January 31, 2020
Taos — such a unique name that no further qualifiers are needed. Just remember to put the “a” before the “o” and everyone knows the place.
Let’s start the Taos tour at the home of its most famous resident — noted Western pathfinder Kit Carson.
Born in Kentucky in 1809, Kit Carson grew up in Missouri on land once owned by the sons of Daniel Boone. As a teenager he left the farm and shop life and set off westward on the Santa Fe Trail. Using Taos as his base, Carson built his reputation as a scout and a mountain man over the next decade. Later, in the 1840s, Carson served as chief scout on John C. Fremont’s western expeditions, and served with General Stephen Watts Kearny during the Mexican War. Carson died in 1868 as a brevet brigadier general at nearby Fort Garland, Colorado. (more on Kit Carson’s life here.)
Nearly catercorner from the Kit Carson house, Taos Plaza is the marketplace of old Taos.
Taos Plaza is like most town squares around America, except with an Hispano flair. Here one can find shops, cafes, park benches, statues and memorials, and even a hotel. You can also find posters and advertisements for local events. One such event was advertised by the photo below: “Full Moon Gong Journey” as presented by Shree Yoga. Vibrational Sound for the Whole Being. Only $15. Yes, Taos was “New Age” long before there was anything like “wokeness.” (Sorry about the quality of the photograph. My I-phone did the best it could to remove my reflection.)
While in town, I had drinks and dinner at the Taos Inn (photo below). A flamenco guitarist entertained and sang to the bar crowd in Spanish. I didn’t understand a word. His audience consisted of artists and tourists along with the odd skier.
In bygone days the Taos County Courthouse was adjacent to the plaza, but a new facility was built a half mile away in 1979. The old structure still stands and holds some fascinating wall murals. Murals include both English and Spanish titles, reflecting the many centuries of Spanish influence in Taos:
Some of the murals are remarkably prescient. Note how it was understood that laws must be moderate to be effective and just:
Here are two more murals before we move on:
Nearly all the buildings in Taos (if not ALL the buildings) are constructed in the adobe style — even the new courthouse.
Of course, Taos was occupied long before Spanish conquistador Capitan Hernan Alvarado arrived here in 1540. It’s estimated that the Tiwa Indians settled here sometime around 1350 A.D. The name “Taos” is believed to be an adaptation of the Indian word Towih, meaning “red willows.”
Just north of Taos at Taos Pueblo, descendants of the ancient ones live much as they used to.
The most prominent structure is this multi-story, multi-family adobe complex, said to have been built between 1000 and 1450 A.D.
Notice the external wooden ladders used to navigate between floors. Exterior doors are painted bright red, green or blue for contrast against the adobe brown.
Spanish missionaries left their mark among the native peoples, and their influence has become permanent.
All photos by the author. Photos taken in January 2007 or January 2010.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.