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Historic Designation


Much of the campus of the old St. Catherine Indian School in Santa Fe is now a historic district, under a recent decision by the state Cultural Properties Review Committee.

Many of the buildings at St. Catherine’s near downtown had previously been named to the State Register of Cultural Properties in 2001.

At a June 10 meeting, the committee changed the St. Catherine’s designation to make the campus a historic district and to provide a boundary for the district.

It was unclear Thursday whether the change would affect how Santa Fe city government considers proposals to tear down old buildings on the St. Catherine’s campus. The school includes buildings dating from the late 19th century, but others are post-1970.

The state-designated historic district includes all the school buildings and its cemetery, where nuns from the order that ran the school through the 1990s are buried. The school athletic field was excluded. St. Catherine’s closed in 1998.

The Santa Fe City Council, in a separate action, has designated many of the buildings at St. Catherine’s as city landmarks.

The campus is now owned by New Mexico Consolidated Construction Services of Albuquerque. The company recently proposed removing four features with landmark status – three old houses and the cemetery – in what the company said was part of plan to prepare the site for potential buyers.

In April, the city Historic Design Review Board rejected that proposal, which may go to the City Council for a final determination.

But the H-Board delayed action on the company’s companion plan to tear down six other structures that don’t have landmark status. Board members said they wanted to wait for the state action on whether the campus would be designated as a historic district.

David Rasch, head of the city’s historic preservation program, said in April that state action to put properties on the cultural register has in the past been an impetus to give the same properties city landmark status.

The city designation is important, because the city can prevent demolition of landmark structures. The state has no similar authority over privately owned structures. Rasch couldn’t be reached for comment Thursday.


Property listed in Taos area

At the same June meeting, the Cultural Properties Review Committee also decided to add to the cultural properties register a Hispanic residential complex near Taos built on property included in a 1796 land grant.

Buildings on the Martinez property date back to the 1820s. In a news release Thursday, the state committee said that, while the structures have been altered over time, they retain integrity in design, workmanship and setting.

The committee “also felt it is significant that members of the Martinez family were associated with the property for approximately 200 years, and that it is representative of New Mexico settlement patterns.”

The site was one of six original small parcels that were part of the Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant near Taos Pueblo.

“The buildings date through the 1940s and represent the vernacular evolution of a property owned for close to 200 years by the Martinez family,” Terry Moody, state Historic Preservation Division register coordinator, told the committee.

Members of the Martinez family continued to live on the property through 1998. The layout of the property around a central courtyard is typical of Hispanic architecture from the period, and an acequia’s original path bordering the property never was altered.

Photo Credit – JOURNAL FILE
Cutline – The campus of the former St. Catherine Indian School near downtown Santa Fe has been designated a historic district by the state Cultural Properties Review Committee.