Once upon a time, or maybe just thirty year ago, Santa Fe could be defined by about a dozen neighborhoods. Today, with growth in all directions, and developments, subdivisions and enclaves popping up with their own colorful names and identities, a comprehensive list is elusive. Here are the oldies but goodies (and sometimes not so old) that will hopefully hold their value and character forever.
The Plaza area-bounded by Palace Avenue on the north, Old Santa Fe Trail on the east, San Francisco Street to the south, and Lincoln Avenue on the west-is the historical epicenter of "the city of holy faith." Essentially a grassy and flagstone square block, lined with shade trees and benches, the Plaza faces adobe or brick buildings on all sides, a few of which stand as they did during colonial Spanish days. The various buildings contain shops, museums, galleries and cafes. On the north side sits The Palace of the Governors, the oldest continuously occupied public building in the United States. Originally constructed in 1610, it served as New Spain's seat of government for the Southwestern territory and is now the state's history museum. On the sidewalk in front of the Palace, Native Americans sell their original artwork in a venue that assures authenticity for the buyer. Every day visitors crowd this area searching through turquoise, silver, and pottery. Throughout the year, the Plaza is also host to Spanish Market, Indian Market, and many other cultural and art events. The Santa Fe Indian Market, the world's most prestigious Native American arts show, is held in August, and provides visitors with the opportunity to purchase original works of art directly from 1,200 American Indian artists from across the country. Within walking distance are the St. Francis Cathedral and Loretto Chapel. At the end of East San Francisco Street, is the St. Francis Cathedral commissioned by Archbishop Lamy in 1869. This French Romanesque cathedral contains many religious relics, including the Archbishop's own chalice. The stained glass windows were made in France.
South on Old Santa Fe Trail is the Loretto Chapel. The chapel was designed by French architect Antoine Mouly in the Gothic Revival style, erected in 1873, complete with spires, buttresses, and stained glass windows from France. There is much legend surrounding the choir loft staircase. The size of the chapel prevented a regular staircase to be built and the sisters of Loretto were faced with using a ladder. The sisters prayed to St. Joseph, the patron saint of carpenters, and a man appeared who constructed the sinuous staircase and mysteriously left without payment. Yohon Hadwiger, a German woodworker, has been credited with the design and construction of the stairs. However, due to the structure's religious history, this fact remains obscured in favor of legend.
The Santa Fe Trail, an important 19th century transportation route across southwestern North America, connected Missouri with Santa Fe. The "End of the Santa Fe Trail Marker" on the southeast corner of the Plaza was dedicated in 1911. A reminder of Santa Fe Trail merchants, the historical Spitz Clock, an unusual fixture in the shape of a timepiece, sits on the northwest corner of the plaza, close to the Fine Arts Museum.
Several shops and small indoor malls, including the Plaza Galleria and Santa Fe Arcade, surround the Plaza or are within easy walking distance. Lincoln Avenue, one block north of the Plaza, offers a collection of shops called Lincoln Place. More shops are located on West San Francisco Street.
At Santa Fe's residential core is the Eastside, a precious piece of real estate historically, geographically, and financially. This approximately one square mile area whose heart is intersected by Canyon Road and Camino del Monte del Sol, was the city's original barrio with a mix of small homes on narrow dirt lanes. Before World War Two, when Santa Fe was about 15,000 people and a half dozen stop signs, the average house costs less than $3,000. Fast forward sixty years. Because of the city's historical ordinances, much of the barrio charm and character happily endure, yet many homes and entire streets have been gentrified. Newer homes have filled in the few blank spots, particularly around Museum Hill. Behind the facades of many traditional Territorial style and Pueblo homes are stunning, amenity-rich interiors, and not a few of these multi-million dollar properties have graced the pages of national magazines. Except for the famous Canyon Road, most of the Eastside is residential-a mix of gated estates, condominiums, pied-a-terres and a few apartments-where some locals, perhaps tongue in cheek, refer to their more tony streets as "beach front property."
Tesuque, named for a Native American tribe that survives today, is a distinctive rural (and almost as pricey as the Eastside) neighborhood on Santa Fe's northside. Some commercial benchmarks like Bishop's Lodge, the Tesuque Market, Shidoni Foundry and El Nido restaurant are well known, but the neighborhood's real charm consists of tin-roofed homes in the crevices and on the tops of rolling foothills of baked earth, pinons and junipers. Other parts of Tesuque are shaded and woodsy. There are choice horse properties, adobe homes, and ranch style properties, but an equal number of older, unassuming houses rich in individuality.
South Capitol, aptly named because it lies south of the capitol rotunda, offers charming streets of early twentieth century architecture that often seem more Midwestern or early California than southwest. Distinguished by porches and small lawns rather than high walls and gates, the streets are crisscrossed with deciduous trees and convivial long-time residents. There's a small amount of commercial (mostly on Don Gaspar Street) in a largely residential mix of condos, homes, apartments and Wood Gormley elementary school. "South Capitol is the kind of neighborhood you wish you had grown up in," boasts one happy resident.
Guadalupe District, originally a farming community, contains the Santuario de Guadalupe, the oldest existing shrine to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the United States. Santuario de Guadalupe, built in the late eighteenth century, was a sacred site where travelers petitioned the patron Saint of Santa Fe for a safe voyage. Today this fast-changing area is energized by its close proximity to the regeneration of the Railyard District. Less than a mile from the Plaza, the historic Guadalupe district offers fashionable shopping at Sanbusco (an acronym for Santa Fe Builders' Supply Company) and many other shops, most of them lining Guadalupe Street. Superb restaurants within walking distance include Italian, Asian, gourmet Southwestern, traditional New Mexican, French, and Western American. Santa Fe River Park is a little oasis that runs along the south side of East Alameda from East Palace Ave to Don Gaspar. There are walking trails, picnic tables shade covered by large cottonwood trees, and a stone pedestrian bridge over the river. Just west of Guadalupe Street are quaint old neighborhoods of mixed vernacular architecture. Homes are more affordable here, but like most of Santa Fe, evidence of renovation and transition are everywhere.
