A se­cret lit­tle hide­away


Back when Gar­cia Street was but a dusty lane on the edge of town, where goats and chick­ens roamed with im­punity, a wealthy lawyer and for­mer suf­fragette named An­nWeb­ster came to Santa Fe. It was about 1930 andWeb­ster had es­caped Chicago to re­gain her res­pi­ra­tory health, like many north­ern ur­ban­ites at the time, in sunny New Mexico.

Once re­cov­ered, Web­ster be­gan to en­vi­sion a rea­son­ably priced com­mu­nity for artists, writ­ers and sin­gle women seek­ing quiet and in­spi­ra­tion. In 1932, she bought a hilly tract at 634 Gar­cia Street and be­gan con­struc­tion on about 25 large and small adobe res­i­dences and stu­dios sep­a­rated by pa­tios, plac­itas and jar­dines. Mem­bers of the Gar­cia fam­ily who had sold her the land were hired to build the com­pound, pro­vid­ing valu­able jobs dur­ing the Great De­pres­sion.

Santa Fe, es­pe­cially its East­side, has a rep­u­ta­tion for such com­pounds. Some were de­vel­oped by the mem­bers of His­panic fam­i­lies who added dwellings as needed, while oth­ers were made from scratch by An­g­los newly ar­rived from else­where. TheWeb­ster com­pound is among the old­est and largest in Santa Fe.

“Our unit was a bit seedy at the time, but it was ex­actly what we were look­ing for,” says John Sayler, who pur­chased a one-bed­room, 800-square-foot unit with his wife in 1983. “It is such a se­cret lit­tle hide­away.” The Saylers later bought two more units, and all three open onto a pri­vate placita. Caro­line Sayler wrote “TheWeb­ster Com­pound,” which was a valu­able source for this ar­ti­cle.

Among celebrity res­i­dents was Nor­we­gian ad­ven­turer Thor Hey­er­dahl, who wrote Kon-Tiki while re­port­edly stay­ing in #11, aka the Round­house, in the late 1940s. And then there was the na­tive and some­what no­to­ri­ous New Mex­i­can Betty Stewart, who later built unique homes in the area. Early on, the story goes, Stewart held such wild par­ties at the com­pound that guests could be found sleep­ing in the park­ing area the next morn­ing.

Oth­ers were highly pro­tec­tive of the com­pound. Af­ter An­nWeb­ster be­queathed her own spa­cious home to the League ofWomen Vot­ers, the League un­wit­tingly of­fered to sell it to theArthur Mur­ray Dance Stu­dio. Imag­in­ing an in­flux of dancers learn­ing the polka and fox­trot, the res­i­dents had a fit. Once the mat­ter went to the City Coun­cil, the League’s plans were nixed.

Santa Fe na­tive and li­censed con­trac­tor Ed Crocker cred­its the com­pound with pro­vid­ing his first con­tact with adobe. As a child, he shared tiny #8 with his par­ents and older sis­ter— in his ac­count, “Gar­cia Street: Ad­ven­tures in Adobe,” he de­scribes “an adobe com­pound, in the clas­sic Santa Fe sense. The units sprawled away from the street, ac­ces­si­ble by a nar­row, dirt drive­way. Some of the apart­ments had been con­verted from goat pens for hu­man use.

While many if not all of the res­i­dences — and goat pens— have been bought, sold, re­mod­eled, com­bined and ex­panded nu­mer­ous times in the past 83 years, the spirit and beauty of An­nWeb­ster’s legacy clearly live on. Ad­mired for her gen­eros­ity and kind­ness, she died in 1942 at the age of 64.

Re­becca Clay is a Re­al­tor with Evolve Santa Fe Real Es­tate. She can be reached at 505-629-6043 or re­becca@evolvesantafe. com.

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