Architecture/Buildings (37)

Tuesday, 26 April 2016 17:33

Santa Fe Plaza Tunnels Myth

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Santa Fe Plaza Tunnels Myth

In the early1980's, I worked at Los Llanos Bookstore in the Spitz Building (72 E. San Francisco St.) on the south side of the Plaza.

It is a late 19th century building with a full basement of stone walls. In the wall abutting the Plaza was a bricked up doorway.  The story was that this opening led to a series of tunnels that connected the Spitz Building and others on the Plaza to the First National Bank and the Palace of the Governors, La Fonda Hotel, Catron Building, etc.

Why?  No one really knew but many had their theories, all supposition.  To this day you still hear people ("tour guides") repeating this yarn. 

So as usual I headed off to the Chaves Library to see if I could find any documentation.  After an hour of looking through files (archaeological, historical & architectural), I found not one mention.

One of the ever helpful staff suggested I call Cordelia Snow, an archaeologist with the Dept. of Cultural Affairs.  I phoned her, introduced myself, and told her what I was up to.  Her initial response was a laugh.  She too had heard these stories and told me that she and her husband, David, had done numerous excavations on the Plaza over the years and never once found evidence of tunnels.

The Palace of the Governors doesn't even have a basement and so a tunnel to it would be superfluous.  I doubt the bank would have wanted a tunnel into its basement for security reasons.

Snow said that she too was familiar with these sealed doorways and went on to explain what they were for.  These basement doors led to chambers under the sidewalks in front of many commercial businesses on the Plaza and were used to access freight elevators to bring goods down to the basement level instead of through the front doors.  Anyone who has been to NY, Chicago or any other big city has seen this type of freight elevator still in use today.

End of story.  End of myth.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

p.s. When I originally posted this article I immediately deleted it.  Within an hour an alert reader notified me to the following:  a website called Legends of America has an article, "NM Legends: Haunted La Fonda Hotel of Santa Fe".  I had seen this article when surfing the Internet but ignored it as just another ubiquitous tale of Santa Fe ghosts.  But buried in this article is the following line in reference to the Exchange Hotel, the former name of the La Fonda in the late 19th, early 20th centuries before it became a Harvey House in the early 1920's.

"Sometime during this period several tunnels were constructed underneath the hotel that lead to the courthouse."  Vague, but interesting.  I emailed the author as to her source but never heard back.

I again called Cordelia Snow and asked her for her opinion.  Her response, and I quote with permission, was "Hogwash".

I went down to the La Fonda and talked to John Nuanez, the head maintenance man of 37 years for his knowledge of said tunnels.  He, most obligingly, took the time to show me the basements of the hotel as they now exist.  He in all of his years of crawling about every nook and cranny of the hotel had never seen any sign of tunnels, or doorways leading to them. 

Would anyone with any hard documentation of these tunnels please post them in response.  Otherwise I am assuming that Plaza tunnels are just another Santa Fe myth.


Monday, 09 February 2015 20:52

Simon Nusbaum, a little-known Jewish pioneer in Santa Fe

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Simon Nusbaum, a little-known Jewish pioneer in Santa Fe


Arthur Scott



   I begin this story at the end. Currently(2015) at 123 Washington Avenue, in Santa Fe, stands the Hotel de Chimayo owned by Heritage Hotels and Resorts. Formally it was the Hotel Plaza Real constructed around 1988 by Santa Fe hotelier Mike Cerletti on the site of a former City parking lot. In 1960 the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the city Council voted to lease the Nusbaum property on Washington Avenue for $600 per month, demolish the hundred plus year old house, and establish an 85-car, off- street,  parking lot.  

  The property was then owned by John and Ester Nusbaum. John was the son of Simon Nusbaum. At the time, they were living in Albuquerque and agreed to the

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