Paul Wei­de­man ex­plores the his­tory of the Roque Lo­bato House

Pasatiempo - - NEWS - Paul Wei­de­man

One of Santa Fe’s “in­vis­i­ble” his­toric homes is pro­filed in a new book by ar­chi­tec­tural his­to­rian Chris Wil­son and Oliver Horn, son of the house’s own­ers, Su­san and Karl L. Horn. The Roque Lo­bato House, Santa Fe, New Mex­ico (Schenck South­west Pub­lish­ing) ex­plores an 18th-cen­tury res­i­dence that is lo­cated across the street from the Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter, hid­den by trees, walls, and out­build­ings. The won­der­ful core build­ing, which dates to 1785, is ex­tant, as are ad­di­tions made in the early 20th cen­tury by Mu­seum of New Mex­ico ar­chae­ol­o­gist Syl­vanus G. Mor­ley.

But later changes — in­clud­ing the ad­di­tion of a hall­way cre­ated by walling off the rear half of the front (south-fac­ing) portál — re­sulted in the city jerk­ing the house’s his­toric sta­tus in the 1970s. Nev­er­the­less, it is a beauty, filled with his­tory. In fact, Wil­son ti­tles his chap­ter in the book “The Most His­toric House in Santa Fe.” He told Pasatiempo that he posed that “for con­sid­er­a­tion, know­ing there are other con­tenders.”

The book’s first chap­ter, by Oliver Horn, now in a doc­tor­ate pro­gram in diplo­matic his­tory at Ge­orge­town Uni­ver­sity, ex­am­ines the peo­ple who have owned this house and their links to sig­nif­i­cant events in the his­tory of Santa Fe and New Mex­ico. He writes that Roque Lo­bato was a sol­dier and ar­morer to the Royal Span­ish Gar­ri­son of Santa Fe, and was re­warded with a land grant for his life ser­vice to the Span­ish Crown on which he built the house that bears his name. In the late 18th and early 19th cen­turies, the house was im­me­di­ately ad­ja­cent to the main road into the city from the north and “stood firmly within the mil­i­tary com­plex” that guarded that ap­proach. It was within 200 feet of the Span­ish pre­sidio for­ti­fi­ca­tions to the south­west and was much closer to the small fort known as La Garita and to the Span­ish gar­ri­son’s gun­pow­der store­house, both to the north.

In the early 19th cen­tury, the house was pur­chased by Gas­par Or­tiz y Alarid. At dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods of his life, Don Gas­par was an aide to Gov. Manuel Ar­mijo, served as a county pro­bate judge, and ma­nip­u­lated Span­ish land grants as an as­so­ciate of the cor­rupt Santa Fe Ring. Other early own­ers of the house were José de Jesús Rivera, who was the son of Lo­bato’s neigh­bor José Pacheco; Mag­dalena Lucero de Or­tiz, widow of Don Gas­par; and Santa Fe at­tor­ney and poet Alois B. Rene­han. Mor­ley bought the house in 1910 and did an ex­ten­sive ren­o­va­tion. He is known for his cen­tral role in stag­ing the 1912 New-Old Santa Fe ex­hi­bi­tion at the Palace of the Gov­er­nors, and in de­vel­op­ing Santa Fe Style — an ar­chi­tec­tural de­scrip­tion syn­the­sized from a sur­vey of ex­ist­ing old houses in the town — as, ba­si­cally, a city brand.

The ear­li­est doc­u­men­ta­tion on the Roque Lo­bato House is from the 1850s. At that point, it was a U-shaped build­ing around a 16-foot-deep front portál, and most of the five or six rooms had doors onto the portál. By 1886, a rear court­yard had been added. Af­ter 1910, Mor­ley added a north wing that en­closed the court­yard at the east and a per­gola along its west side, then built portáles at the rear, in­cor­po­rat­ing an an­cient, won­der­fully carved beam and cor­bels.

It is known that Mor­ley har­vested those carved wood­work el­e­ments from a home on Ar­royo Teno­rio, but they are much older than that house. Wil­son be­lieves they may have been made for one of the court­yard portáles of the 17th-cen­tury Fran­cis­can parish church, the par­ro­quia , that stood where the Cathe­dral Basil­ica of St. Fran­cis of As­sisi is to­day. “One of the gen­er­al­i­ties is that the mis­sions were built dur­ing a heroic era of mission build­ing from, say, 1620 to 1650 or so, and some of the wood­work from that era is quite or­nate,” Wil­son said.

