new reflecting old

February 26, 2024  •  2 Comments

Since the first railroad train pulled into the city of Santa Fe in February of 1880, change and development and how to deal with them have been major issues for the City Different.  They are for any city.  But because Santa Fe was originally built and connected by wagon and burro trails, fairly narrow in scope, winding down to the river and up into the hills, neat and tidy development is complicated.  It is not flat, so a grid system, such as that in Albuquerque where north to south and east to west streets dominate, is impossible.   The native landscape stretched and shaped the city in interesting ways.   And when construction is proposed, archaeological digs are frequently part of the planning and construction process. Renovation of the greater Railyard area was a long time coming, and is still ongoing.  But a recent exploration of the downtown or historic area of Santa Fe told us, once again, why we loved the place at first blush in the 70s, and why we still do.

I had actually been to both Lamy and Santa Fe on the train during my time as a Girl Scout.  It was a day-long, wonderful outing of which I have great memories.  The fact that the railroad spur line ended up in this place is a story unto itself, but the area known as The Railyard continues to change.  Thankfully, one of the original concepts for the area proposed by the Catellus Development Corporation, formed by the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company, which called for the leveling of most of the buildings and removal of the train tracks, was rejected by the Metropolitan Redevelopment Commission and the City Council.  It also would have allowed buildings up to six stories high to be built, when heretofore the Eldorado Hotel was the tallest building. Its abrupt three story edifice in itself raised quite a stink.  I remember the years - decades actually - of wrangling and plans.  One thing about Santa Fe, for which I am eternally grateful, is that when it comes to the historic downtown area, things take time.  That is not necessarily a bad thing when it comes to large development. Redevelopment of some of the surrounding areas, including the Baca Railyard, were completed first.  And, in the end, the Railyard still houses trains, including the Rail Runner that serves as transportation between Santa Fe and Albuquerque.  

A concise piece and video about the history of the area is contained in the link below.



The Sky Railway Adventure Train offers rides with meals and entertainment.

Santa Fe Sky Railway engine 2/2024Santa Fe Sky Railway engine 2/2024


Given the time and planning things take in the greater Santa Fe historic area, it did not surprise me to hear of the massive discussions about the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary.  Designed by DNCA + StudioGP, its purpose was "to create an innovative structure that adapted an existing building as a showplace for the art of our time".   Its opening in September of 2023 drew huge crowds.  The original building on the site was a warehouse constructed in 1936, owned by the Charles Ilfeld Company.  In 1960, the building was sold to the state of New Mexico where it became the Records and Archive Center.  During our trips into Santa Fe from Taos County, where we were living at the time, we began to see bits and pieces of the building being chipped away and wondered what was happening.  A good portion of the building was eventually demolished, but the main two story wall on Guadalupe Street and its territorial style brick parapets retained as an homage to its original design. The metal louvres on both the north and south sides of the building give it a slightly abrupt and dramatic look.  Not a surprise to me in the least that the design instantly elicited a love-hate relationship from the community.

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 1New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 1

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 2New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 2



Windows on the south and east sides of the building window reflect the original Santa Fe Railway building, and other buildings along Guadalupe Street.

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 3New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 3

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 4New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 4


Vladam Contemporary has a few surprises, including exterior oscillating light displays, and recorded whale sounds.  After all, one of the missions of the New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem is to provide a dedicated educational educational space lacking in the immediate downtown area around the Plaza. 

New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 4New Mexico Museum of Art Vladem Contemporary 2024 4


But as the Railyard continues to alter its ego to include a new hotel in the former building of Outside Magazine on Market Street, the water tower tells it all.  This area was and remains firmly grounded in the railroad that originally prompted outside interest and brought people to the Capitol.


Old and new, there are still amazing spaces and places to explore in Santa Fe, complemented by the amazing and ever-present smell of food -from chile, bacon, and barbecue to baked goods and coffee.

Thanks to Minna, Barbara F. R., Jean and Sam, Victoria, Catherine, Steve for your comments last week!

until next Monday,


a passion for the image©







Steve Immel(non-registered)
Thanks for the fun read. I didn't even know about this new addition to the NM Art Museum. As you say the Railyard keeps evolving though not always successfully. I would suggest that the New Mexico School of the Arts is a worthy and hopefully long-term anchor the Railyard. Outside Magazine moved to Boulder, some retailers have failed, and property has a had a checkered past. I have yet to visit the Vladem Contemporery but will do so one on my many trips to Santa Fe.

Sweet wide angles on your shots of the new museum, some quite abstract and fitting for a contemporary art museum. If you haven't visited the New Mexico School for the Arts, look for one of their events that demonstrate excellence in a wide gamut of pursuits: Visual, music, dance, theatre, writing and now film.
Thanks for presentation of interesting history. Might mid-town (old college of Santa Fe campus) evolve with the same thoughtfulness; certainly has been a ssslllooowww planning process.
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