Home Sweet Home

We bought our house in Santa Fe, NM in late September 2003 and moved in about 29 November 2003. These are photos created by the sellers as part of their sales package, so they show the seller's furnishings:

Our entrance gate looking into the front yard. Car port is out of view to the right.
View inside the front yard toward the entrance gate. The entry door is behind the short wall on the left.
Another view of the front.
Living room and a snitch of the dining area.
View of the kitchen...
... and the opposite end.

This is the kiva in what we use as the office; it was once the "attached stable". Check the vigas... they're really rough.

And no, it doesn't still smell like a stable!

The back bathroom behind the master bedroom.
This is the den. The French doors to the left lead into the back yard. Out of view to the right were sliding glass doors that opened onto the middle patio.
View of the back of the house. Behind the camera was another 15'+ of land that was used as a parking area.

So how did we decide to move to Santa Fe? Well, unlike many who go cruising for awhile, we did not sell Celia's San Francisco house. We were pretty sure that if we were ever exit the real estate market we'd never be able to get back in. Plus, after cruising for awhile, it became apparent that if it weren't for friends there, we had less and less inclination to return to California. And after 2 years on the east coast & driving cross country we knew that there were a lot of really great places to live. By early 2003 we were pretty sure that we wanted to sell the San Francisco house and get something somewhere that would become home when we were done playing boats.

In May 2003 we started driving cross country headed for California, but making it a point to stop at places that looked interesting. We even bought one of those 100-best-places-to-retire books, which of course are already out of date by the time they get into print because they've been "discovered". But we did get some ideas: North Carolina, Wisconsin and Arizona were on the list, and Celia had been to New Mexico a few times and wanted me to see Santa Fe before making any decisions. Florida was probably off the list because of the hurricanes, bugs and humidity.

There are so many beautiful places to live in this country I don't know how a person can start from scratch and choose where to live... which was basically our situation. We looked at several places in NC which we'd seen on our way south from Maryland; Tennessee was an unknown treasure to us (what a beautiful state!); there was surprise after surprise that (in just passing through) seemed like great choices to live. As we kept driving roughly west, the list of possibilities just kept growing, though early-on I fell in love with the little town of Oriental, NC where in 2003 we could buy a 1,600 sq. ft. house with a 1,000 sq. ft. out building on a lot with 300' of Neuse River frontage for $350,000 (where do I sign?!). Celia wasn't so sure. She kept Googling Oriental and reading to me all the historical references to flooding from hurricanes, but I kept thinking "How bad can it be? People live there for Pete's sake!"

Eventually we made it to San Francisco and decided that yes, we really did want to sell the house and yes, we wanted to buy in one of the many locations we had seen. But we didn't really have a plan for making it happen. And we hadn't yet stopped in Santa Fe which was on Celia's required-stops list. We started heading back to Key West expecting to arrive in time for the 2003-2004 cruising season. It was our intention to stop in Arizona and New Mexico on the way to Key West.

Sedona, AZ was seductive, but we realized that, once groceries were put away and the furniture was arranged, we were going to end up doing a lot of driving for even the routine things we do. On to New Mexico.

I've told many folks over the last few years that Santa Fe was the first place I'd never been that felt like coming home. It must have been the climate coupled with the semi-arid landscape and mountain backdrop which reminded me of Reno, NV where I grew up. We got a room at the El Rey Motel on Cerrillos and settled in for the night.

When I logged onto the internet that evening I discovered hurricane Isabel had just come ashore on the Outer Banks, just off the town of Oriental, NC. Uh-oh. I guess if ever there was "a sign", this was it. The next morning we got up, found a realtor (Denise de Valle at Varella Realty was incredible!) and bought a house. It was that easy.

When we bought in Santa Fe, we weren't looking for a bargain fixer-upper project. The house we liked was a nicely restored old timer which was pretty much what we wanted with 2 exceptions:

We settled within a day or so and after signing the preliminary papers, we arranged a meeting with the sellers. They told us the front part of the house was (probably) from the mid- to late-1800s and that there had been several additions over the years but nothing after about the mid-1950s. They also gave us a copy of one page from the abstract they received 20 years earlier when they bought (New Mexico no longer uses the abstract form of property titling). That abstract page referred to the first tax roll for Santa Fe which was taken in 1885. It listed "a small adobe with attached stable". That pretty much has to be the old part of the house (what is today the living room, kitchen, front bathroom and office) and was likely built well before 1885. The other parts of the house were added many years later, most likely after WWII. In fact, the city plot from 1948 showed the approximate outline as originally described in 1885 tax roll.

As we understand it, the houses on Don Manuel St (only one block long) were connected to the sewer in about 1942. I don't know when water service was connected, but the houses were originally supplied either by a well or via an acequia that ran down the south branch of W. Houghton St, but was named acequia Corona. An acequia is a stone-lined ditch system that carries water from the reservoir to where it's needed in town and is used principally for field irrigation. The system copies what was used in Alhambra in Spain and became part of Santa Fe in its early years. The reservoir tender would open the right gates to allow water to flow through the various acequias depending on the scheduled irrigation day. Nearly all the acequias are gone today (actually, they now serve to carry away storm water) save one: acequia Madre still carries water 2 (?) days per week. In order to irrigate, land owners open a gate to flood irrigation channels on their property; unused water empties into the Santa Fe River.

I asked our neighbor, Danny Ortiz, if he knew who might have been the don Manuel that our street is named after. Danny lived next door till he left to start his own family, so he knows a lot about the neighborhood. His first guess was that it might have been named for Manuel Romero who owned the grocery store at the other end of our block (3 houses away; now the private residence of one of the Romero family). Then a week later he recalled a Manuel Ortiz in his own family who might have been the one. He promised to do a little checking, so perhaps we'll learn who the real don Manuel might have been.

Our realtor, Denise, told us about Santa Fe's Historical Review Board and that our house was in one of the controlled districts. She researched enough to tell us that our house was classified as "non-contributing" since it had a number of major alterations (at least 4; they're very noticeable when you get up on the roof). While we were learning how to go about getting building permits, we happened to listen to a broadcast of a HRB meeting. It didn't take long to realize there was no way in hell Mrs. Bowman's little boy was ever going to get through that process successfully!

What broke the log jam was meeting Phil Cordova a couple months later. He was an electrical contractor doing some electrical work for us. He mentioned that David Smith, a local architect, had worked with the HRB successfully in the past. While many other owners have gotten through the review process successfully without professional help, I knew my big mouth and impulsive nature were going to get me in trouble. So we spent some money with David, got excellent recommendations for changes, a set of working drawings, and, when they finally reviewed us after several delays, we were approved. Btw, the HRB wasn't all hard-headed bureaucracy: David Rasch, permanent staff supporting the board, helped us a great deal with guidance about the board's rules and what the current hot buttons were.

OK... so here's where you use the menu on the left to see what has been done to change the house. I'll keep adding pages & pics as new things come up.