Santa Fe Home Prairie Style

Date April 6, 2008 at 10:00 PM


Categories Real Estate


One of Santa Fe's few pure examples of Prairie style architecture, made famous by Frank Lloyd Wright, this one hundred year old home on East Buena Vista illustrates the versatility of adobe and rich diversity of architecture in the city prior to the Spanish Pueblo Revival after World War I.

Between 1910 and 1920, Santa Fe witnessed a brief emergence of California Mission Style, as well as California Craftsmen homes, mostly in the South Capital area. Over the years, many of these Prairie style influenced bungalows were modified to incorporate Pueblo Revival elements. The Buena Vista home of 5,100 square feet, however, not only remains true to its architectural origins, interior and exterior, its design is remarkably similar to homes by Frank Lloyd Wright.

The configuration of the Buena Vista home's two stories with a one story wing, as well as the predominately horizontal emphasis created by the low pitched hipped roof, are quintessential Prairie style. The interior-with its open floor plan, prominent fireplaces, small paned windows, extensive use of wood for wainscoting, decorative beams and built-in furniture-is representative of the American Arts and Crafts movement, as well as Mission elements, both of which Wright incorporated into his Prairie style.

The Buena Vista home was built by Francis Cushman Wilson and his wife, Charlotte Parker Wilson, who purchased the one acre lot in 1908 from Adeline Keachie for $225. They immediately began plans for the house. Wilson was a U.S. Attorney for the Pueblo Indians. He also had a private law practice with John C. Watson, representing such Santa Fe notables as Bronson Cutting, Amelia Elizabeth and Martha White, the Misses Brownell and Howland, Mary Austin and Margretta Dietrich.

It's unknown what specific relationship the Wilsons may have had with Frank Lloyd Wright, or why they were attracted to Prairie style, but no expense was spared in building and landscaping a home that honored the architect's aesthetic vision. Due to the similar stone and craftsmanship, it is likely that the stone masons who worked on the Santa Fe Cathedral also labored on the foundation of the Wilson home. The material likely originated from the same quarries used for the Cathedral, located on Gonzales Road or Rowe, NM. The foundation is constructed entirely of hand laid stones and does not show settling under the weight of the double adobe walls. The grounds include a hundred year old Cyprus tree, lilacs and pear trees that, according to local lore, are the same variety that Bishop Lamy planted on the property that has become Bishop's Lodge.

Before the Wilsons moved into their newly built home, they rented it to Bronson Cutting, who moved to Santa Fe from the East to recover from tuberculosis. Cutting added a third bathroom and screened a portion of the portal to create a sleeping porch, which was thought to be essential for the TB cure. During his time in Santa Fe, he was the publisher of the Santa Fe New Mexican and served as a United States senator.

The Wilsons lived at 316 Buena Vista until their deaths in 1952 and 1954 respectively. The geologist Richard R. Spurrier bought the property in 1956 but lived there only a few years. From 1958 through 1980, William R. Federici, a New Mexico Supreme Court Justice, owned the residence, which was eventually used as student housing by St. John's College. A large amount of deferred maintenance occurred until the property was purchased in the mid 90s by David Kent and Margaret Love, the owners of Berkeley Mills, a California furniture maker specializing in the Arts and Crafts, Mission and Stickely styles. Obviously drawn to the Prairie style vernacular, Kent and Love did extensive restoration, then sold the home in 1999 to its current owner, Barnet Cohen. Under his stewardship, Mr. Cohen has transformed the home to its original elegance and splendor, a 100-year-old beauty with hardly a wrinkle.

Utilizing terracing and irrigation by a unique system of sluiceways, Mrs. Wilson's garden designs blossomed spectacularly. Mr. Cohen has further enhanced the grounds by creating magical, lush gardens and adding water features which have appeared in multiple issues of Sunset Magazine.

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