, which has been painted by just about everyone passing through Taos, including our friend Georgia.  It’s lovely inside, too.

We got to town in time for lunch at the Taos Inn, which was very pretty. Another place to consider staying next time. Yes, I always forget to photograph the food till we’re half-way done.

Next we went museum-crazy, starting with Kit Carson’s home.  That famous frontiersman had a nice long life with his third wife in Taos.

Then it was off to find the home of Bert Geer Phillips, which turns out to now be the gallery of another painter.  We saw the studio itself from the inside and out, and enjoyed thinking of Bert, so far  from New York.

His partner’s house was a full museum.  No photos allowed – but it was a lovely home.

The Harwood Museum was the home of a painter and photographer whose family money allowed him to enjoy his artistic passions and encourage others.

The Fechin Art Museum was the home and studio of a Russian painter, Nicolai Fechin.  (See self-portrait of brooding Russian.) He was also a woodworker, who built and created all the wood trim and furniture in the house.  Unfortunately, his wife kicked him out just after he finished, but his work lives on in his house, now the Taos Art Museum.

Our last museum was La Hacienda de los Martinez, built in 1804.  The home consists of 21 rooms built around two courtyards.  It looks very simple, but it was quite an important home in its time.

And then, on to our hotel, the most over-the-top thing in Taos, I suspect.  El Monte Sagrado is a bit outrageous compared to our average home-away-from-home.  It’s so camp, we just had to share.  We are rolling our eyes, but do know that when we go to bed tonight, the fireplace will be on the timer to lull us to sleep.  Buenos noches.

6 thoughts on “Visiting Mabeltown

  1. What IS that thing over the fireplace?
    At first glance, I thought you two had been hosting a wild party and a female guest had cast off her scanties in one of the more excitable moments.Whatever it is, you’ve bagged a great addition to your Hotel Art Collection.
    Didn’t know that Lawrence named Taos Mable Town. We always remember it as Tofu Town ‘cos that’s where we introduced to the ‘delights’ of the…er….stuff.
    As they say, you never forget the first time.

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    • You give us more credit than we deserve regarding our evening hours. That lovely is a modern effigy of a long-horned bull, done in turquoise mosaic. It went nicely with the cows that died to decorate that room, and the antlers over the too-chic bathroom sink. The sink had one of those faucets that should have come with a personal engineer (Joe, are you listening?) to tell you how to achieve hot or cold water and various degrees of pressure, without harming yourself and the room. Oh well, I’m sure the decorator was delighted with the overall effect.

      And re tofu, I have studiously avoided that first experience, so guess I am a tofu virgin. I will eagerly sign a pledge to remain one for many years to come.

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    • Indeed they should – and many do. One of his paintings hangs in the D.A.R museum, and the studio where he painted before leaving for Taos is still on Warren Street. Have fun researching!

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