The Guadalupe Loop

by SFAOL contributor Elaine Pinkerton

From her book "Santa Fe On Foot"


Distance: 2 miles

Time: 45 minutes

Major features: A historic but semi-abandoned railyard, examples of Spanish Mission architecture, the oldest still-standing church dedicated to La Virgen de Guadalupe, a striking multicultural mural, the city's oldest Catholic cemetery, several buildings with Historic Society of Santa Fe plaques, and a good workout.

THE GUADALUPE STREET DISTRICT, a remarkable pocket of Santa Fe, grew up in conjunction with the railroad activity of the late 1800s and early 1900s. For a while it sank into decay and deterioration, but over the past couple of decades it has enjoyed a commercial renaissance, with former residences, warehouses and flophouses being turned into boutiques, galleries, crafts shops, a theater, restaurants, a gourmet shop, and so on.

Today it is a most appealing district. In addition to all the new enterprises, it contains the Santuario de Guadalupe church, some buildings plaqued by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, echoes of the old "Chile Line" railway, and the sprawling rail-yard property itself-the last major open space in central Santa Fe, set for a large-scale renovation.

The Guadalupe walk is a gentle, flat, two-mile loop. Begin at the intersection of Guadalupe and Garfield streets, about half a mile southwest of the Plaza. The old-style Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway depot, now used for local train rides and freight, is set back from Guadalupe Street; and the brick-faced former Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway station, now a popular restaurant, is right on the street.

Before leaving the rail-yard area, take special note of the architecture, not only of the AT&SF depot but of several nearby homes and buildings on several side streets as well. This distinctive California Mission Style was used by the railway company throughout the Southwest, and is a unifying aspect of the Guadalupe Street area.

Directly across from the depots is another historic landmark. Now called University Plaza and housing stores and offices, the tall (by Santa Fe standards) three-story tan stucco building with a tin roof was an early "University of New Mexico." Like many ventures in the West after the Civil War, it grew out of vigorous church-related activity.

In 1880 a Rev. Horatio Ladd of the Congregationalist Church was sent to be head a certain Santa Fe Academy. He brought his family with him, but found Santa Fe to be grubby and unpleasant-"a rough Western mining region." A year after arriving he founded his own school, the so-called "University of New Mexico." Its declared purpose was to provide a Protestant Christian education to this benighted area and aid the Territory's moral development. The first classes, for 67 students, were in Ladd's home.

Enrollment grew, and in 1882 Ladd began constructing an impressive structure to house his university. It was a three-story red-brick building named Whitin Hall, after a wealthy donor. It contained classrooms and a 25-bed dormitory; but by the time it was completed in 1887, Ladd turned over the enterprise to another minister. The university struggled financially, and by 1893 it had become Santa Fe High School.

In the 1920s the building was the Franciscan Hotel. Later it served as St. Mary's Convent and eventually the Garfield Apartments, a notorious flophouse through the 1960s. The renovation and conversion to University Plaza took place in 1978.

Now head north on Guadalupe Street. Just beyond the railroad area you pass the former State Records Center for Archives. Though the archives themselves now are housed elsewhere, the old structure still is enhanced by a vividly painted multi-cultural mural, which is stunning to look at, both from across Guadalupe Street and then up-close after crossing the road to study the details. The topics in the almost-block-long mural represent the Native American, Hispanic and Anglo cultures, and much of New Mexico history.

Remember that this is a short walk, so you can feel free to linger. In the mural are medicine men, a bull, and a depiction of the coming of the railroad, as well as New Mexico's first European settlers, the corn goddess holding a test tube and a microscope, and a mysterious face looking in both directions. There is a fiesta scene, a deep gorge cut through the countryside, dramatizing the conflict between science and ecology. Whatever you think of the quality of this work, it is uniquely New Mexican.

Continue north on either side of Guadalupe. An impressive example of Spanish Mission architecture on the east side, until a few years ago a car-body shop and now a collection of shops. Within the same block on the west side is an old stone warehouse that now is a cooking-equipment store. Built in the 1880s, this is the oldest stone structure used for business purposes in the city.

Keep in mind that you're retracing the route of the Denver & Rio Grande Western Railway, nicknamed the "Chile Line" because it served New Mexico's agricultural heartland. Old photographs show the tracks going directly down the street. The narrow-gauge line was abandoned and the rails torn up shortly before World War II.

Continue north up Guadalupe and soon you reach the Santuario de Guadalupe on the left. At this spot on the south bank of the Santa Fe River are two churches nestled together. In the foreground is the ancient, restored adobe shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe; behind it is the modern Guadalupe Church, built in 1961.

