For me, Santa Fe’s vibrant history has always been one of the best reasons to visit. It’s no secret that you don’t have to spend an afternoon in a Santa Fe museum (although those are amazing) to get a glimpse of how life was in the city hundreds of years ago. One of the best examples of Santa Fe’s rich history is La Casa Sena.
And then there’s the food. I’m here to tell you that the vegetarian lasagna is to die for.
But I’m always talking about food. What I really wanted to share is the history of the building, and then I urge you to check it out for yourself.
Sena Plaza sits just one block east of the Plaza, and directly north of the St. Francis Cathedral, in the heart of Santa Fe. The land Sena Plaza was built on was originally a reward granted to Conquistador Alfrez Diego de Guiros in 1692 for his assistance in the reconquest of Santa Fe following the Pueblo Revolt of 1680. Alfrez Diego built a small adobe hut on the land, a hut that would grow to a hacienda many times its original size.
A hundred years later, while Santa Fe was still part of Spain, Don Juan Sena, a successful local merchant, came into possession of the land. In the 1830’s, Don Juan and his son, Major Jose Sena started building the structure that still stands today. Santa Fe was now part of newly independent Mexico.
Eventually, Major Jose Sena and his wife would add 33 rooms to Diego’s original hut, mostly to accommodate their 23 children, born in what had now become a US territory. The Major was a colorful member of Santa Fe society, and entertained dignitaries of the day. Kit Carson even stopped by a time or two.
There was a ballroom on the second floor of the west wing that served as a perfect place for music and dancing during the day long feasts that marked Spanish society at the time. The Ballroom even temporarily hosted the state legislature for a time when the original capitol building burned in 1892.
As long ago as the late 1890’s, Sena house served fine cuisine, including buffalo, venison, rabbit and lots of green and red chile. The hacienda included servants’ quarters, a chicken house, storerooms, and a couple of wells, one of which still stands today. The main dining room of La Casa Sena now stands where the stables once were.
The property eventually changed hands, and a Tea Room was built where the stables stood in 1927. Many of the rooms were turned into stores and offices, one of which housed the offices of the Manhattan Project in the 1940s (which, for those of you who didn’t pay attention to high school history, developed the atomic bomb in Los Alamos). It was finally purchased by artist Gerald Peters in the 80s and he immediately went to work renovating the Plaza to its original glory.
In addition to its colorful history, La Casa Sena houses a list of original artwork that rivals any gallery or museum. The Garden Room displays seven Gustave Baumann paintings or woodcuts – and Baumann is one of my absolute personal favorites.
And there’s the Cantina, where you can catch live jazz, blues and other local favorites while sipping their amazing margaritas. I’m so going back there for more!
If you’re looking for a place to stay while you explore Santa Fe’s rich history, please consider Two Casitas. Wendy has several homes within walking distance of La Casa Sena that would be perfect for a weekend away, like the beautiful 3 bedroom Puerta del Sol, located at 604A Sunset. Let Two Casitas be your home away from home while you enjoy Santa Fe!