The Santa Fe Railyard Park will transform fifty abandoned industrial acres (once a switching yard for trains), mostly off Cerrillos Road and next to Site Santa Fe, into a mixed-use community of loft studios, galleries, museums, restaurants, community organizations, Farmer's Market, a cinema complex, and thirteen acres of greenbelt and running trails. The Trust for Public Land is in charge of the Railyard Park and much of the work is to be completed by fall 2008.
The Triangle District is the most diverse and affordable neighborhood left within the Santa Fe city limits. It contains Casa Linda, Young's Park and Hopewell & Mann. The area is bordered by St. Francis Drive on the east, Cerrillos Road on the west, and St. Michael's Drive to the south. The Casa Linda neighborhood offers over 1,600 homes built by Allen Stamm between 1939 and 1963 and contains Kearney elementary. Many homes here and in Young's Park were built by their owners. Hopewell & Mann contain Las Palomas, apartments and Santa Fe Civic Housing Authority.
Southeast neighborhoods lie east of St. Francis. Lot sizes vary from one-half acre to more than five, some with stunning views. Here, one finds homes of all sizes and price ranges, from $350,000 to well over $1 million (out Old Santa Fe Trail to Museum Hill). East of Old Pecos Trail near Zia Road is DeVargas Heights, a mature subdivision of moderate priced ranch or Pueblo style homes on lots of one-fifth to one-half acre. To the west of Old Pecos Trail lies Sol y Lomas, another older subdivision with homes on one-half to one-acre lots. There's a quasi-country feeling here with dirt roads, piñons and junipers. Nearby, Quail Run is a gated golf (9 holes) community with extensive exercise facilities as well as a restaurant and meeting rooms. Over 160 condominiums are available for part-time or full-time residents, though prices have increased dramatically since the development started over fifteen years ago.
The city's Southwest is bordered on the east by St. Francis Drive and on the west by Cerrillos Road, and extends south out Airport Road. It is an area of condos, town homes, condos, and single-family dwellings that is perhaps more like most other U.S. cities. Roads on the southwest are paved, streets have sidewalks, and houses have garages. Prices here tend to be somewhat lower than the rest of Santa Fe. Many homes are new and priced well under $500,000-several affordable neighborhood programs start at around $150,000-while others are older and dated. Major subdivisions include Rancho Viejo, Villa Caballero I, II and III, Las Estancias, Pueblos del Sol, Los Milagros, Las Acequias, Vista Primera and Park Plazas.
North Hills refers to an area between Paseo de Peralta and the Old Taos Highway on the west, the Santa Fe River to the east, and Tesuque on the north. Closer to town homes are relatively modest, but as one drives toward the Ski Basin on Hyde Park Road, passing 800-1200 East, Hyde Park, Sierra del Norte, Cerros Colorados and The Summit, prices climb with the altitude. Ten Thousand Waves, one of the city's most popular spas, is tucked in here. Views, large and elegant homes, and rolling terrain bordered by the Santa Fe National Forest make this a favorite area for both full and part time residents. Near northside streets like Brownell-Howland, Circle Drive and Camino del Norte boast some of city's more and expensive classical homes, and include stunning views of a mountain range known as the Badlands.
Northwest Santa Fe is the site of the city's first luxury subdivisons, like La Tierra and La Tierra Nueva, and newer ones like Las Campanas with its two eighteen-hole Jack Nicklaus golf courses and room for 5,000 high-end homes when fully built out. The majority of owners here are second- or third-home residents and the lifestyle is both social and private. Other northside luxury areas like Tano Road also offer the familiar landscape of pinon-dotted hills and always-breathtaking views of the Sangre de Cristos. Closer to town are more affordable subdivisions like Santa Fe Estates and Zocalo (its festive colors are the work of renowned Mexican architect Ricardo Legoretto).
Old Las Vegas Corridor, which leads out of the town on a meandering south/southeast course, is sprinkled with older and usually rural enclaves-each distinctive in terrain, from dense pines to rolling foothills-La Barbaria, Sunlit Hills, Seton Village, Arroyo Hondo, Canoncito and Valencia. Lots are usually a minimum of an acre but sometimes five or ten. There are numerous small ranches, horse properties, cabins, adobe homes and often a hybrid of architectural styles. If you keep going on I-25, the more rural it gets, until you hit Highway 285 and the turnoff to Eldorado (named after a stop on the old Santa Fe Railroad route), a major subdivision of 2,400 homes favored by retirees, young families, singles and couples. Adjoining areas include Dos Griegos, Alteza Estates, The Islands and Belizia. Ten minutes beyond, Lamy and Galisteo beckon with the scent of small-town history and spectacular views of the Galisteo Basin. Toward the end of this corridor on I-25 is Pecos. Fifty minutes from the Santa Fe Plaza, Pecos is an old village of multi-generation families, many of whom value tradition over change, and the gateway to the rugged Pecos Wilderness.
Turquoise Trail/Highway 14 is both a designated National Scenic Byway and the gateway to villages south of Santa Fe, including Golden, Madrid and Cerrillos. Not unlike Pecos, these are small, rural, tradition-bound communities that have grown more slowly than Santa Fe and are prized by residents for being "off the beaten path."