D. H. Lawrence Ranch
D.H. Lawrence Ranch Historic District
Interior of the Lawrence Memorial, with the stone containing the initials D.H.L.
|Nearest city||San Cristobal, New Mexico|
|Area||16 acres (6.5 ha)|
|Architect||John Craig; et al.|
|Architectural style||Log cabins|
|NRHP Reference #||03001410|
|Added to NRHP||January 15, 2004|
|Designated NMSRCP||August 8, 2003|
The D. H. Lawrence Ranch, as it is now known, was the New Mexico home of the English novelist D. H. Lawrence for about two years during the 1920s. The 160-acre (0.65 km2) property, originally named the Kiowa Ranch, is located at 8,600 feet (2,600 m) above sea level on Lobo Mountain near San Cristobal in Taos County, about eighteen miles (29 km) northwest of Taos. It is a 4.2 mile drive from the boarded-up historic marker and turnoff on route NM522 to the locked gate of the ranch. It was closed to visitors from 2008 until 2014. Beginning July 7, 2014, the ranch was opened to the public on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
It was owned by Mabel Dodge Luhan as part of more extensive holdings nearby, although it had been occupied by homesteaders and several structures existed on the property dating back to the 1890s. In giving it to Frieda Lawrence (after Lawrence himself declined), it became first the summer home of the couple and then Frieda's home until her death in 1956, at which time she beqeathed it to the University of New Mexico, its present owner. The Ranch is now placed on the National Register of Historic Places and the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. It had been closed by its current owner, the University of New Mexico, from 2008 to 2014, but is now open to the public.
Lawrence in New Mexico
Lawrence and his wife Frieda received an invitation dated November 1921 from Mabel Dodge Sterne, who had read some of Lawrence's Sea and Sardinia, excerpts from which had appeared in The Dial, a literary magazine to which Lawrence contributed. Mabel was a wealthy society hostess and arts patron who had taken up residence in Taos and who was to marry Tony Luhan, a Native American from Taos Pueblo, thus becoming Mabel Dodge Luhan in 1923. Traveling via Australia, then to San Francisco, Lawrence and Frieda arrived in Taos in mid-September 1922.
After some conflict between the Lawrences and Mabel and Tony, during which the Lawrences moved into one of Tony's guest houses, then into another belonging to friends, Lawrence and Frieda went south to Mexico in March 1923, after which Frieda returned to Europe. Finally, a reluctant Lawrence sailed for England that November. In London, an attempt to lure friends to return to Taos with him brought only one recruit, Lady Dorothy Brett, an artist in her own right. Lawrence, Frieda, and Dorothy Brett arrived in Taos in March 1924, again as guests of Mabel. Again, tensions arose and possibly to keep Lawrence in New Mexico, it was proposed to give Lawrence the Kiowa Ranch, some 20 miles from Taos. He refused, saying "We can't accept such a present from anybody" but Frieda accepted, telling Lawrence that "we'll give Mabel the manuscript" of one of Lawrence’s most well-known novels, Sons and Lovers. The deed was in her name.
While the couple spent a relatively short time there, the ranch became the only property that they ever owned during their marriage and it became a place of rest and relaxation, where Lawrence wrote much of his novel, St Mawr and began The Plumed Serpent, during five months of the summer of 1924. Aldous Huxley is known to have visited the Lawrences at the ranch.
By October 1924, Lawrence and Frieda left for Mexico and it was while they were in Oaxaca that he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The couple returned to the US, and by April 1925 they were back at the Ranch where they spent the summer, Lawrence continuing work on the novel which became The Plumed Serpent. However, with his better health and their six-month visa about to expire, Lawrence was determined to return to Europe. They left Taos on September 11, Lawrence's 40th birthday, and settled in Italy. Although he never returned to New Mexico, in a letter to Brett in December 1929 from Bandol, France Lawrence expressed some interest in doing so: "I really think that I shall try to come back in the spring. I begin to believe that I shall never get well over here."
