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Museum of New Mexico Foundation
The Fort Marcy Officer’s House documents both the Americanization of Santa Fe in the nineteenth century and its Spanish-Pueblo reinvention in the twentieth.
The house at 116 Lincoln Avenue is one of two surviving out of seven built in 1868–1870 for U.S. Army officers stationed in Santa Fe; the other is the A. M. Bergere House at 135 Grant Avenue. During the Mexican-American War, immediately after the Army of the West under General Stephen Kearney occupied Santa Fe on August 18, 1846, a defensive fort was set up on a low hill overlooking the city some 600 yards northeast of the plaza. Named after William Marcy, the Secretary of War, this fort was never garrisoned. Instead, troops were billeted in the Spanish Colonial presidio until President Andrew Johnson formally established the Fort Marcy Military Reservation in 1868. The presidio was demolished and, in its place behind the Palace of the Governors, a new military post was laid out along Grant, Lincoln, and Washington Avenues. Six officers’ houses, in groups of three, faced Grant and Lincoln Avenues, while a seventh house for the commanding officer faced Washington Avenue; a hospital, barracks, parade grounds, stables, and storerooms ran behind the officers’ quarters across the north half of the site.
Based on the U.S. Army’s standard “Plan C,” the L-shaped officer’s house on Lincoln Avenue was organized around a central hallway and staircase that ran from the full front porch to a smaller rear porch. The two-story adobe structure, with a cross-gabled tin roof and brick chimney, was finished with adobe plaster scored at the front corners to imitate ashlar masonry. The whitewashed milled lumber trim used simplified Greek Revival detailing in the Territorial Style.
Fort Marcy turned out to have no military purpose and was decommissioned by executive order on June 15, 1895. The post was transferred to the Department of the Interior for custody and disposal, initiating a chain of events that would first preserve and then transform 116 Lincoln Avenue. In 1900, the Secretary of the Interior granted retroactive permission to John R. McFie, an associate justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, to continue living there. In 1904, the property was delivered to the City of Santa Fe, which passed it on to the Santa Fe Board of Education for sale to private owners.
In 1916, the house was purchased by Frank Springer to serve as the residence of Edgar Lee Hewett, the Director jointly of the School of American Archaeology (founded 1907 and renamed the School of American Research in 1917) and the Museum of New Mexico (founded 1909). A prominent attorney and businessman, Springer had known Hewett since the two collaborated at New Mexico Normal University in Las Vegas, where Hewett was the university president (1898–1903) while Springer was chairman of its board of trustees. One of Hewett’s strongest allies, Springer served on the School and Museum boards and was a forceful advocate for the Santa Fe or Spanish-Pueblo Style formulated by the Museum in its 1912 “Old-New Santa Fe” exhibit. He helped fund the construction of the New Mexico Museum of Art, designed by Rapp, Rapp and Hendrickson in the Spanish-Pueblo Style and built in 1916-1917 on Lincoln Avenue across from the Palace of the Governors and next to the former officer’s house.
This Territorial structure was remade to conform to Santa Fe’s newly invented image. The front porch was removed and replaced on its left (south) side by a Spanish Colonial portico ( portal), with round posts, corbel capitals, and projecting vigas. The right (north) side was rebuilt with a living room that juts out at right angles. The gable roof was hidden behind curvilinear parapets and the crisp lines of the original houses were generally softened with sculpted corners and buttresses. Springer paid for the work and gave the house to the School of American Research in September 1917. Though the author of the redesign has not been identified, the result is consistent with Rapp and Rapp’s contemporary projects in the Santa Fe Style.
Hewett lived there until his death in 1946, and his widow, Donizetta, stayed on until shortly before her death in 1960. The School of American Research kept its offices there from 1959 until 1972, when it was restored and given to the Museum of New Mexico. It now houses the Museum of New Mexico Foundation. Despite some later additions, including to the rear (west) in 1921, the house remains substantially unchanged since 1917, its Spanish-Pueblo exterior still wrapping a Territorial interior.
Caffey, David L. Frank Springer and New Mexico: From the Colfax County War to the Emergence of Modern Santa Fe. College Station: Texas A&M Press, 2006.
Chauvenet, Beatrice. Hewett and Friends: A Biography of Santa Fe’s Vibrant Era. Santa Fe: Museum of New Mexico Press, 1983.
Historic Santa Fe Foundation. Old Santa Fe Today. 3rd ed. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1982.
Purdy, James, “Fort Marcy Officer’s Residence. The Edgar Lee Hewett House,” Santa Fe County, New Mexico. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1975. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Purdy, James. “The Fort Marcy’s Office’s Residence.” Bulletin of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation I, no. 3 (1975): 1-3, 8-13.
Sheppard, Carl. Creator of the Santa Fe Style: Isaac Hamilton Rapp, Architect. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico, 1988.
Sze, Corrine P, Beverly Spears, Boyd Pratt, and Linda Tigges. Santa Fe Historic Neighborhood Study. Santa Fe, NM: City of Santa Fe, 1988.
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