Territorial Architecture in Santa Fe

By: Jason Couillard

Santa Fe, New Mexico is home to some of the finest examples of Territorial architecture, one of the best known Old West building styles. Like Pueblo Revival architecture, the Territorial style combines many historic building techniques with modern touches, and its prevalence in Santa Fe has helped the city become a hot spot of southwest architecture. For anyone buying or selling property in the Santa Fe area, a general knowledge of this attractive and adaptable building style is a must.

Territorial architecture can generally be described as a mix between Pueblo and Victorian building styles. As the name suggests, it was developed in the Old West's territorial pre-statehood days, when this vast region was populated by European and American settlers who brought with them Victorian two and three store building traditions, but often found pueblo building techniques to be more practical. Territorial homes often feature flat walled and roof construction, but with adaptations like large windows, in contrast to the small light portals, which were traditionally used to block as much heat as possible.

Territorial architecture typically includes more exterior wood than Pueblo buildings, especially near window frames and doors. Old building techniques like central courtyards and stone on stone construction keep these homes cool in the southwest heat, and have been elegantly updated to fit with modern building styles. Many Territorial buildings also include a touch of Art Deco or Art Modern, forms which nicely complement the simple aesthetics of the traditional southwest. While Territorial buildings often follow tradition closely, most new homes in this style use the latest building materials to emulate the elegance of Old West. Here, smooth stucco is often used in place of thick plaster on exterior walls.

Homes and buildings in the Territorial style can be found throughout the Southwest, but Santa Fe has fostered this building form more than most other cities. The city's 1957 Historical Zoning Ordinance brought Territorial and Pueblo architecture into the 20th century, with its requirement that all new buildings in the city standard to be traditionally styled. There's no better place than Santa Fe, New Mexico to see how this remarkable building style has developed since the pioneer days.

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