Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Castle

     It's been a busy week, let me tell you. Between classes, CASs, OPAs, music, homework, and sleep, I haven't had the chance to sit down and write a blog. But have no fear, a new blog is here! :)
     So last week I mentioned that one of my CAS activities is Castle Tours. Today I lead another tour, this time for a group of about twenty individuals from the Santa Fe area who work with a charity program called Kitchen Angels. The charity finds interesting places around New Mexico and offers individuals "adventures" to these places for a fee, which is used for their program. Kitchen Angels provides meals for those unable to leave the house (age, physically disabilities, etc.) It's a pretty cool fundraising idea
     Anyways, so today a group of "donors" came for an adventure at the UWC castle. It was really fun; they were all interested and curious, ooh-ing at the right times and laughing at my jokes. A (a different A than I mentioned last time) and I took them through the main highlights of the campus and then got to have lunch with the group on the veranda (a happy surprise, because the kitchen prepares better food for guests, yummm) It's really fun to share the history with people and watch their awe and excitement of being in a castle. Now, while you guys can't actually come visit me (or have yet to), I thought I'd share some of the cooler history of the castle. Off we go.

* The whole reason why you can find our campus  where it is is because of the hot springs. The area has been considered a medicinal place for ages. There is a legend that the Aztec king Montezuma was born out of the hot springs and carried to Mexico by golden eagles. So they're old (and that's why our town is called Montezuma). The Santa Fe Railroad thought they could profit off of the many people coming to the springs and built a hotel right next to them. This original hotel was built in 1879 and is still on our campus. We call it the Old Stone Hotel and it is now used as administrative offices and classrooms. Much of the building is original.
* The first "castle" was constructed in 1882 as a more luxurious hotel, not far from the original. Unfortunately, it burned down two years later in 1884. There were no deaths.
* That same year the second castle was constructed, further up on the hill, where our castle is today. This hotel was called "The Castle on the Hill" and was considered fireproof because of its architecture and location. The idea was that the building could maximize the fresh air intake from atop the hill and this prevent fire.
* That building burned down just four months after it was built, on August 8. Portions of the first and second floors remained.
* The hotel was rebuilt once more, this time as "The Phoenix". It was the first building in the Southwest to have electricity and the first in New Mexico to have an elevator. The grounds had an exotic animal zoo, fountains, exotic plants, tennis courts, a bowling alley, and a shop called Chinese Curiosities.Guests could also have hot water pumped up from the springs to their bathrooms.
* Famous guests include Ulysses S. Grant, Emperor Hirohito of Japan, Theodore Roosevelt, Rutherford B. Hayes, Jesse James, and Billy the Kid (who was reportedly shot in Las Vegas). More recently, Queen Noor of Jordan (an honorary president of the UWC movement) has visited the castle, as has Prince Charles of Wales (another honorary president) and the Beach Boys.
* The Railroad started losing money and sold the property to the YMCA for $1.
* Between 1914 and 1972 the grounds were used for, first, a Baptist college and, later, a Jesuit seminary. Armand Hammer purchased the grounds in 1972, but they lay dormant until 1981.
* The school opened in 1982 but the castle was not used, as it was in terrible condition due to old age, having been used in a movie (The Evil) during which many of the "special effects" involved actually destroying the building, and having been looted throughout its dormancy.
* The building was remodeled between 1999-2001 for $10.5 million, mostly thanks to donations from Shelby Davis, U.S. Ambassador to Switzerland (1969-1975). Much of the woodwork and stained glass is original. The rest of the restoration was completed as accurately as possible based on photographs and forensic research.
* Our dining hall houses two Chihuly Glass Sculptures, each with about 500 pieces and weighing 650 lbs each. Dale Chihuly was present for the installation of the pieces.
* The castle boasts a spiral staircase that is an architectural feat. It ascends counterclockwise and is self-supporting and was originally constructed out of only one piece of wood (It is three stories high). It has been restored and, though no longer one single piece of wood, the staircase remains completely constructed of wood (no screws or bolts). Their are only a couple staircases in the world like this, one being in Santa Fe, but ours is the only one still in use.
* A ghost story- An opera singer reportedly died in the castle and students and staff have reported hearing her sing. Two years ago a student was walking down the staircase and heard singing. Having heard the legend he ran back up to the dorm and got several other students. They followed the sound down the stairs. The noise grew louder in the lobby. Pressing their ears to the door of the dining hall, they heard the singing crescendo. They opened the first doors and the sound got louder. So they opened the second doors. And.... it was the school's choir rehearsing. :)

Aaaaaaand that's about all I can share without actually showing you certain pieces. We also detour to the Dwan Light Sanctuary. The walls and roof have prisms which spin at different rates and in different directions and produce really pretty rainbows all over the room. It's soooo cool.

Hope you enjoyed your tour of the Montezuma Castle, come back and visit :)

No comments:

Post a Comment