Taos Architecture Tour: Ledoux

(Blue Trail Sites 7, 6, and F)

ah... Ledoux. There's so much to say about lovely little Ledoux street. I LOVE this street, especially at Christmas when they line it with farolitos (lumenarias for those not from Northern New Mexico) and have a walking celebration the likes of which make Taos a truly extraordinary visit.

Where shall I start? Well, for one thing, you'll notice that you are walking a bit uphill as you come onto Ledoux from this side. That's by design, of course, because I want to talk about a couple of the really cool aspects of how Ledoux came to be. This was the edge of town back in the day. In fact, Ledoux wasn't a street at all for the early part of it's life. It was an ALLEY! Sometime in the last century, people turned the street backwards, and made the houses face IN rather than OUT. The houses along the south side of the street were perched on a the edge of what is basically a little mesa that all of Taos Historic District sits on. This little mesa runs from the intersection of Quesnel and Kit Carson Road, along the east side of Ledoux, and then heads north along Velarde. This was by design, of course, as this position allowed a clear view of people coming up from the south. Giving people plenty of time to hide their Taos Lightning (moonshine) and their taxable items (in the tunnels?), as well as to arm up in case it wasn't the tax man coming but marauding invaders. The little mesa overlooked the town spring, a once very sacred place where citizens held blessing ceremonies and gathered safe, clean water to drink. Now the spring is a dry cleaners and a development. It's kindof a sad story, actually, and a loss to Taos, but nevertheless that's where we are. When the French and Canadian trappers came in the mid 19th century to make their money on beavers and tradewares, they settled over here on what would become Camino de Bouvien, then Ledoux. Over time, this place became part of the heart of Taos, as it is now. Though its a quietly beating one. ; ) If you walk to the far end of Ledoux, you can take a right at Byzantium (where you absolutely SHOULD eat) and head behind Shree Yoga to Comanche Street, and walk along this to see the old gates and front doors, which are largely abandoned now. 

But back to this end of the street. First and foremost, please visit the Harwood (#7 on the Blue Trail). A former library and art foundation, gifted by the generosity of Elizabeth Harwood and now part of UNM. It's a great Spanish-Pueblo Revival structure and museum, and one of our Taos treasures. They host great lectures and events as well as showing great art. They have awesome kids' programs too.

Degan Courtyard. Do not attempt to look in yourself on this private home PLEASE.

Just east of the Harwood is the Degan house, built in phases between 1830-1870. It's very private, so please don't bother the owners by sneaking around to look, but a few great details are easily visible from the street. First, there's the awesome window/corbel detailing. It's just epic. The, the central gate has a bell-shaped mission revival influenced parapet and double-leaf gate with inset pedestrian door. This gate is one of the coolest in Taos. In fact, start looking at all the gates you see. These are part of Taos' architectural language, and part of what makes Taos so special. Look at the hardware on this gate especially. Yep, that's Egyptian! Just west of the gate, behind a tree, is a traditional painted retablo honoring Mabel Franz Degan, one of the house's historic owners. Retablos are extremely important in New Mexico history and this is one of many places where you can find a place made especially to honor the Spirits in Taos. Tip: pay attention to this and look for retablos and nichos, or little insets, that are designed into almost every traditional building here. If you look for them, you'll find some of Taos' great treasures! (and it's like hide and seek! Who doesn't like that!?!?!

Beyond are several of Taos' great galleries and some of our oldest homes, dating from 1800-1830s, including the RC Gorman and Inger Jirby Galleries.

The Blumenschein Home (Taos Blue Trail Site #6) is another of Taos' architectural treasures. Changes in the height and style of the roof indicate that that home was once a single room that evolved into a rowhouse with more additions to make its current U-ish shape, as is traditional in hacienda development. This sprawling home is one of the last remaining homes on Ledoux that has not been updated and it reflects a relatively intact version of Taos' early history.

Photogs will find a plethora of great details to shoot on this street!
Now, head east on Camino de la Placita and continue on Quesnel past Paseo del Pueblo Norte.