Touchstone Ghost Trees, photo: Bren Price, described by Miriam Hapgood Dewitt in her memoirs, Taos: A Memory
Touchstone Taos History
Touchstone property has been the destination of many famous and infamous people throughout the Taos History years. Following are just a few of the excerpts from the living tapestry that has become the history of Touchstone and very much a part of Taos history, enjoy.
Miriam Hapgood Dewitt
… was sent by her parents to Mabel Dodge in Taos, New Mexico to recover from depression. While here, Miriam fell in love with the property that includes today’s Touchstone Inn which she visited while at Mabel’s property, now Hacienda del Sol, another Taos Bed and Breakfast across the lane from Touchstone Inn. She writes to her father, “I am sitting on the roof top …the sun is setting…the mountains are very blue and peaceful and against them is a line of marvelous trees.” At Touchstone, we call them “ghost trees” because they are so white against Taos Mountain. Miriam’s father bought the property for $1,000 in 1929 just at the fall of the stock market. Miriam writes in her memoirs, Taos, A Memory, that the last time she lit the candles on the Christmas tree, her son Edward’s clothing caught fire, and Stokie …”put the fire out with his hands – his precious hands,” – she spoke of composer, Leopold Stokowski, who visited her in the 1930’s. Miriam loved wildflowers and the front garden at Touchstone Inn is named The Miriam Hapgood Garden in her honor. Miriam Hapgood DeWitt was the daughter of the journalists and authors Hutchins Hapgood (1869-1944) and Neith Boyce (1872-1951). She was born in Florence, Italy, on November 29, 1906, and, along with her siblings Harry Boyce (1901-1918), Charles Hutchins (1904-1982) and Beatrix (1910-1994), was raised in the family’s homes in New York and Provincetown, Massachusetts. As an adult, she lived in Taos, New Mexico, through 1945, then in Washington, D.C., through 1979, after which she settled in Provincetown and resided there until her death on April 16, 1990 and drew all of these people and places into Taos History.
… moved to Taos in 1917 at age 38 as a newly-wed who had sent her third husband, artist Maurice Stern, ahead to Santa Fe for their honeymoon and became very much a part of Taos history. He lived in Santa Fe and enticed Mabel to come to this area in the first place; he became a member of the well known artist group – the Santa Fe Six. After they were married, Mabel arrived from New York City a few days later and went on north to Taos; Stern, preferring a more cosmopolitan atmosphere, did not like Taos and reluctantly joined her there. Mabel Dodge was a socialite, writer, and a mover and shaker, who during her lifetime entertained with soirees in Paris, Florence, New York, and Taos to bring well known people together; she was Mabel Gansen Evans Dodge Sterne Luhan – salon hostess, art patroness, writer and self-appointed savior of humanity among many other notables, she entertained Georgia O’Keeffe, D H Lawrence, Sigmund Freud, John Reed, Katherine Mansfield, Rebecca Salsbury James, Marsden Hartley, John Marin, Carl Van Vechten, Gertrude Stein, Margaret Sanger, Susan Glaspell, John Dos Passos, Mina Loy, Lincoln Steffens, Leopold Stokowski, Louise Bryant, Max Eastman, Walter Lippmann, Margaret Sanger, Bill Haywood, Emma Goldman, Ansel Adams, Martha Graham and Carl Jung, and many more….all of whom become colorful threads in the tapestry of Taos history. Mabel Dodge was a woman of profound contradictions. She was generous. She was petty, domineering and endearing. Mabel helped Miriam Hapgood find her home in Taos which is now Touchstone, and writes about the property on page 70 of her book, Winter in Taos.
… one of Mabel Dodge’s closest friends was – a U.S. journalist, author, individualist and philosophical anarchist, an editor of the New York Globe and Commercial Advertiser. Hutchin’s wife, Neith Boyce, was a playwright and their daughter, one of four children, Miriam Hapgood Dewitt, lived here on what is now the Touchstone property for 15 years, beginning in 1930 through 1945; it was Hutchins Hapgood who made it possible for Miriam to come to own the property that became Touchstone and made possible many of the recordings of Taos history.
Tony Lujan / Tony Luhan
… was a large, quiet man of Kiowa decent from Taos Pueblo. Very soon after Mabel arrived in Taos and became part of Taos history, she began teaching Tony’s Tewa wife, Candelera, to knit, visiting with her in her Taos Pueblo Home where she could observe Tony. Mabel met Tony Luhan the night she arrived in Taos at the Colombian Hotel Saloon on Taos Plaza, now La Fonda Hotel, a Taos History of its own. Mabel says in her book Edge of the Taos Desert, “It was love at first sight.” The next day after her arrival, Mabel arranged to rent the Arthur Manby House, which is now Café Renato, next to the Taos Inn – Doc Martin’s Home and Office, Taos history all. Tony Lujan never had children and was married to Mabel Dodge, her 4th husband, for 40 years. He built the kiva fireplace for Miriam Hapgood in the living room of Touchstone Inn which was originally on his Taos Pueblo property. The fireplace drew smoke perfectly up the chimney until at Touchstone, we were forced by the Town of Taos to line the base of the fireplace with fire brick to bring it up to code, which of course changed the ratio of height to depth and the fireplace now smokes if not laid just so.
