Saturday, July 30, 2005


Taking the photographs of "Painted Trucks" on Palace Avenue, here in Santa Fe, NM, got me thinking about history of the street itself and at least two additional features of some interest. The first is the fact that according to the old-timers I met when I first came here in 1967, Palace Avenue was the street on which the gringo professionals, that is the doctors, lawyers, dentist, and merchants built their houses as the onslaught of East Coast Americans began arriving after the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe Railroad line reached Lamy NM in 1880. These early Easterners had no interest in living in mud houses, the adobe construdtion native to this area, and they brought with them Eastern architectural plans, chose styles with which they were familar, and then the materials unavailable at local markets, could be shipped from Kansas to build classic Eastern Style houses such as this Mansard Roof example below.

North America of the 19th and early 20th century was a nation of beautiful small towns and a major contribution to that beauty were the streets with their towering trees overlapping to create a canopy 50 to 60 feet above the street. These majestic trees were the Ulmus Americana, The American Elm. Fast growing up to 70 feet, and with a life of up to 100 years, this was a wonder tree, thus its popularity across the United States and Southern Canada.

Then in the early 1920's a fungus which was discovered by a Dutch Biologist in Europe, suspected to have orginated in Asia, began appearing around the cities of the major East coast ports, spreading slowly West.
I was living in Denver in the 70's, and within the time span of one summer, hundreds of streets were stripped bare as the Elms died. The sound of chain saws was unending from dawn until sunset.

But there are a few spots in North Ameraca that the devestation has passed over, and Santa Fe is one of these sites. My unoffical count is of 63 remaining trees, and judging by their size were planted around the same time.These beautiful survivors have begun dieing from age, and now the second Great American Elm Tragedy plays itself out because no one is replacing these treasures as they die. So if you are a tree lover, on your next trip to Santa Fe you might walk over to PalaceAve, or for that matter any of the streets around the downtown plaza and pay respects to the last of the great Elms.

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