Did you know that D. H. Lawrence lived in New Mexico? He and his wife Frieda were given the 160 acre Kiowa Ranch by Mabel Dodge Luhan, heiress and doyen of the Taos social set in the 1920s and beyond. The couple spent time at the Taos ranch in1924 and 1925. Many Lawrence fans want to visit the ranch when they arrive in this northern New Mexico town, but until now, they couldn’t. The ranch, now owned by the University of New Mexico (UNM) was closed to the public in 2010.
We were lucky to visit over Memorial Day Weekend when it was briefly open. As of July, it’s open Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10am to 4pm through October, UNM has opened it to visitors with the D.H. Lawrence Ranch Alliance and the Taos Community Foundation.
The ranch is rustic to say the least. The Lawrences lived in the original “Homesteader’s Cabin,” a one-bedroom cabin, dating to the 19th century, that was primitive at best. The cabin’s exterior west wall boasts a 1935 painting of a buffalo by Taos Pueblo artist Trinidad Archuleta. Their friend, Lady Dorothy Brett, lived in a building little bigger than a monk’s cell.
The forested land, at 8,500 feet above sea level, is magical and the views are nothings short of majestic. Here, on warm days, D.H. set up a table under the tall pnderosa pine in front and wrote. Some of The Plumed Serpent was written here as well as some lesser-known works. The tree was memorialized by artist Georgia O’Keeffe in her painting, The Lawrence Tree. Lie on the bench and look up, you’ll feel like you’re in the painting.
The couple didn’t return to Taos. After Lawrence’s 1930 death in France, Frieda remarried and returned to New Mexico. In 1930, Frieda returned to New Mexico to live and in1934, she had Lawrence’s ashes brought to the ranch and buried in a small memorial chapel. She and her 3rd husband, Italian Angelino Ravagli (who she didn’t wed until 1950), lived in a log cabin that she and Ravaglithey had built at the ranch. Today, the sites caretaker calls it home.
When Frieda returned to New Mexico, she entertained many luminaries. Her guest book was signed by great names of the day including Tennessee Williams, Aldous Huxley, Marlene Dietrich, and Lillian Gish.
Almost a year before her 1956 death, Frieda gave the ranch to UNM with these stipulations: that it “be used for educational, cultural and recreational purposes and that the Lawrence memorial be open to the public.” Now, once again, her wish is being fulfilled.
While tours are currently self-guided, caretaker Manny Medina is onsite to answer questions. Starting in 2015, they plan to offer docent-guided tours.
If you want to learn more about the ranch, UNM is offering a two-month, two-credit course (AAC294-DH) at their Klauer Campus. The course meets Wednesdays from 6 to 8:30pm, focuses on the writer’s life, especially the time he spent at Kiowa Ranch. It’s free to anyone who commits to being a docent at the site during the 2015 season. For information, contact Bill Haller, the course’s instructor: [email protected].
If you go:
The ranch is located 20 miles north of Taos, off Highway 522, just south of San Cristobal. Visitors should prepare to make a right turn after mile marker 10; signs mark the rest of the way.
Bring a lunch; the property with its majestic views is a wonderful place to picnic. There are restrooms.