One of Santa Fe’s most unique and cherished historic houses, the Francisca Hinojos House, built in the 1880s a few blocks from Santa Fe’s plaza, is being rebuilt. The Territorial-style house, which preservationists have said “…adds more to that streetscape than almost any other building on Palace Avenue,” was substantially damaged in 2013 by what is believed to have been arson. A plaque from the Historic Santa Fe Foundation remained embedded in what was left of the front wall. Demolition had been proposed. John Wolf, owner of Wolf Corp builders, bought the property and is carefully restoring the house to its original appearance. It will become his residence.
The Hinojos House is a good example of the Americanization Period in Santa Fe’s history, when Eastern architectural styles were consciously imported in order to “look American.” Subsequently, those efforts led to the successful plea for statehood. An adobe residence with unusual architectural details, the house was designed and constructed by itinerant French artisans brought from Louisiana by Archbishop Lamy to build the St. Francis Cathedral. The exterior is more typical of Southern architecture during the period of French occupation than of Santa Fe’s indigenous building styles. Built on a brick and stone foundation with stone buttresses, it has plastered adobe walls, a bay window, an ornate portal and a pitched and multi-gabled terneplate roof, punctuated by four corbelled brick chimneys. A retaining wall in front of the house is made of stone left over from the building of the church.
Historical reports state that a small rear building with a hutch roof formerly served as the kitchen for the main house. Due to excessive summer heat and cooking odors, it was a common custom in New Mexico, as well as the Southeast, to have an unattached kitchen.
According to Fr. Angélico Chávez in Origins of New Mexico Families, Doña Francisca Hinojos owned the property between 1856 and 1872. She had moved from Albuquerque after trading land on the Old Plaza in Albuquerque with a priest for property in Santa Fe. Hinojos, born around 1837, is said to have descended from Aparicio Alonso de Hinojos of Zacatecas, who came to New Mexico early in the 18th century as a soldier. Her father, Blas Hinojos, was el comandante principal of New Mexico at the time he was killed in the Navajo campaign of 1835.
In 1887, Doña Francisca bequeathed the property to her son, Don Alfredo Hinojos, a prominent political figure who was the Cathedral’s organist for almost 50 years. At that time, the lands adjacent to the plot where the house was built included what are now Martínez Street and the grounds of La Posada Hotel. The house was occupied by Francesca Hinojos’ granddaughter Frances Hinojos until shortly after the property was purchased by Lois Field in 1948. At that time, it had fallen into disrepair and was hardly habitable, as Frances had lived there with 27 cats and no electricity, water or heat. An early preservationist, Lois Field, along with sculptor-turned-building-contractor Agnes Sims, restored and remodeled the house, making it livable.
Other distinguished members of Santa Fe’s community have been housed in that building as well: the North American Institute, the Native American Prep School, several attorneys, the advertising agency Creative Images, and the offices of photographer Elliott McDowell and William Field Design. Field took over the house in 1974 and owned it until after the fire. Fortunately, the building will now have a future, perhaps to make more history.
Seth Roffman is editor-in-chief of Green Fire Times.