This post is in celebration of Mabel Dodge Luhan’s birthday (February 26, 1879). A great patron of the arts and central figure of the Taos Art Colony, we visited her house this past week.
A few notable people who stayed here were: Georgia O’Keeffe, D.H. Lawrence, John Marin, Ansel Adams, Martha Graham, Marsden Hartley, and Carl Jung.
Much has been written about her life. Born into great wealth and New York society, her parents were in an unhappy marriage and Mabel was raised by nannies. She was given everything a child could want but the attention she craved of her parents. So she created a world of her own and wound up living an extraordinary life.
She traveled the world, was a writer, held literary and artist’s salons in Italy and New York. When she moved to the Southwest she continued to invite artists to her Taos home and has been quoted as saying, “I found out that the sunshine in New Mexico could do almost anything with one: make one well if one felt ill, or change a dark mood and lighten it. It entered into one’s deepest places and melted the thick, slow densities. It made one feel good. That is, alive.”
The house was originally a small adobe with four rooms located just east of the town’s Plaza. On the advice of a Taos Pueblo man named Tony Luhan, she bought it in 1918 for $1500. Tony, who would become her fourth husband, directed the re-modeling and expansion in the Pueblo Revival style. (Here is a photo of the pueblo, note the architectural similarities.)
(one of the famous ceramic chickens overseeing the front entrance)
It’s been said that Tony ‘set up a teepee in front of the house and drummed there each night until Dodge came to him.’
(front living room with archway leading to the library)
And that ‘Mable’s then current husband, Sterne, bought a shotgun with the intention of chasing Luhan off the property, but didn’t go through with it, and instead took to insulting Dodge. In response, she sent Sterne away, supporting him with monthly payments until their divorce four years later.’
(viga beamed ceiling, living room)
Mable and Tony remained married for forty years.
(sconces, living room)
In 1970, the actor Dennis Hopper bought the house after seeing it while filming Easy Rider, at which point he re-named it Mud Palace and it became a counterculture nerve center.
Hopper initially stayed in the Ansel Adams room while editing Easy Rider.
(monk carving over one of the living room fireplaces)
During those years, the house fell into disrepair.
(just off the living room … beautiful, large dining area with cream painted woodwork)
(modeled adobe fireplace displaying a ceramic pot)
Later, the house was sold to two different owners and restored to it’s current condition.
Today it is an historic hotel and retreat center. Oftentimes in the afternoons, tourists and artists make a pilgrimage to the grounds and are invited in to tour the living room, dining room and have cookies and tea. (The bedrooms are generally off limits as they are occupied by guests.)
If you’re in Taos on February 26th and stop by, be sure have a cookie and sing Happy Birthday to Mabel by hers and Tony’s portraits in the dining room.
Here are links to …
The Rooms … including Mabel’s room with her original bed
I also have the large print on board sante fe trail hanging in my log home. It is fearmd in a wide gold over white frame (no glass). I was told it came out of the Topeka, KS court house. I really enjoy this painting, but some day may wish to sell it to the family. I just thought they may want to know of its location for future reference. Julie Goodman may have my address.