Ledes from the Land of Enchantment

Featured home: A Higher Pitch | Real Estate

The first thing you notice about 1395 Bishop’s Lodge Road is the pitched roofs. And while these pitched roofs aren’t the only unique features of this Tesuque property, they’re what stand out most — literally and figuratively.

They’re also what give it its unique feel. Once everything on the outside has primed you for relaxation and relief—the half-acre or so of grass in front of the main house on the left, the half-acre or so of grass and fruit trees in front of the guest house, the expanse of the two lawns, the canopy of pines and blue spruce, the mellifluous sounds of the Tesuque River right outside the front gate, the gardens—what’s beneath these pitched roofs only enhances feelings of warmth, hominess, sanctuary.

As most New Mexicans know, the flat-roofed adobe is the state’s prevailing architectural look. It’s what distinguishes New Mexico homes, and Santa Fe homes especially, from houses throughout the rest of the country. Historically, though, the so-called Santa Fe Style “officially” came about in Santa Fe around 1914. That’s when Santa Fe’s tastemakers, according to former HOME editor and founder Paul Weideman, “decided to forsake Victorian charm and instead pique tourist interest with a focus on heritage architecture.” (New Mexico became a state in 1912.)

“Heritage” architecture is a more official term for Santa Fe Style, a revival of the Spanish-Pueblo form and the Territorial Revival Style, which was formulated by John Gaw Meem in the 1930s. Prior to this governmental marketing decision, the pitched roof used to be much more common in New Mexico. In fact, “the pitched-roof Victorian homes in New Mexico date back to the nineteenth century,” says PaleoWest’s architectural historian, Dr. Chris Baker, “and Craftsman-style homes were not uncommon prior to the 1920s when the Santa Fe style emerged.”

According to Rachel Preston, the founding director of The Ministry of Architecture, a consulting firm specializing in historic preservation, the pitched roof came into play after the arrival of the railroads. “The railroads brought tin for roofing, or terne plate, an older form of tin,” says Preston, “and when the building is done with a pitched roof, it is called Northern New Mexico style.”

Many a flat-roofed adobe resident adopted this new roofing style because it made it easier in winters and during rainstorms. Snow and rain didn’t just sit there above your head, seeing into the roof and walls as it melted or poured down, it just slid right off. But even before the late-19th century, architectural historian John Murphey explains, “The pitched , or gable, roof form was historically part of the Northern New Mexican log outbuilding tradition, used in buildings such as the tasolera — a small barn for livestock and hay. The pitched roof protected the hay from the elements. Examples of these rare structures survive in and around villages along the High Road to Taos.

“Similarly,” adds Murphey, “older Hispanic-built houses in Northern New Mexico — particularly in Rio Arriba and San Miguel counties — have a pitched-roof form. In many instances, the gable was added over an existing flat-roof adobe. Historically, the area under the pitch was not used for living space, but instead to store corn, chile, fruit and the like.”

Obviously, the pitched roofs of these Tesuque homes aren’t there for storage. Rather, they’re there to create a feeling. That’s the aim of the entire property, which, technically, is two units, two plats being sold as one. The impression, once you step inside either house, is that of entering a sanctum. The guest house feels like an artistic sanctum; the main house has a kind of New England-y vibe.

The high ceilings are of wood, as are the floors, which were hewn out of mesquite. The two Bishop’s Lodge Road properties were built in the 1940s and sit on 2.66 acres of land. The main house, at 3,432 square feet, is only slightly larger than the 3,014-square-foot casita. Both have three bedrooms and three bathrooms, as well as west-facing portals. The living rooms of both, while different in the feeling they produce, feature the wooden-beam-and-planked ceilings that make them so special.

The primary bedroom of the main house has a kiva fireplace and the same high-pitched ceiling as the main room, and the casita’s main room has a fireplace and a built-in bookcase. Also impressive is the sense of flow, the openness from room to room. There are open kitchens and outdoor dining areas in both. The main house also has a long hallway and a patio off the primary bedroom. And both dwellings back onto the National Forest, adding further to the feeling of flow.

The details are just as special. The casita’s living room features a hand-painted fireplace, and there is hand-painted tilework in the bathrooms and kitchen. An arched and slatted handmade gate opens to the courtyard of the main house, which also has a built-in wet bar, complete with shelving, a sink and a wine cooler. Both structures boast large, divided windows and skylights.

“It’s hard to find a Northern New Mexico pitched-roof house in the valley of Tesuque,” says the property’s realtor Clara Dougherty, of Dougherty Real Estate, “especially one right on the river and so beautifully appointed.”

Again, it’s those pitched roofs that give each house and the overall property its distinctive pop. As architectural historian John Murphey notes, “Advances in structural framing allowed for the ceiling to be open (without rafters or trusses), which in its most dramatic application gave a vaulting, double-height space under the gable.”

The goal, says Murphey, was “to bring height, airiness and light to the interior.”

Mission accomplished.

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