Preserving the Magic of Mesilla
Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property
In 2006, the southern New Mexico home of J. Paul and the late Mary Daniels Taylor was dedicated as a historic property, part of the Museum of New Mexico system. Today, it is unique among the state’s eight historic sites.
Located on Old Mesilla’s plaza, the Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property comprises three 19th-century adobe buildings and an extraordinary collection of New Mexican art and furnishings. After purchasing the properties in 1953, the Taylors expanded and preserved the site as a family residence. Their gift of the property to the state set in motion a dream to give visitors a rare experience of the region’s history, culture and architecture.
At 102 years old, Museum of New Mexico Regent J. Paul Taylor, an influential former educator and state legislator, still lives on the property, which is open only by appointment or via virtual tours. Two recent projects—the installation of a museum-grade HVAC system and the cataloging of thou-sands of objects in the home—ensure that the Taylor family legacy will live far into the future.
“The Taylor Collection is valuable because it allows us to interpret the history and culture of Mesilla, New Mexico and the Southwest,” says collections specialist Ivana Montenegro. “Care of these objects will safeguard the magic of this home.”
Installing an HVAC system to stabilize the home’s interior temperatures and exterior environment created unusual constraints. Pipes and ductwork were hidden inside a fire-place chimney and underneath the building’s pitched metal roof. The split-unit HVAC system itself was enclosed within a specially constructed wooden chest, a clever furniture-like disguise that appears to be part of the original décor.
Montenegro has undertaken a room-by-room inventory of the home’s contents—including religious art, textiles, colonial New Mexican furniture, Native American art, photographs, fine art and folk art, some dating to the late 17th century. She photographs each object, records makers’ marks and artists’ signatures, and creates detailed condition reports. Each piece’s provenance, date and country of origin are noted, often assisted by Taylor and his daughter Rosemary Stolberg.
Eight of fifteen rooms have been cataloged. A YouTube series, Exploring the Taylor Collection, examines many of these holdings in English and Spanish on the New Mexico Historic Sites website at nmhistoricsites.org. In one video, Montenegro highlights the family’s collection of more than two hundred nacimientos (nativity scenes).
A special state legislative appropriation funded the HVAC and catalog projects. But many other projects will require private funding.
“At Taylor-Mesilla, we look to private support through the Museum of New Mexico Foundation for visitor orientation and interpretation, and public and educational programs,” says Patrick Moore, executive director of New Mexico Historic Sites.
Image: Museum of New Mexico Regent J. Paul Taylor welcomes schoolchildren to the Taylor-Mesilla Historic Property, the site of his longtime home in Old Mesilla. Photo courtesy New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.