However, D. H. Lawrence died in France on March 2, 1930 and his body was buried near Vence. In 1935, at Frieda's request, his remains were exhumed and then cremated and his ashes were brought to the ranch by Angelo Ravagli (Frieda's lover and the man who became her third husband in 1934) with the intention that they be buried there.
After Lawrence's death, Frieda returned to the ranch and lived there with Ravagli, who constructed the white plastered 12 ft. x 15 ft. Memorial building in 1934.
While some controversy surrounds the issue of what exactly happened to the writer's ashes after the cremation, it is generally agreed that they were brought to New Mexico and then mixed with concrete to form part of the large memorial stone which was placed in a small covered building on the ranch site, now known as the Lawrence Memorial, although the term "shrine" had been used in the past.
At her death in Taos in 1956, Frieda was buried on the ranch property and she bequeathed it to the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, the present owner. Her grave is located just outside the Memorial building and visible on the left of the picture.
UNM has not maintained the ranch as well as many travelers think desirable, based on opinions expressed in the guest visitors' book in the Memorial. The book allows visitors to sign in, see who has been there and from where they have traveled. For example, in Spring 1979, the guest book showed the bold, black signature of English novelist "Iris Murdoch, Oxford, England".
UNM had in fact closed the ranch and boarded up all signs leading to it. It was not possible to see anything from the locked gate. In May 2014 there was a bouquet of flowers left at the gate expressing outrage that the UNM could close such a significant literary and cultural site to visitors. Then, on July 7, 2014, the ranch was opened again to the public, only on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Other features of the Ranch
"Two dwellings and a small barn existed on the property" when Lawrence, Frieda, and Dorothy Brett went to live there in early May, 1924. The largest, "The Homesteader's Cabin" was chosen by the couple while Lady Brett occupied the small one-room cabin, which may be visited. Neither log cabin was in good repair and renovations were necessary in the early months of their occupancy.
"The Lawrence Tree"
A striking feature of the exterior is the very large pine which became known as the "Lawrence Tree". The writer frequently worked at a small table at its base and he expressed his love for it as follows:
The big pine tree in front of the house, standing still and unconcerned and alive...the overshadowing tree whose green top one never looks at...One goes out of the door and the tree-trunk is there, like a guardian angel. The tree-trunk, the long work table and the fence!"
Later, on one of her early visits to New Mexico in the summer of 1929, the painter Georgia O'Keeffe spent some weeks there after being invited to Taos and to the Ranch by Mabel Dodge Luhan. This was the year in which she painted her now-famous "The Lawrence Tree" with its unusual viewpoint gained from lying on a long bench and looking up into the branches of the tree.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. 2009-03-13.
- "New Mexico State and National Registers". New Mexico Historic Preservation Commission. Retrieved 2013-03-13.
- Bachrach, Arthur J., D. H. Lawrence in New Mexico
- Bachrach, Arthur J., D. H. Lawrence in New Mexico, p.43
- Bachrach, p.77
- Copies of the official French cremation certificate and certification by the British Consul in Nice that the urn contained his ashes are posted inside the Memorial
- Bachrach, p. 55
- See Bachrach, pp.99-102, as well as other external links sources
- Plaque at the ranch site installed by the University of New Mexico
- Maurer, Rachel, "The D. H. Lawrence Ranch" on unm.edu. See external links.
- Lawrence, quoted in Maurer, Rachel, "The D. H. Lawrence Ranch"
- Bachrach, Arthur J., D. H. Lawrence in New Mexico: "The Time is Different There" , Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2006. ISBN 978-0-8263-3496-1
- Simmons, Marc, "Commune's free spirit lured artist to N.M.", The Santa Fe New Mexican, 10 December 2011
- Friends of D.H. Lawrence - provide ranch tours
- Lawrence’s Memorial with photographs on poetsgraves.co.uk. Retrieved 12 September 2009
- Maurer, Rachel,"The D. H. Lawrence Ranch" A detailed history of the Lawrence Ranch on unm.edu. Retrieved 18 July 2014
- The Lawrence Tree (1929), by Georgia O'Keeffe—with an interesting discussion of the correct (and incorrect) orientation(s) of the painting.