This homestead, built around 1783, is now the home of a romantic restaurant. The showpiece is a long bar that was moved from Fort Sumner, NM, in 1970. The bar has the distinction of having quenched the thirst of notorious outlaw Billy the Kid and members of his gang. Wandering its rambling rooms are at least four specific ghosts, whose detailed visages have been recorded by both staff and patrons alike. Often, those reporting the events have never heard of the haunting of this centuries old home.
The hacienda was built by Salvador Armijo. Born into a wealthy family, he was educated in St. Louis, fluent in both Spanish and English and understood a great deal about economics, trading, real estate and the family business, transporting goods across the southwest. In 1847, Salvador married Paula Montoya and began buying more land around the house, about one hundred acres, which he turned into vineyards and vegetable gardens. His business ventures also grew. In addition to the real estate he was leasing, he also sold produce, wine and manufactured other goods.
Originally, the building was a twelve-room hacienda enclosing a central patio. It faced south, looking toward the San Felipe de Neri church and several small adobe houses that clustered around the plaza.
Between the house and the church were a few homes, but the area was mostly comprised of open fields. The house’s layout was typical for haciendas being built at the time, a rectangle, a hundred feet from north to south, and seventy feet east to west, enclosing a placita (inner courtyard). Zaguanes (covered passageways that were usually big enough for a wagon to pass through) were on the east, south and north sides. Each of the haciendas’ twelve rooms opened up into the placita instead of the outside. This was an architectural defensive measure that was carried over from Spanish Colonial times when each hacienda was a fortress and easily defendable from the local natives. In the center of the placita was the well, with stables and storages rooms to the rear.
The walls of the original house were thirty-two inches thick with the single exception being the west side, which was built out of stone. The walls of the hacienda were plastered with mud, both inside and out.
The roof was comprised of a thick layer of dirt, which was drained by long wooden canales that jutted out on all sides. The family lived in the south side of the building as storage areas and servants’ quarters comprised the northern side.
Despite Salvador’s success in business, his personal life was in turmoil. He divorced Paula after one year of marriage and started up another relationship with a woman from a prominent local family named Dona Maria de las Nives Sarracino. Their relationship quickly turned sour, and the two were often feuding over piety things. During their marriage, they only had one child, a daughter named Piedad.
Eventually, Salvador began taking frequent long business trips, leaving Dona Nieves to manage the household and local business affairs. Despite their differences, the two managed acquire more property, developed one of the largest vineyards in the territory and eventually became the largest agricultural employer in the region.
In 1872, Piedad married Santiago Baca. It was the first wedding held in the San Felipe church after the Confederate invasion of New Mexico. Salvador quickly became close to his new son-in-law, and they went into business together. As a result, Piedad and Santiago became quite wealthy. Salvador and Dona Nieves separated shortly after the wedding and began dividing up their property, a process that would eventually take ten years to complete. She got the house and part of the farmlands, but more importantly, the settlement agreement determined that Santiago would have power-of-attorney for Dona Nieves. The couple eventually moved into the house with Dona Nieves.
In 1875, Piedad and Santiago Baca began an extensive remodeling of the home in Territorial style, an adaptation of Greek revival, which was considered to be more stylish at the time. The southern zaguan was converted into a hall that opened into the rooms on either side.
Windows were also added to the exterior and portales, covered porches, were built along the west, south and east walls as well as along the interior of the placita.
The years that followed were painful as the couple’s wealth began to decline. Dona Nieves, who was never easy to get along with, became even more difficult in old age. She ruthlessly tried to rule the house. Even more complications arose when Bernardino, Santiago and Piedad’s son, moved into the house with his new bride. Playing his grandmother against his parents, the son caused an irreparable rift in the family. When Dona Nieves decided to deed the western section of the house to her grandson, Santiago and Piedad moved out in anger, and Santiago terminated the power-of-attorney that he had held for the last twenty years.
Things became even worse for Dona Nieves when she discovered that her grandson had sold some of her property without her knowledge. She filed a suit against him and went to live with her granddaughter Francisca while the legal proceedings dragged on. She died there in 1898 with her personal affairs in chaos.
Francisca’s husband, Meliton Chavez, bought the house in 1899. Santiago and Piedad returned to the house and remained there for the rest of their lives. Piedad passed away in 1907, and her husband followed almost a year later.
Meliton and Francisca moved into the house and began a series of renovations in 1908. The west side of the house was already in bad condition, so it was removed. A new living room and bedroom were built on the south side, making a double row of rooms. The exterior walls were covered with a cast stone veneer, and portales were built along the south and west exterior walls. The final touch was covering the old dirt roof with a new low-pitched one.
The house eventually passed into the hands of Alejandro and Piedad Sandoval, the daughter of Francisca and Meliton. When Meliton died in 1933, he willed the south part of the house to Piedad and the north section to his granddaughter, Frances Wilson. After her mother’s death, she became the sole owner of the house.
The building received its last major remodeling in 1977, when Frances leased the house to the Tinne Mercantile Company, who converted into a restaurant.
The restaurant changed hands again in 1984 when the Old Town Development Company acquired the restaurant. Since then, it has changed ownership several times.