D H Lawrence
… surely visited Touchstone during his time in the Taos area because his closest friend was Spud Johnson who often came to take showers at to his neighbor’s house – Taos history has it, that neighbor being Miriam Hapgood at Touchstone. Spud Johnson founded the Horsefly Newspaper, then The Laughing Horse, in the building that is now the Laughing Horse Inn Bed & Breakfast – in front of Touchstone along the Rio Pueblo, the stream that runs on the south edge of Touchstone. Quotes of D H Lawrence; he wrote a story about Mabel Dodge which was the inspiration for a painting of Mabel by Bren Price which hangs in the room named for Mabel at Touchstone Inn, a Taos bed and breakfast. Mabel Dodge came to Taos like a Lady Godiva, to save the Indians, and Bren Price painted her as a nude sitting horseback for an erotic show sponsored by Ouray Meyers, the son of Ralph Meyers, the historic trader featured in The Man Who Killed the Deer by Frank Waters. Ouray’s father was 74 when he was born and his mother was 14. Since Ouray comes from an historic family and so entrenched in Taos history, Bren wanted to create an historic figure as her subject for the erotic painting. Roberta Meyers has performed her Lawrence’s Women at Touchstone which is a series of skits using the hats from the three – Freida, Brett, and Mabel, and talking about the other two as she wears the hat of one. If you are booking a retreat group at Touchstone and interested in Taos history, be sure to ask for Roberta Meyers to perform for your function. Mabel Dodge and D H Lawrence had a love-hate relationship and Mabel said of the tale, The Woman Who Rode Away – “that is the story where he tried to kill me off.” See movie Priest of Love.
Lady Dorothy Brett
… became a part of Taos history when she came to Taos, New Mexico as companion to D H Lawrence and Frieda Lawrence in the early twenties and stayed with Mabel Dodge Luhan and Tony Lujan until Mabel traded Kiowa Ranch north of Taos to Frieda Lawrence for the manuscript of Sons and Lovers by D H Lawrence – then the three of them, Brett, Frieda, and Lawrence moved to the ranch. Although partially deaf, Lady Brett was a fairly accomplished artist and communicated with people by holding her brass trumpet, Toby, to her ear for people to speak into. Dorothy’s little sister, Sylvia Brett became Ranee of Sarawak when in 1924, she married one of the white Rajahs of Sarawak, Charles Vyner Brooke; they lived in Kutching, Sarawak and frequented Raffle’s Hotel and Club in Singapore. Lady Brett was a British-American painter, remembered as much for her social life as for her art. Born into an aristocratic British family she associated with such notables as Virginia Woolf, John Huxley, Gilbert Cannan, and George Bernard Shaw. In 1924 “Brett”, as she was known, moved to the D. H. Lawrence Ranch near Taos, New Mexico with D.H. Lawrence and his wife Frieda. She settled permanently in Taos, and became a United States citizen in 1938. Her work can be found in the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington D.C., in the Millicent Rogers Museum and the Harwood Museum of Art, both in Taos, at the New Mexico Museum of Art , Santa Fe, the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Roswell, New Mexico and in many private collections – Bren Price at Touchstone has a pen & ink drawing of Lady Brett by Fritz Kackley. Eventually, Lady Brett moved to the crossroads north of Taos next to the present KTAO Solar Radio Station – the walled white house is known in Taos history as the Brett House.
… was married to Frieda Lawrence after D H Lawrence died, and became part of Taos history when he came to Taos carrying the ashes of D H Lawrence with him and Frieda on the train where the ashes were unintentionally left at Lamy Train Station. Having retrieved the ashes, Ravagli built a shrine to honor D H Lawrence at the Ranch and incorporated his ashes into the cement – the story goes that no one is really sure that the real ashes were used because a lot of people were in argument over possession of the ashes, but nonetheless, officially the ashes of D H Lawrence reside at the ranch with his name, north of Touchstone about 20 miles. Ravagli’s grand niece, Rafaellia Ravagli, traveled from Rome, Italy, and stayed at Touchstone Inn last summer to visit the ranch and her uncle’s shrine only to be turned away by the University of New Mexico gate blocking entrance to the ranch, sadly locking everyone out for the time being.
