RIO RANCHO, N.M. — These days, Santa Fe’s Bishop’s Lodge is a high-end hotel and playground for those who can afford it. It has an interesting history.
The first owner of the land upon which the lodge rests, according to 18th-century Spanish records, was Urbano Mantaño. He was awarded a land grant in what was called the “Cañoncito de Tesuque” from New Mexico Gov. Gaspar Domingo de Mendoza in October 1743.
By 1752, ownership passed to Juan de Ledesma, then to Maria Francisca de Sena in 1759 and Pedro Dominguez in 1763.
The Dominguez family sold it to Navidad Romero in 1837. These folks were farmers and orchard-keepers.
In 1853, Santa Fe Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy purchased the land from the Romero family.
The Bulletin of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, citing a Deed Book F, described the boundaries of the property purchased by the bishop: “on the east where the river joins the hill, following the river to where a little arroyo come [sic] out of it; on the west, the lands of Benito Garcia; on the north to the cañada of Benavides; on the south the hill which divides the cañoncito.”
On a hillside, Lamy built a small house, which he called Villa Pintoresca (scenic lodge). It amounted to two small rooms and a chapel, which the bishop used for his personal devotions and to say Mass when he had guests — apparently often.
He also planted a garden and maintained an orchard.
By the last years of his life, Lamy — by then an archbishop — spent most of his time at his retreat as his successor took over more and more of his ecclesiastical duties. After his death in 1888, ownership passed to the archdiocese, and in 1909, it was sold to Carl Stephen for $1,300.
Stephen sold it to Harper S. Cunningham four days later for $1,800.
By 1915, the place was in the possession of the Pulitzer family (of publishing fame). Three years later, Colorado mining magnate and businessman James R. Thorpe II purchased Villa Pintoresca and much new construction began.
During the 1930s and into the early 1940s, the Brownmoor School for Girls operated out of four of the buildings on the property. It was a boarding school, a promotional piece said, that “appeals to those parents who desire for their girls a development of their abilities under sympathetic guidance, and the maintenance of high standards of work conduct.”
The Thorpe family owned Bishop’s Lodge until 1998. Throughout all that time, Bishop Lamy’s chapel had been retained and maintained.
The Thorpe family sold the property to Lend Lease as a part of the VEF (Value Enhancement Fund) Funds, according to a real-estate promotional piece.
Considerable construction has taken place in the years since, and today (see above photo) the hotel offers 99 rooms and 12 suites in 15 lodges on 317 acres.
(Don Bullis is a Rio Rancho resident, New Mexico centennial historian and award-winning author. He was named the Best Local Author in the 2018 and ’19 Rio Rancho Observer Readers’ Choice contests. “Ellos Pasaron por Aqui” is translated as “They Passed by Here.”)