Taos is situated in the high desert, in a tributary valley of the Rio Grande, along the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It has been inhabited by Taos Native American peoples since 1000 AD, making it one of the oldest, continuously occupied communities in the United States, and the most northern of the New Mexican pueblos. In the Taos language it is known as " place of red willows." Don Fernando de Taos established the first European settlements here in 1615. Relationships between the Europeans and the local natives were tenuous over the years, finally erupting in the widespread Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Governor Diego de Vargas finally defeated the rebellion in 1696 during the battle of Taos Canyon. During the 1770's, Comanches repeatedly raided the area until they were defeated by Governor Juan Bautista de Anzo in 1779. By 1797, sixty-three Spanish families had been given land grants. Collectively, they constructed a fortified plaza to help defend against any further problems. The 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ceded a large portion of New Spain (encompassing California, half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, and Utah, along with parts of Wyoming and Colorado) to the United States. Mexicans living within these annexed areas were offered the opportunity to either relocate to within Mexico's new boundaries or become U.S. Citizenship. Records indicate that over 90% chose to become U.S. Citizens. Artists began to congregate in Taos around 1899, creating an art colony that exists to this day (some of those original studios have been preserved). New Mexico became the forty-seventh state in 1912. The popularity of Taos got another boost between 1970 and 1977 when the television show "McCloud" (about a U.S. Marshall from Taos - played by Dennis Weaver -) aired.
One note of caution; wishing to take a day trip to Taos from our base in Santa Fe (and not having our own transportation), we opted to take advantage of a free shuttle bus between the two locations. The trip took the better part of two hours each way, and because of scheduling for the return trip, there was not enough time to adequately enjoy the sights of Taos. So, unless your visit to New Mexico includes having your own car, this side trip may not be worth the effort for you.
Soon, the Plaza became the trading center and political stronghold of Northern New Mexico.
In the heart of Taos is the historic Taos Inn. Originally comprised of several adobe houses ,built in the 1800's, surrounding a central plaza with a community well (now the main lobby of the Inn with a fountain where the well once was), the largest building became the home (1890) of the county's one and only Doctor.: Dr. Thomas Paul Martin. When the only hotel in town burnt down, Doc. Martin's wife (Helen) began buying up the rest of the adobe house and rented them out. In 1936, following Doc. Martin's death, Helen bought the last of the houses and converted them into the "Hotel Martin" (later renamed the Taks Inn). Herself a gifted artist, Helen began to attract other local artists to the Inn, often hosting the Taos Society of Artists ( which was established by her brother-in-law, Bert Phillips and fellow artist Ernest Blumenschein). It's popular Thunderbird sign is the oldest remaining neon sign in Taos. According to the Inn's records, many notables visited the Inn, including Greta Gabo, D.H. Lawrence, Pawnee Bill, and more recently, Robert Redford and Jessica Lange.