In his chap­ter, Wil­son looks at the house in the con­text of Santa Fe’s ar­chi­tec­tural his­tory. He be­lieves that Mor­ley may have trans­planted to this area some of the ideas of the So­ci­ety for the Preser­va­tion of New Eng­land An­tiq­ui­ties in Bos­ton. “There is ev­i­dence of some cor­re­spon­dence in ar­ti­cles writ­ten about the preser­va­tion move­ment that make it pretty clear that the folks in Santa Fe, Charleston, and Bos­ton are very much aware of each other and what they’re do­ing by 1912-1913.” Also, Mor­ley had been at Har­vard and SPNEA was a Har­vard-as­so­ci­ated group, Wil­son said.

He writes that Mor­ley re­ferred to Crafts­man pat­tern books in his remodel. “There was a prac­tice in those days of pub­lish­ing mono­graphs on cer­tain his­toric eras — they could be on ar­chi­tec­ture or land­scape ar­chi­tec­ture or fur­ni­ture de­sign — and that was in­ter­wo­ven with the devel­op­ment of his­tor­i­cal re­vival styles. Then there was the pre­mier in­flu­en­tial mag­a­zine of that move­ment, The Crafts­man , pub­lished by Gus­tav Stickley, and his mag­a­zine would have had ar­ti­cles about his­toric build­ings and fur­ni­ture and plans for the con­struc­tion of Crafts­man fur­ni­ture.

“One of the won­der­ful things is that the house’s owner, Karl Horn, is a his­tory afi­cionado and an in­tel­li­gent au­to­di­dact,” Wil­son said, “and he has put to­gether a re­mark­able col­lec­tion of art, in­clud­ing pieces by [artist, builder, and fur­ni­ture maker] Wil­liam Pen­hal­low Hen­der­son. The public rooms there are as good a pe­riod house mu­seum as you could have for the birth of Santa Fe Style ar­chi­tec­ture and fur­ni­ture. In a way, what’s go­ing on is that Mor­ley’s work­ing on re­fin­ing a re­gional re­vival style for Santa Fe and try­ing to dis­tin­guish it from the Cal­i­for­nia Mission Re­vival style. Then, in the 1920s, you find Hen­der­son and [Mu­seum of New Mex­ico ar­chae­ol­o­gist and well-known pho­tog­ra­pher] Jesse Nus­baum mak­ing a much more de­fin­i­tive New Mex­i­can vari­ant of the re­vival style.”

Among the chief traits of that vari­ant, known as Span­ish Pue­blo Re­vival style, are brown adobe (or adobe-look) houses with flat roofs, vi­gas pro­ject­ing through the front, and long portáles. The Ter­ri­to­rial Re­vival style, de­vel­oped by ar­chi­tect John Gaw Meem in the 1930s, ba­si­cally added to that pal­ette more for­mal, Greek Re­vival-style de­tails such as whitepainted wood­work with ped­i­mented lin­tels over win­dows, sharper cor­ners, and brick cop­ing along rooflines. The Lo­bato House to­day has a brick den­til

course atop a thick para­pet over the front portál. How­ever, old pho­to­graphs of the house show a very shal­low roof and no brick.

“That para­pet or fire­wall ac­tu­ally may have been taller his­tor­i­cally, but Mor­ley gets the house af­ter 25 to 40 years of ne­glect, of rain dis­solv­ing the adobe para­pets,” Wil­son said. Mor­ley did sub­stan­tial struc­tural work, in­clud­ing beef­ing up that portál roof. The cop­ing was added in the 1960s.

“I wanted to take that off, but it was so in­te­gral,” Karl Horn said. “So many houses here have brick caps that were put on that were not his­toric to the build­ings. But I also think a house grows by ac­cre­tion, and if it’s valid, we can leave it in place.”

Af­ter buy­ing the house in 2004, Karl and Su­san Horn spent their first few years try­ing to un­der­stand its evo­lu­tion. They then un­der­took a restora­tion, although they had no un­al­tered Span­ish colo­nial homes in Santa Fe to act as guide for an 18th-cen­tu­rystyle restora­tion. Santa Fe ar­chi­tect Craig Hoopes as­sisted them with the project and worked with Wil­son to draw sim­ple floor plans for the book; they show the evo­lu­tion of the house’s foot­print from 1850, 1912, 1982, and 2010.

Wil­son spoke of a de­bate of long stand­ing in his­toric preser­va­tion: scrape ver­sus anti-scrape. “The scrape camp prefers to re­move the more re­cent lay­ers from a build­ing to re­turn it to an (of­ten imag­i­nary) his­tor­i­cal peak. Such anti-scrape pro­po­nents as John Ruskin and Wil­liam Mor­ris, to the con­trary, felt that it’s nat­u­ral for build­ings to change with time and that, in fact, the lay­ers and patina are the rich­ness of the story of the build­ing. For them, to scrape off the lay­ers and do a fan­tasy restora­tion is a des­e­cra­tion.”