The historic older church, which dates from about 1777, is regarded as the oldest extant building that honors the patroness saint of Mexico and much of Latin America. The church has been altered many times, and the present form resulted from a major mid-1970s restoration, when the church was in danger of decay and collapse. But efforts of the Guadalupe Historic Foundation, the shrine was returned to an 18th-century form.

Today the Santuario is used for dramatic, musical and artistic presentations as well as for religious services. Take time to go inside, look at the exhibits, and absorb the tranquil effects of the soft lighting and thick adobe walls. Dwell a bit upon the Santuario's past, its importance as a parish church, and its place near the end of the Camino Real, which connected Santa Fe with Chihuahua, Mexico. Admission is free; donations are accepted.

áAfter visiting the Santuario cross the bridge over the Santa Fe River. To the right, across the street from the church, is DeVargas Park. It is the site of many community events, and not long ago added a skateboard area. With trees and tables, it's a good picnic spot. Then cross Alameda Street and continue north on Guadalupe. Though there is often heavy traffic along this stretch, good sidewalks make walking easy and convenient.

Pass by the back of the Territorial-style Hilton Hotel and an interesting mix of local businesses. Soon you will reach Paseo de Peralta, a broad intersection with traffic lights. To the north across the four-lane Paseo you'll see the DeVargas Shopping Center and the fascinating Rosario Chapel and cemetery. Wandering through this sprawling Catholic cemetery gives fascinating insight into the life and times of old (and modern) Santa Fe. This is well worth a meandering detour from the main walk. But now let's return to it.

Turn right and walk east (toward the Sangre de Cristo Mountains) along the Paseo. When you reach the juncture with Griffin Street, which has a traffic light to help you cross, turn right and head south. You'll pass the Santa Fe Judicial Complex, one of many examples of downtown urban renewal. Formerly a junior high school, it was renovated into a collection of courtrooms in the 1970s. Other nearby examples include the Sweeney Convention Center, a former gymnasium, and City Hall, formerly Santa Fe High School.

After just a couple of blocks, you reach the Y intersection or Griffin and Grant streets. In the fork of it is the large, attractive, pueblo-style First Presbyterian Church. This is the oldest Protestant church in New Mexico.

On the right, as Griffin melds into Grant, is the Pinckney R. Tully House, built in 1851 and restored in 1974 by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation. Its bright red faux-brick fašade represents a style that enjoyed great popularity in the 1890s and was an attempt to make Santa Fe adobes look more "American."

The long, low former home contains 10 rooms. It was built by Pinckney Tully, the son of a French-Canadian trader. It has served as home for several prominent Santa Feans, and has also been used for apartments. In recent years it has housed a law firm and now a boutique-reflecting the gentrification of Santa Fe in recent years.

Now cross Grant Avenue to the A. M. Bergere House, also plaqued by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, the former home of Alfred Maurice Bergere, for whom it is named. It is a stately, two-story, balconied edifice set back amid large trees and a lush lawn. Built in the 1870s for officers' quarters, the Bergere House was part of the Fort Marcy military reservation. Of six houses built in this neighborhood for such purposes, it is one of two still extant. (The other is the Hewitt House, behind the Museum of Fine Arts.)

Bergere, an Englishman of Italian ancestry, occupied the house after the U.S. Army abandoned Fort Marcy. After many renovations, the house is now an office building.

Continue walking south on Grant Avenue, and note the striking building at the corner of Johnson Street. Now a bed-and-breakfast inn, this stately brick home was built by a ranching family, the Windsors, around 1903. Later it was lived in by a Judge Robinson.

The next block along Grant is filled by the pueblo-style Santa Fe County Courthouse. Grant ends at a main thoroughfare, where Palace Avenue becomes Sandoval Street. Turn right here. An ample sidewalk around the heavily trafficked left-hand curve will take you back to another crossing of the Santa Fe River.

A block before the river, at the southwest corner of Sandoval and West San Francisco, you pass a Territorial-style commercial building, dating from the 1700s, which used to be part of the Ortiz family estate. It's now part of the Hilton Hotel complex.

Continuing south, you pass once more through DeVargas Park. Continue on Sandoval to Montezuma Avenue. Turn right on Montezuma and take it one block back to Guadalupe, cross the street, and you will once more be back at the railroad yards-and, presumably, your car or the person who was assigned to pick you up after this stimulating walk.

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