In our November-December issue, we recount an art-centered visit to breathtaking Santa Fe, New Mexico. But the city has plenty more to offer outside of sculptures, paintings and museums. Here are three options, all within a short walking distance of each other in the city’s quaint downtown.
A marvel of a tourist destination for the devout and the nonreligious alike, Loretto Chapel is a former Roman Catholic Church, completed in 1878, that is home to the so-called Miraculous Staircase, a slinky wooden structure snaking up to the choir loft 22 feet from the ground, whose provenance is shrouded in myth and mystery. As the legend goes, the Sisters of the Chapel were told by numerous professional carpenters that their desired staircase would be structurally impossible. They prayed on it, and on their final day of prayer, a carpenter appeared at the doorstep looking for work. Over a six-month period, he built the staircase using only a saw, hammer and carpenter’s square, only to disappear without payment. Some believe the artisan was St. Joseph himself. The design of the structure still baffles engineers and architects today, and gazing at it up-close is a surreal and sacred experience.
207 Old Santa Fe Trail
The Oldest House
From the outside, it’s not much to look at it—a crude, squat building that wouldn’t catch the average pedestrian’s eye. Inside, however, this 1646-vintage property, considered the oldest building in Santa Fe, is a richly preserved remnant of 17th century life, complete with dirt floors, thick adobe walls originally made of cow manure, and accurate reproductions of period housewares and furnishings such as a papoose carrier and grinding stone. The arguable centerpiece of the restored edifice helps keep Santa Fe weird: It’s a weathered coffin housing a headless, plaster-of-Paris skeleton of a Spaniard who was said to have feuded with witches over a love potion. I guess the witches won.
215 E. De Vargas St.
Lensic Performing Arts Center
This ornate, two-story institution in the heart of downtown Santa Fe opened in 1931 as a vaudeville stage and movie palace, and its gilded interior is even more impressive than its regal exterior. For a South Florida performing arts venue even remotely as historic and elegant as the Lensic, you’d have to visit the Gusman Theatre in downtown Miami. Today, the space is all-encompassing: It still hosts movies, opera telecasts, dance companies, comedians, performances from the Santa Fe Symphony, and pop and jazz entertainers such as Chick Corea, Buffy Saint-Marie and Rufus Wainwright. When I visited Santa Fe, I attended a free, and densely cerebral, TED-type lecture about robotics and artificial intelligence courtesy of a summer speakers’ series from the Santa Fe Institute.
211 W. San Francisco St.