In the fi­nal chap­ter, Karl Horn writes in de­tail about the house and the changes made by the pre­vi­ous and cur­rent own­ers. The Horn ren­o­va­tion in­cluded adobe re­pair, re­plac­ing the south-portál win­dows, and cre­at­ing a beau­ti­ful li­brary from a for­mer mas­terbed­room space. The work was of­ten done in honor of the Arts and Crafts aes­thetic Mor­ley brought to his 1910 ren­o­va­tion.

“We took out some things that had been done in the 1970s. For ex­am­ple, a cou­ple of ceil­ings had been low­ered, and we re­stored those. The book­shelves in the li­brary were made for us by Ser­gio Tapia, sort of in the fash­ion of Wil­liam Pen­hal­low Hen­der­son.” Tapia also cre­ated doors for a new ala­cena (a cup­board inset into an adobe wall) made to pro­vide stor­age for a desk, and in the process of con­struct­ing it, he and the Horns dis­cov­ered that there had been one in that spot be­fore. “There were many cir­cum­stances like that,” Su­san Horn said. “An­other was that there was no door at the east end of the front hall­way, and when we put one in, we found there had been one be­fore. Things al­ways just worked out well.”

Many spa­ces were changed, for use­ful­ness. “I said to Karl, it has to func­tion per­fectly as a house or it doesn’t make sense.” In the southeast bed­room, there was a wall that came too far into the room, mak­ing the fogón (cor­ner fire­place) look mis­shapen. “Work to cor­rect that un­cov­ered an orig­i­nal adobe wall, and we left the dirt sur­face show­ing. We tried to cap­ture the mood of Syl­vanus Mor­ley in the en­tire house,” she said. “Our idea was that we will save any­thing that’s his­toric, but there has been so much time and so many own­ers.”

The Horns and Wil­son lament the fact that, be­cause of the changes made to the house over the past sev­eral decades, it is not deemed his­tor­i­cally per­ti­nent by the city. Karl Horn looks back to 19th-cen­tury art critic John Ruskin, who said a build­ing’s his­tor­i­cal value “was not in its stone and mor­tar but rather in its abil­ity to bear wit­ness to the pass­ing waves of hu­man­ity.”

Wil­son spoke of a de­bate of long stand­ing in his­toric preser­va­tion: scrape ver­sus anti-scrape. “The scrape camp prefers to re­move the more re­cent lay­ers from a build­ing to re­turn it to an (of­ten imag­i­nary) his­tor­i­cal peak. Such anti-scrape pro­po­nents as John Ruskin and Wil­liam Mor­ris, to the con­trary, felt that it’s nat­u­ral for build­ings to change with time and that, in fact, the lay­ers and patina are the rich­ness of the story of the build­ing. For them, to scrape off the lay­ers and do a fan­tasy restora­tion is a des­e­cra­tion.”

Karl Horn val­ues the city’s his­toric preser­va­tion di­vi­sion and its His­toric Dis­tricts Re­view Board that rules on such mat­ters. “I re­ally be­lieve they need to be there, and I sup­port what they do, but this house has such an in­cred­i­ble his­toric back­ground to it. It’s piv­otal to Santa Fe Style. I don’t know if they’ve ever reversed a de­ci­sion.”

David Rasch, his­toric preser­va­tion of­fi­cer for the city, said that is en­tirely pos­si­ble. “The fact is, the build­ing is listed as non­con­tribut­ing be­cause non­his­toric al­ter­ations ap­par­ently have over­whelmed the his­toric build­ing,” he said. But any al­ter­ations dat­ing to 1965 or older — the 50-year limit of what the city con­sid­ers “his­toric” — could now qual­ify as his­toric. And it is also con­ceiv­able that the board could visit the house and reeval­u­ate the for­mer de­ci­sion that a few more mod­ern changes have “over­whelmed” its his­toric value to Santa Fe.

Syl­vanus Mor­ley and his daugh­ter, Vir­ginia, on the front portál of the Roque Lo­bato House, 1910-1912; right, the house be­fore the 1910 restora­tion; above, carved cor­bel, pos­si­bly dat­ing to the 1600s; op­po­site page, above, Lo­bato House, Santa Fe , wa­ter­color on pa­per, by Peter Mo­ran, circa 1880-1883; images cour­tesy Schenck South­west Pub­lish­ing

The Scot­tish Rite Cen­ter looms up be­hind the house’s rear court­yard, photo by Robert Reck; top, the front of the house

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