… came into Taos history at the behest of Mabel Dodge, and before she moved to Ghost Ranch near Abiquiu, she lived in an upstairs studio at the Sagebrush Inn – but before that, she stayed with Mabel and Tony as their house guest in the Pink House. This was at just around the time when Mabel had to go to New York City for surgery. According to Taos history, when Mabel returned home, she ran Georgia off in a jealous fit from Mabel Dodge House when she discovered that Tony Lujan liked the artist, and that they had had a good time while Mabel was away. Georgia did not know how to drive an automobile when she first came to Taos and she talked Spud Johnson, who lived next to what is now Touchstone, into teaching her – there is a famous picture of Georgia O’Keeffe on a motorcycle behind Spud Johnson – the museum says otherwise, but Taos history says it is Spud. Georgia removed the back seat from her 1920s Ford Sedan and used it as a traveling studio. From there she painted the landscape around Abiquiu about 40 miles from Touchstone – like the White Place, and the Black Place, and the Pedernal which she glorified as Taos history. Georgia O’Keeffe was pretty much a recluse and always wore black – because it was easy. As a young woman, she taught art at Canyon Normal School – now West Texas State University in Canyon, Texas and at Amarillo public schools. Then she met Alfred Stieglitz, the photographer and gallery owner in New York City, who made her famous after she sent him some samples of her work. Although Georgia O’Keeffe was married to Alfred Stieglitz, she spent her summers in New Mexico and her winters at Lake George in New York.
… was a well known Mexican artist who was married to Diego Rivera. She overcame overwhelming odds after being injured in a trolley car accident as a young woman, which left her body paralyzed for many years. She spent this time on her back in bed with a mirror overhead and a canvas in her lap, thus all the self portraits – and when she was able to get up, she had to wear a painful body brace for the rest of her life. Although Mabel tried, Frida is not really a part of Taos history; however, at Touchstone Inn, the tile mosaic over the Frida Room bathtub depicts Frida with Cala Lillies, and on the wall of the bedroom at Touchstone is a self-portrait with monkeys by Frida Kahlo. Her Father was German and her mother was Mexican and they lived in Mexico City during World War II. Frida, who changed the spelling of her name from Frieda to Frida, was an activist, a Marxist, and led many protests in Mexico along with Diego Rivera. Touchstone has a collection of paintings of Frida Kahlo by Bren Price who greatly admires Frida for her courage as an artist.
Woodrow “Woody” Crumbo
… was an American Indian artist, flautist, and dancer of Pottawatomie descent. As an independent prospector, he found one of the largest beryllium veins in the nation. His paintings are held by several prominent museums, including the Smithsonian Institution and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. A 1978 inductee into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame, Crumbo became an “ambassador of good will” for Oklahoma in 1982 under appointment by Governor George Nigh. Woody was a notable Indian artist, famous for his serigraphs of deer and Indian life. Bren Price , founder of Touchstone, met Woody Crumbo when she lived in Oklahoma City, and when she first saw the property in 1978 that became Touchstone, Manissa Crumbo, Woody’s daughter was living in the original house plus what had been added by Miriam Hapgood and upgraded by Ruby Harper; a part of Taos history, the Crumbo family lived on the Touchstone property for several years and made jewelry where the Touchstone laundry is now located. Bren met Woody Crumbo at an art show in Oklahoma City in the late 1970s and he has a son, his namesake, Woody Crumbo who lives in Cimmarron, New Mexico.
… created the bronze bust of Dora Kaminsky Gaspard, the wife of Leon Gaspard, which resides in the Leopold Stokowski room at Touchstone Inn. Ribak was married to Beatrice Mandelman, a well known artist of the Taos Moderns lectures given by Ted Egri. Bren Price was included in Ted’s lectures as the youngest member of the Taos Moderns with her image of the Taos Pueblo named Catching the Sun, which hangs in the Breakfast Gallery at Touchstone. As a part of Taos history, we have in the Touchstone collection an oil painting by Louis Ribak called, Open Door. In the early 1980’s, Bea Mandelman was included in the stable of artists along with Bren Price at the Lutz Bergerson Gallery which was Taos’ first modern gallery.
…where Taos history can be seen on display, Bren Price worked at Millicent Rogers Museum in the early eighties photographing and cataloging the artifacts so that the museum could become accredited. The kitchen at Touchstone was originally in the same genre as the one pictured below with the deep inset window sills and the same style of window as seen above our coffee service you will see when you visit Touchstone.
Millicent H Rogers. Dying her own textiles in the house of Mabel Dodge Luhan. Taos, NM 1948
Come back for more Taos history in the future….Taos history is being made everyday; let us make you a part of Taos history at Touchstone Inn!