View From the Plaza

The Shaping of Southwest Style

Arnold Berke, Jenny Kimball, Stephen Fried, Fran Levine

Our Mary Jane Colter weekend in partnership with the New Mexico History Museum was a high-energy event, we had more people than I expected—a perfect example of how history can be brought to life and made relevant to us today. A sold-out crowd of 150 history and culture buffs celebrated the legacy of La Fonda’s feisty architect and designer in a truly interactive weekend of talks, presentations, and socializing. The youngest participant was a 13-year-old “Fred head” who will be giving me a tour at the former Montezuma Hotel in Las Vegas tomorrow! Biographer Arnold Berke, historian Stephen Fried, and architect Barbara Felix, kept us intrigued and amused with the kind of insights that emerge when you do historical research. Barbara even made us metaphorically lift our carpets in the guest rooms to reveal Colter’s original painted concrete floor underneath, awaiting restoration.

Barbara Felix

One theme that emerged over the weekend is the renewed emphasis nowadays on historical preservation, rather than just knocking down the old. Colter herself shows why: Her then-unique taste in local materials, artisanal products, and what we would call ethnic design and recycling suggest how deeply rooted these aesthetic values are, and how we respond to them in buildings like La Fonda without knowing exactly why—or didn’t know, until this weekend.

 

Jenny Kimball, Daggett Harvey

I was especially pleased to see a large number of Harvey family members come and share their insights. Daggett Harvey closed the weekend with an affectionate portrait of a woman who was assertive before her time: Mary Jane Colter was decisive, visionary, and intimidating at a time when women were not even allowed to vote! I think he spoke for all of us in saying that he had a new appreciation of what she did for the Fred Harvey Company—and for its legacy at La Fonda and throughout the Southwest.

 

3 Responses to “The Shaping of Southwest Style”

  1. Jane Sauer

    It was indeed a spectacular weekend. Besides the history and interesting personal stories about the Harveys and Mary Jane Colter, the weekend was further enriched by the attention to detail by LaFonda staff, and the warmth of Fran Levine and Jenny Kimball and their staffs. By the end the audience was not only filled with information but a renewed committment to both La Fonda and the History Museum as treasures of Santa Fe.

    Reply
  2. Jenny Kimball

    Jane, seeing you at the Mary Colter event just reminded me what a renaissance person you are, both loving the historical work of folks such as Colter as well as the cutting edge innovation and excellence from artists that you spotlight in your gallery.

    Reply

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