Monday, 30 April 2012 22:53

1950-55: The Guarantee, originally the White House, opened in 1912

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 The Silvers, Abe and Marion, are longtime Santa Feans and owners of a well-known downtown building that came to house The Guarantee on the Plaza, a prominent retail store with a long history in Santa Fe. 

The Silvers discussed their family's history in the area during a recent interview. 

The Silvers' comments came during New Mexico 1912-2012, the state's public celebration of a century of statehood. 

"We're fifth generation here," Marion Silver said. "We have a history in Santa Fe." 

The Silvers co-owned and operated The Guarantee, a department store at 53-55 Old Santa Fe Trail, with Gene and Jane Petchesky, Marion's sister. 

"The building is plaqued," Marion Silver said. "It's on the historic register. That happened probably 25 years ago." 

The Guarantee building was built, and at one point owned, by attorney Thomas Benton Catron, who was an important figure in the Territory of New Mexico. The Guarantee was in a building called the Catron Block, on the north side of the Santa Fe Plaza. 

In the beginning, Marion Silver's grandparents, the Uhlfelders, emigrated to the United States from Koblenz, Germany, in 1905 and ended up in Pine Bluff, Ark. 

Seven years later they moved to Santa Fe and started a department store called The White House, which offered goods, fabrics and clothes, Marion Silver said. 

It later became The Guarantee. 

By then, Marion had met and married Abe Silver in New Orleans. Abe was a sports writer and golf editor for the Times-Picayune newspaper. 

Abe Silver later joined the Air Force and trained pilots at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia. The Silvers eventually moved to Santa Fe to run the store. 

The Petcheskys had bought the Catron Block in 1927, Marion Silver said. "When my grandmother retired in the 1950s, they changed the name of the store to The Guarantee on the Plaza Ladies Wear and Shoes." 

The combined Guarantee "was very profitable and supported the family all those years," Marion Silver said. "The year we closed it [1988] was the best year we ever had." 

Why leave when business is good? 

Marion Silver explained: "We were ready to retire." 

Marion Silver said the building is mostly original with the exception of some of the façade, which is recent. "And if you go up the stairs to the offices, it's like you're going back a hundred years. We've helped to maintain that." 

Marion Silver also said the retail business in Santa Fe these days is much different from how it used to be. 

The retail business "was at a much lower key," she said. "It was more people-oriented, and not as competitive." 

Silver also recalled that until the early 1980s much of Santa Fe's retail was in the downtown area, including Dressman's, J.C. Penney, Sears, La Tienda, Kaune's, Woolworth's and other stores. 

In studying the old Guarantee building, the Silvers found it had some apartments in a basement area that were dug up at one point and then buried again. 

"It was an interesting discovery," she said. "They told us there was an underground connection between [The Guarantee] building and the Palace of the Governors." 

The building at 53-55 Old Santa Fe Trail is now occupied by several retail stores and an attorney, John Silver, Abe and Marion's son. 

The Guarantee building is part of the Catron Block, a commercial building commissioned by noted attorney Thomas Benton Catron and completed in 1891, according to a report written by Dr. Corinne Sze for the Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

The Catron Block replaced the Territorial style Johnson building with a new style called “railroad commercial,” which at that time was out of favor in most places. Railroad commercial meant the architect used material brought to town by the railroad after 1880, Sze noted.

 Once built, the Catron Block was leased to businesses on the first floor and offices on the second floor.
“Catron’s second-floor office was reached by a wide central stairway, which is still in place today,” Sze said.

 Catron later became the “dominant figure” of the Santa Fe Ring, which for years “controlled the economic and political life of the [New Mexico] Territory,” Sze wrote.

Remembering 'The Guarantee': Abe and Marion Silver look back
Family’s ties to Catron Block building on Plaza date to 1912

Bob Quick | The New Mexican
Posted: Monday, January 16, 2012
Read 4013 times Last modified on Monday, 30 April 2012 23:01
Maria Montez-Skolnik


Both sides of my family trace their roots in the Santa Fé area to the 1600s.  In the earlier years they were primarily farmers, builders, craftsmen, artists (wood carvers and weavers), and educators.  I graduated from SFHS & NMSU and received my BA & MA in Speech & Language Pathology. I divide my time between Santa Fé and the San Francisco Bay Area.  



  • Comment Link Kent G. Hansen Tuesday, 01 May 2012 03:31 posted by Kent G. Hansen

    Mike, tell us the joke!!

  • Comment Link Mike Lord Tuesday, 01 May 2012 00:34 posted by Mike Lord

    Abe Silver has a special place in my heart. In the 50s, The Guarantee had one of the few remaining nickle pop machines in Santa Fe. You could go into the back of the store (where the pop machine was) through a small alley off Palace. Abe never minded we kids coming in as long as we behaved ourselves. When I was 12 or 13, As I was buying a Coke, Abe walked over and told me my first dirty joke - man to man. I was so cool.

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