Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Taos Inn Celebrates 75 Years

Since 1936, The Historic Taos Inn has welcomed famous folks like Greta Garbo, D. H. Lawrence, and Pawnee Bill. More recently, Robert Redford, Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, and Julia Roberts have been spotted sipping margaritas in the lobby.

2011 marks the 75th anniversary of the Taos Inn as a place of entertainment, dining, and respite for weary travelers. But the site and buildings which encompass this Taos institution have a long and colorful history dating back to the Old West.

Dr. Thomas Paul (Doc) Martin and his wife Helen came to Taos in the 1890s, purchasing the largest of several adobe houses which at that time surrounded a small plaza with a community well in its center. As a rugged individualist, Doc's concern for the town he had adopted made him a popular and well respected man, and one of a very few of that time who was not touched by one scandal or another. Doc could often be seen traveling the county to treat his patients, first in his horse and buggy (and later in his tin lizzie) covering miles of mud and snow to set bones, break fevers, and deliver babies.

Doc's wife Helen, was a gifted batik artist, and the sister-in-law of artist Bert Phillips, who would become one of the founders of the Taos Society of Artists. It was in the Martin's dining room that Phillips and Ernest Blumenschein founded the Taos Society of Artists in 1912, and where many early meetings of The Founders were held.

Over time, Doc and Helen bought the other buildings on the small plaza, which they rented to artists and writers. When the only hotel in Taos burned down the same year that Doc died, Helen bought the Tarleton house, which was the last remaining property on the plaza (and now the site of the Adobe Bar). The Tarleton house has a history of its own, having been purchased by Thomas Tarleton for his mother ,Minnie, in 1926. His father, Wallace, had worked for Buffalo Bill's show in England and New York.

With the aid of Doc's former patients, Helen enclosed the plaza and opened the Hotel Martin with a big fanfare and a host of dignitaries. Among those present for the opening was Gordon William Lillie, better known as Pawnee Bill. Helen had invited the showman, who often spent summers in Taos, to join her and her other guests for the June 7, 1936, celebration. Indians from Taos Pueblo entertained her guests by performing songs and dances.

Through the years, the Hotel Martin was the hub of Taos' social, intellectual, and artistic activity. Later owners renamed it the Taos Inn, adding the popular neon thunderbird sign in 1952, which has since become an icon on Taos' main thoroughfare. In 1982, the Inn was placed on the National and State Registers of Historic Places. The plaza's community well, now a fountain, is part of the Inn's stunning two-and-a-half story lobby, with hand-hewn vertical vigas rising the entire height to a stained glass cupola. And last but not least, the Martin's original home is now Doc Martin's Restaurant.

More about the Taos Inn

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