Millicent Rogers’ Taos home available
TURTLE WALK, THE 72-ACRE MILLICENT ROGERS ESTATE IN TAOS, IS ON THE MARKET. The bucolic property— located near the historic Martinez Hacienda— was home to the heiress and fashion icon for the last five years of her life.
Rogers (1902-1953) came to Taos on the rebound from a failed romance with actor Clark Gable. Heiress to the Standard Oil fortune, she was married three times during her 20s and 30s. In 1924, she eloped with Count Ludwig Salm Von Hoogestraten of Vienna. The Salms were divorced three years later and she wed Argentine sportsman Arturo Peralto-Ramos. That marriage ended in Reno in 1935. Finally, she was married to Ronald Balcom, an American stockbroker, from 1936 to 1941.
Rogers first came to New Mexico in 1947 with actress Janet Gaynor and her costume-designer husband Adrian. The 2012 book Millicent Rogers: A Life in Full says they took the train from Los Angeles to Lamy and then motored through Santa Fe and on to the Pojoaque ranch of sculptor Alan Clark. Shewas soon lunching at the Taos home of Mabel Dodge Luhan.
The heiress was fascinated by New Mexico. In August 1948, after camping for two days in Jicarilla Apache country, witnessing a round dance and a foot race at close range, she wrote to a friend, “In Rome, in Paris, in the East I have seen strange lovely things that excited and delighted, me, but never, never anything which reached down inside and belonged to me as that camp did through every minute of the time spent there.”
She purchased an old four-room adobe on Lower Ranchitos and set to expanding and outfitting it. Some of the furnishings at Turtle Walk date to the early 1930s, when she and Peralta-Ramos lived in St. Anton, Austria, according to an article titled “The Inspiring Style of Millicent Rogers” in the April 2014 issue of Architectural Digest. Besides the Navajo rugs and the rustic doors and windows that she loved collecting in Northern New Mexico are her Biedermeier chairs, opaline lamps, crests on the garage and front gate that come from a Medici palace, and a massive bathtub.
This marble tub came from Florence and dates to 25 A.D., according to A Life in Full. After Rogers had it brought to Taos, she decided she did not want it in the house. It sat outside for nearly half a century until her daughter-in-law, Jacqueline Blanchard “Jackie” Peralta-Ramos, had it put in a guest bathroom.
After suffering from rheumatic fever as a child, Rogers was often ill; she died a month before her 51st birthday. Her collection of more than 600 pieces of Indian turquoise and silver jewelry, pottery, textiles, Hispanic arts and crafts, and other items is held by the Millicent Rogers Museum in nearby El Prado. The museum was established in 1956 by her son Paul Peralta-Ramos, who devoted himself to expanding her collection with Native American, Hispanic and Anglo arts from the American Southwest.
The house still holds Rogers’ extensive library of books. Her home is like a museum, architecturally, featuring very thick walls with bancos and other flowing shapes, various sorts of doorways, some with old doors that are two inches thick, and lots of painted details. Artist Dorothy Brett was a good friend and, while Rogers painstakingly mixed paints on the floor of the library, she painted colorful tribal motifs on the beams above.
Taos Pueblo artist Trinidad Archuleta painted frescos in the large, central courtyard, which boasts an old weeping willow in its center.
The property includes a main house of 7,020 square feet, a guest house of 1,275 square feet, a studio of 1,584 square feet, and several outbuildings.
“There was an existing, original structure but we don’t know where it is now in this house,” said Realtor David Fries. “Millicent did a lot of construction. Everything is adobe. It’s like a little city. They have their own nursery where they literally grow from seed the flowers they then put out everywhere. There are at least four full-time staffers.”
The property is still in the family. “It was left to Millicent’s son, Arturo [Peralta-Ramos Jr.], and his wife, Jackie,” Fries said. “Arturo passed in December and Jackie is still resident here and is selling.” Among the other interesting details are the library’s deep-set point- ed-arch windows and a floor made up of tree-trunk sections set in sealed earth; another floor of large rectangular concrete “tiles” with wooden dividers; plaster and latilla ceilings with vigas and beams; the master bedroom’s large, horizontal window designed to capture the expanse of Taos Mountain; and an outdoor swimming pool of organic shape.
The outside environment is extensive. The buildings are surrounded by beautiful, green fields and marshes with cattails and singing red-winged blackbirds. Trees are nourished by a flowing acequia and the parcel extends down to the Rio Lucero.
The Millicent Rogers home is listed by Jill Benjamin Blankenship, Aleka Moore, and David Fries, Sotheby’s International Realty, for $4.5 million.
Millicent Rogers from a family album