We parked our car next to the Chimayó Trading Post – the only car in what was quite a large lot. After taking a few photos of the appealing exterior, we pushed open the door and entered. Immediately a wavering voice to our right announced,
“This place is going to be in a book you know. But you’ve come too early; it won’t be out for a month.”
This was our introduction to Leo, owner of the trading post. The post has been in this location since the 1930s, and it seemed to us that Leo must have moved here then too, and possibly been sitting inside behind the counter where we met him ever since, as his age and that of many of the objects for sale here seemed about the same, and he seemed as much of a fixture as they did too. From old brass beds to china dogs, kachina dolls to copper kettles, wooden santos to porcelain tea-cups, National Geographic magazines from decades past to antique furniture – even a fairground horse! This place is a treasure trove / junk shop / total dump, depending on your perspective, and all three perspectives are valid in fact – it just depends what your eyes lights on next. You could browse here for hours, if so inclined, or give it all a cursory glance and dismiss it as being too chaotic to face the search.
As we rootled around, and took our photos (having asked permission), Leo continued to chat, even when we were more or less out of earshot. Mainly he talked about the objects, telling us to be sure to look in this corner or that. But he also mentioned that someone he referred to as “the girl” had gone to buy his lunch, and that when she returned she would show us the house if we would like. We had no idea what that might involve but it sounded interesting so we agreed.
Meanwhile we picked out a few (old) postcards, and I also chose one of the samplers of Native American weavings (they can be seen on the bed in photo three) as a memento of our visit. Leo careful hand-wrote our receipt in lovely old copperplate, and threw in an extra postcard as a gift. Just then “the girl” returned with his lunch and agreed that she could indeed show us the house ...
+++Next tip: the house!+++
So the girl led us to the back of the shop and through a half-open door into the house behind. This was Leo’s home, and had been so for many years. Our “tour guide” explained as we went from room to room that Leo had worked as cabin crew for Pan Am, meeting his wife there, and settling down here in retirement. But before retiring their jobs had taken them all over the world, and wherever they went, they collected the things that most appealed to them, with the result that the house is as much a treasure trove of antiques as the trading post itself. So if you are as lucky as we were and are invited to look round, don’t be surprised to see something that would look more at home in an English country house or Chinese pagoda! And make sure you see the kitchen too if possible, more or less unchanged since the 1930s I suspect.
We also enjoyed meeting Leo’s cat (photo two), named by his owner as Obama (because he’s “black and white, like the President”). Eventually though we said our goodbyes to both “girl” and Leo, and left. Back outside we walked round to the side of the building to see the house’s exterior, and found that to be almost as fascinating a hotch-potch of items as the rooms inside – our eyes being particularly caught by an old street sign from Shoulder of Mutton Alley, a tiny side street in London’s docklands! We also learnt, from a sign on an outside wall, that this house, known as the Trujillo House, was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.
There are lots more pictures of the house (including some interiors) and store on the Historical Marker Database website – link below.
+++Next tip: shopping in the Trading Post+++
Santa Fe is the gateway to Northern New Mexico. It is the state capitol and the historic center of New Mexican Culture. Surrounded by Ameircan Indian Pueblos, it has absorbed the skills and artistic talents of many cultures to become a center of American art. There is much to do and see in Santa Fe and from Santa Fe. See my Santa Fe tips for some of what's available.
464 North Riverside Drive, at Big Rock Casino, Espanola, New Mexico, 87532, United States
Satisfaction: Very Good
Good for: Solo
807 S Riverside Dr, Espanola, NM 87532
Good for: Couples
811 S. Riverside
Good for: Families
N. of Espanola on Hwy. 68
Good for: Business
604 S Riverside Dr, Espanola, NM 87532
Good for: Solo
243 N. Paseo De Onate NW, Espanola, New Mexico, 87532, United States
Good for: Business
P.O. Box 4140
What to buy:
We had come to the Chimayó Trading Post to explore and take photos rather than to shop, but we couldn’t leave without buying something – it would have seemed rude not to do so, in fact. We weren’t in the market for a brass bed or fairground horse, and getting them home would have been problematic, although I expect that Leo would ship if necessary. And we had already bought Native pottery at Acoma, and our beautiful ceramic horse from Hillsboro. But I did want a souvenir of our visit. So in addition to a few old postcards showing New Mexico back in the early days of colonial settlement, I picked out a woven square in the right shades of green to hang in our kitchen, where I like to display small mementoes of our travels. Whenever I look at this I will remember our visit to Leo’s treasure trove in Española.
What to pay: My little square, among the smallest on sale, cost $7, the next size was $15 and so on. The postcards were 50c and Leo threw in an extra one for free. I didn’t ask the price of the fairground horse!
+++Back to intro page+++
The High Road to Taos is now listed as a 'Scenic Byway'. It travels through the mountains east of the Rio Grande and visits remnants of Old Spain. It can be seen in the architecture, topography, and history of the people. In Espanola, to east on N.M.503 to the Pueblo of Nambe. Occupied since about 1300, this Tewa pueblo was first described by Casta'o de Sosa in 1591 as a square structure, two stories high with a central plaza.
The route goes north on N.M. 520, through Chimayo (see a separate tip), a community known for its fine Spanish weaving and crafts, good food, and famous church. At Truchas, the byway splits, if you have time, visit this village. The road through the village runs alongside a deep canyon. Buildings may seem to be precariously placed on its rim, but some of them have been there for generations. Looking east, you have the illusion of being on top of the world, but you're brought back to reality when you look west to the Truchas Peaks rising 5,600 feet above the village. This frontier outpost was built in a square with an entrance just wide enough for one cart to pass through, for defensive purposes.
Heading towards the village of Las Trampas, a wide expanse of valley opens out in panoramic beauty, the barren Truchas Peaks punctuating the eastern horizon. Over 13,000 feet in elevation, the Peaks are among the highest in the New Mexico Rockies. Settled in 1751, the village of Las Trampas has one of the finest surviving eighteenth-century churches in New Mexico, San Jose de Gracia, built in 1760 (open Friday, Saturday, and Sunday).
Continue northward, passing through small villages, ending in Taos.