Taos in Taos County, New Mexico — The American Mountains (Southwest)
Don Fernando de Taos Plaza
Spanish colonists settled at scattered locations in this valley beginning about 1615. The Don Fernando de Taos Land Grant given to 63 families in 1796 resulted in the establishment of this Plaza and the surrounding community. It became the most important settlement in the area outside of the ancient San Gerónimo de Taos Pueblo three miles north of here.
In the late 1700’s, families on the land grant built their homes and businesses around this plaza so that the windowless rear walls provided a secure defensive structure. There were strong gates at both ends. In times of war, when a threat was reported by outlying sentinels, livestock was brought into the plaza for safekeeping. A well in the center of the plaza provided water.
In peaceful times, the plaza served as a gathering place as it still does today, for church processions, political speeches, horse trading, music, assembly of militia, farmers market and small talk. Wagons probably didn’t reach Taos until the mid 1800s, and so for many years trains of pack animals were frequently seen on the plaza with trade goods such as furs being unloaded for inspection at the customs house, or local
As commerce grew, the plaza became the site for Taos’ early hotels, such as the Don Fernando and the Columbian, both long gone. A courthouse and jail occupied a site on the north side starting about 1830. Over the years a few saloons and gambling establishments did a brisk business here. During the bloody rebellion against U.S. occupation in 1847, fighting took place in and around the plaza, and then after hasty trials, several executions took place here.
From time to time raging fires destroyed important buildings, and the replacements often changed the appearance of the plaza. In 1932 a new Taos County Courthouse was built after a fire destroyed an earlier court building and jail, along with other establishments on the north side. Today this Old Courthouse situated across the road behind you displays WPA murals by some of the early artists who helped make Taos a famous art colony.
Through the years as seen in these photographs, the town has changed many times, but the presence and spirit of olden days can still be felt.
Erected by Taos County Historical Society, 121 C North Plaza.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in these topic lists: Colonial Era • Settlements & Settlers. A significant historical year for this entry is 1615.
Location. 36° 24.438′ N, 105° 34.47′ W. Marker is in Taos, New Mexico, in Taos County. Marker is on Kit Carson Road (U.S. 64) west of Paseo Del Touch for map. Marker is in this post office area: Taos NM 87571, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Battle of Bataan Memorial (a few steps from this marker); Veterans Memorial (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Taos Plaza (within shouting distance of this marker); Padre Antonio José Martínez (within shouting distance of this marker); Don Fernando de Taos (within shouting distance of this marker); Historic Taos (within shouting distance of this marker); Old Taos County Courthouse (within shouting distance of this marker); Ledoux Street (about 500 feet away, measured in a direct line). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Taos.
More about this marker. This interpretative panel displays four photograph with the following captions:
Left, top: “This photo from about 1904 is looking east towards the Plaza along what is now Ranchitos Road. Each house had its own haystack as horse and wagon was the transport of the day. The tower of Guadalupe church is on the left. The church, built in the mid 1700's was demolished in 1911 due to crumbling walls. The rebuilt church burned down in 1961, and was replaced by a new church at a site farther north.”
Left, bottom: “Bad fires in the 1930s led to the incorporation of the Town of Taos, as well as the formation of the Taos Volunteer Fire Department. Through the years they have remained effective through training drills such as this one at the old courthouse in 1948. The 1930s engine is still a prized possession.”
Right, top: “Located at the NE corner of the Plaza, this prominent two story building was originally the family home of Juan de los Reyes Santistevan, Taos’ first banker. At various times the building housed a café, a trading company, Forest Service office and other businesses.”
Right, bottom: “SE corner of the Plaza about l904. Every year wagons loaded with wool assembled in a caravan and headed for the railheads in Colorado and shipment to Utah for processing. The Columbian Hotel seen in the background was on the site of the present day La Fonda.”
Credits. This page was last revised on September 24, 2020. It was originally submitted on July 7, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. This page has been viewed 702 times since then and 33 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3. submitted on July 7, 2013, by J. J. Prats of Powell, Ohio. 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. submitted on July 12, 2013, by Mike Stroud of Bluffton, South Carolina.