Willa Cather’s Visit to Taos, NM in 1925

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Willa Cather and Edith Lewis occupied this small house, “the pink adobe,” across from the “big” house at Mabel and Tony Luhan’s in Taos for two weeks during the summer of 1925 and (probably) 1926. It had five rooms and two kiva fireplaces. They enjoyed staying there so much in the summer of 1925 that Willa asked to return the following summer.

Cather insisted on paying for their room and board, suggesting an arrangement similar to what they had at Whale Cove on the island of Grand Manan. Cather’s insistence was unlike what was true for D.H. and Frieda Lawrence, who lived in the same pink house when they first arrived in Taos in 1922. Mabel had paid their way from India and did her best to make them permanent guests, but they slipped away for a trip to Mexico with Witter Bynner and Spud Johnson and then moved to the Kiowa Ranch.

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Excerpt from Death Comes: A Willa Cather and Edith Lewis Mystery:

The pink adobe was pink, of course, only because of the paint that trimmed its windows and the porch that shaded its doors on the east, the traditional direction for doors at the pueblo, meant to face the sacred mountain and greet the morning sun. Aside from the Victorian gingerbread that decorated its porch and the Florentine door handles Mabel brought with her from Italy, it was a small and unpretentious house with thick adobe walls inside and out. Each room had multiple windows and doors, more windows and doors than Edith had ever seen in one dwelling. And the doors, even the front doors facing east, were like windows, their raised sills and low lintels required simultaneous climbing and stooping to pass from one room to another or move from inside to out. Tradition, Tony told them. From the pueblo. Keep everyone safe. No enemy can be strong when stooped.

Pueblo workers built the house under Tony’s supervision, just as they had Mabel’s main house, where the steps leading to the bedrooms upstairs required the same sort of simultaneous climbing and stooping. But the pink, Edith guessed, might have been Lawrence’s addition. Adobe houses were always the color of the mud that formed them, and in Taos most of the doors were blue. Tradition, Tony told them again. Just like doors at the pueblo, blue to ward off evil spirits. Mabel’s big house, one of the only multiple-story houses in Taos except for the five-story pueblo, was trimmed in bright turquoise.

The house is currently owned and occupied by artist and musician Kevin Cannon. See more photographs of Mabel and Tony’s “pink adobe,” as well as a large house on the property, here.