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Kit Carson House
Posted by: Groundspeak Premium Member RakeInTheCache
N 36° 24.416 W 105° 34.348
13S E 448671 N 4029237
Quick Description: The one-story adobe house, built in 1825, is in the Spanish Colonial style in the shape of a "U" with a front portal and wooden beams.
Location: New Mexico, United States
Date Posted: 12/21/2006 5:05:28 PM
Waymark Code: WM1240
Published By: Groundspeak Premium Member silverquill
Views: 120

Long Description:
Kit Carson was a trapper and a mountain man of great renown. He served as an army guide, an Indian Agent and was a highly celebrated Army officer during the Indian Wars. The one-story adobe house, built in 1825, is in the Spanish Colonial style in the shape of a "U" with a front portal and wooden beams. The interior consists of nine rooms, seven of them original, which surround an open patio with a traditional Mexican mud oven and a well.

If the inconclusive date of construction (1825) for the Kit Carson House can be established, there is a history of over 175 years of occupancy to be documented within this Historic Structure Report. From the broad view of the history of the structure, two shaping forces emerged which resulted in an important cultural resource being preserved and made available for visitors to learn and from which to enjoy.

Through the preservation of a single cultural resource, important on many levels to the history of Taos, visitors are able to learn about the history of a well-known Mountain Man, Army General and Masonic Lodge member, Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson. In addition, they are exposed to the simplicity of architecture, finishes and lifestyle setting for a family living in that era.

Two Shaping Forces Echo Loudest

First was the decision of Kit Carson to buy the house. In seeking a wedding present for his new bride in 1843 and knowing that Josefa Jaramillo was connected with a politically important family in northern New Mexico, he wanted a house that would be equal to her social standing. He was offered a house that already belonged to family members, which guaranteed that it would be suitable to her family. The union of Carson, already a famous Mountain Man and Indian Scout, with the Jaramillo family, under the 21 vigas of the three-room adobe brought an added distinction to the structure. The house would not have gained a higher distinction without the association with the Carson/Jaramillo family with the property.

The short 25 years that the Carson family owned the house included times in which Taos "politicos" and prominent society were entertained. Carson's nationally known reputation, experiences and duties outside of New Mexico also brought Generals, traders, Mountain Men and Congressmen from throughout the country to the shade of the Carson portal. The forces of family and bonds of friendship brought together within those walls were to make the structure a symbol for the strength of their combined families.

Carson was not apt to care if his name was associated with a building or place where the family aspect of his life was public. He hid much of the details of family life from his biographers and in his own remembrances.

The other "shaping force" that continues at work today and, possibly, of greater importance is the accumulation of efforts precipitated by the Masonic Lodge Brethren in NM and Taos to preserve the House.

The first of these events, in the undercurrent of the Masonic Order's expansion in New Mexico, was the inclusion of Kit Carson as a Brother in 1854. This would not have been a shaping force if the members had not also prevailed in their efforts to continue the work of the Lodge despite very small numbers.

Later, extensive forces came together again in the efforts of the Masonic Bent Lodge #42 members who made a fateful decision to focus substantial efforts to save the Kit Carson House. In the early 1900s the members recognized the need to preserve the house by acquiring the property. The efforts exerted resulted in the purchase of the property by the Grand Lodge of New Mexico in April of 1910. This event was followed by continued tireless efforts by the Masons and their wives to raise funds for restoration of the very dilapidated property. (See photos 1908).

Their goal had a stated purpose of preserving the "place" that best served as a monument to fellow Brother Kit Carson. He was one of several well-known local historic figures that were members of the Bent Lodge, but Carson's star shined a little brighter on a national basis and was certainly the most recognized name in the group.

The decision to purchase the house and make the house a place to honor and educate the public about their most famous member was followed, albeit many years later, by the substantial efforts by the Masonic Lodge to further restore and expand the use of the Kit Cason House and related properties for operation as a museum.

Historic Background and Context

The Kit Carson Home and Museum is located at 228 Kit Carson Road in Taos, New Mexico. At the time that Carson owned the property, the road on the south side of the property was called Taos Canyon Road. Most deeds refer to this road as the public street.

The House and Museum properties consist of the original three-room, 21-viga home of Kit Cason and his wife, Josefa, purchased in 1843, and an 1830-1856 structure known as the Romero House. These two historic adobe structures were subsequently connected on the west by a 1951-52 concrete block structure and expanded in 1958, with a "reconstruction" of two rooms of the Romero house, which were all but non-existent.

A rental property was constructed on the adjoining property to the east in 1953. The purpose of this building was to produce a revenue stream to support the efforts of the museum. Portals were added at that time to the courtyard face of the Carson House, to the additions and to the Romero House in 1958.

