House of the spirits

In time, Sylvanus Griswold Morley would be known as the brilliant Mayanist who exca­vated Chichén Itzá and, controversially, as Agent 53, a scientist who used his Central Amer­ican fieldwork as a cover for spying on behalf of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War I.1 But in 1910 the young Harvard-trained archae­ologist whose interest in the ancient Southwest brought him to the New Mexico Territory in the summer of 1907, was about to leave his indelible mark on his adopted hometown of Santa Fe, whose low-slung, mud-brown silhouette owes much to his articulation of what he called the Santa Fe style and others more accurately term the "Spanish Pueblo revival." Morley helped accomplish this transformation through his recommendations to the first Santa Fe City Planning Board in 1912 and his vigorous renovation of the Roque Lobato house, work that served as a template for the restoration of Santa Fe's foremost landmark, the Palace of the Governors.

Three blocks north of Santa Fe's plaza, on what was once the town's defensive perimeter, the house Morley acquired in 1910 and lived in intermittently during the next decade was prob­ably built in 1785 by Roque Lobato, armorer to the Royal Garrison of Santa Fe, then an outpost of the Spanish crown. Documented by Chris Wil­son and Oliver Horn in their forthcoming book, The Roque Lobato House, the residence is one of Santa Fe's most significant.

Above: Fig. 3. The Lobato house, built c. 1785,  was typical for a well-to-do family of the late Spanish colonial era. Its original, U-shaped foot­print is mostly still intact.  The Territorial style brick coping was added sometime prior to 1965. Robert Reck photograph.

"It is absolutely central to two major currents of the history of the city," says Wilson, a professor of cultural landscape studies at the University of New Mexico, who locates twentieth-century Santa Fe within a national antiquarian movement in his groundbreaking book The Myth of Santa Fe: Creating a Modern Regional Tradition.2 As originally configured, the Lobato house-U-shaped with a south-facing portal, five or six rooms, and walls of adobe-was typical for a well-to-do family of the late Spanish colonial era, he says. As restored and remodeled by Morley between 1910 and 1912, it reflected Santa Fe's new historicist direction, its large public rooms and rear courtyard with attached pergola an indigenous expression of arts and crafts taste. Caught up in the era's antiquarian fever, Morley salvaged a beam, post, and corbel brackets from a house on nearby Arroyo TenorioStreet, incorporating the extravagantly carved seventeenth- or eighteenth-century architectural fragments into his new rear portal.

Today, the Lobato house belongs to Dr. Karl L. Horn and his wife, Susan, who, after purchasing the dwelling in 2004, restored it to Morley's era and now use it as their primary residence. The couple's deep interest in the house prompted them to delve into its past with their son, Oliver, a doctoral candidate in U.S. diplomatic history at Georgetown University.

Originally from Texas, Dr. Horn met his wife, who grew up in Indiana, in San Francisco, where he completed his medical training. He bought his first pieces of southwestern Indian pottery on childhood trips to New Mexico and, eager to return to the state, opened a practice in Albuquerque in 1985.

Soon after they settled in Albuquerque, the couple began working with Santa Fe dealer Nathaniel O. Owings to build a representative collection of New Mexican art and artifacts, from prehistory to the present. One of their first purchases was Madonna of the Junipers (Fig. 7), a vivid 1925 oil painting that is among the best works by William Penhallow Hen­derson, who, with his wife, the poet, writer and critic Alice Corbin, was a prominent member of Santa Fe's early twentieth-century art colony.

Massachusetts-born and Boston-trained, Hender­son was an established painter and an instructor at the Chicago Academy of Fine Arts when, in 1905, he married Corbin, who from 1912 to 1922 was an associate editor of Poetry magazine, a leading journal of progressive verse that promoted such talents as Vachel Lindsay, Robert Frost, and Carl Sandburg, all friends of the couple. In 1914 Frank Lloyd Wright engaged Henderson and fellow artist John Norton to paint murals for Chicago's Midway Gardens. Wright, not satisfied with the result, destroyed the work, and Henderson was never paid. More bad news followed. In 1916 the couple decamped to SantaFe to seek treatment for Alice, who had been diagnosed with tuberculosis.

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[Compiled by Bill Stern, Executive Director at the Museum of California Design, Los Angeles. Originally published in "Curator's Eye" in Modern Magazi

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