The multiple-building complex is listed on the State and National Registers of Historic Buildings and Places and listed as a National Historic Landmark. The State of New Mexico Register number is 08 and the National Register listing number is #66000948, which contains an official listing date of October 15, 1966. Records found in newspapers and newsletters from the Masonic Lodge indicate a celebration took place in 1963 to honor the listing of the property as a National Landmark. The National Register system was not in place until 1966.

A Historic American Building Survey file, (HABS) maintained by the National Park Service was created for the building complex. However, no drawings were ever placed into that file. The file number is NM-111. Drawings created under the Historic Structure Report, if acceptable to the keeper of the files, will be submitted for inclusion in the record.

Kit and Josefa Carson's association with the property was over a period of 25 years, for which there is little documentation or physical evidence available. The experience of the Carson House today is very much entwined with the history and stewardship by the Masonic Order Bent Lodge No. 42 of Taos, who have owned and maintained the property since 1910. (The Grand Lodge of NM purchased the property in 1908. The stewardship by the Masonic Lodge, in cooperation with the Museums spans a period of over 90 years. There are sufficient documents from the minutes of meetings and in a written report developed by Brother Jack K. Boyer that illuminate the record of their stewardship.

Located in the center of Taos, two blocks east of the Plaza stands the austere adobe structure with very simple "territorial"-trimmed windows and doors that face onto the road to Taos Canyon. Now known as Kit Carson Road, the street was once dirt and sometimes mud-paved open space that maintained a lower elevation in relationship to the walkways.

Paving and parking meters now march along with the portal posts, and maintenance of the historic fabric has evolved into a defensive effort to keep cars from impacting the fragile posts and to keep water that runs off the roofs and down the street from entering the building. The fragile portal, which looks more like a bit of the barrio, reminds people that they are stepping back into time and the hustle bustle of the commercial street is left behind as one enters the courtyard.

Before Carson strolled the Taos Canyon Road or leaned against the narrow posts in the south sun, he first had to find his way to Taos.

Christopher Houston "Kit" Carson was born on Christmas Eve, in 1809. He was a part-time resident of Taos beginning as a young man of 17. He started his adventures as a run-away from a saddle shop at the age of 16 in Missouri. The tales of high drama on the Santa Fe Trail coming from his brothers and friends was too much for the young Carson. He was the youngest child, being raised by his widowed mother. Young Kit was dutiful in helping her in every way, but also afraid that he was going to be trapped in a simple but respectable job of saddle making.

He left home with good intentions of returning. Each time he started back to Missouri, however; a new adventure or opportunity lay in front of him and he seemed to always make the choice to follow adventure. He eventually enticed the saddle maker, from whom he had run away, to come to Taos as well.

During much of his time in the west, Taos was a point of return to socialize, re-supply and recoup from his travels as a Mountain Man, scout and adventurer. He was married twice from age 17 to 32, both times to Native American Indians. One child resulted from these unions. She was eventually raised in Missouri by Carson relatives and, as a teenager, brought to Taos to live with Josefa.

Josefa was only 13 years old when she met Carson. Her life was not one of high adventure or national fame but she was the daughter of a well-known and politically connected Jaramillo family in Taos. She was certainly wiser than her years for having helped entertain important government visitors in her father's house.

Carson purchased the house on Taos Canyon Road as a wedding present to his newest bride, Josefa Jaramillo, in 1843. Their occupancy of the house was interrupted by a four-year attempt at ranching in Reyado, NM, in the 1850s, (see photos) and in 1866-1867, while Brig General Carson was assigned as the commanding officer at Ft. Garland, which is about 100 miles north of Taos.

Josefa gave birth to at least six children in the three-room house, which probably became quite crowed by the late 1860s. A fourth room appears in the deeds after Carson owned the property, although some of the deeds continue to describe the structure as having 21 and 22 vigas. Historic Maps (see Sanborn 1929) indicate that the Carson Room #4 was only a partial room approximately 10 feet by 18 feet long in 1929. (See maps)

Both Carsons died in 1868 in Colorado. She died in childbirth and Kit expired from complications of an aneurysm that resulted from an earlier fall off of his horse. The Carson family home and property was made a part of the estate to be sold for the benefit of the children. Thomas Boggs, a long-time family friend, handled the estate matters to that end. It would be another 43 years before the house would receive any substantial remodeling or rehabilitation.
Street address:
113 Kit Carson Road
Taos, NM USA

County / Borough / Parish: Taos

Year listed: 1966

Historic (Areas of) Significance: Person

Periods of significance: 1825-1849, 1850-1874

Historic function: Domestic

Current function: Recreation And Culture

Privately owned?: yes

Primary Web Site: [Web Link]

Secondary Website 1: [Web Link]

Season start / Season finish: Not listed

Hours of operation: Not listed

Secondary Website 2: Not listed

National Historic Landmark Link: Not listed

Visit Instructions:
Please give the date and brief account of your visit. Include any additional observations or information that you may have, particularly about the current condition of the site. Additional photos are highly encouraged, but not mandatory.
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