April 20, 2019 Taos, New Mexico

The Harwood Museum of Art

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The Harwood Foundation Library

THE LIBRARY (1937-mid 1990s)

The Harwood Foundation Library was a Taos treasure for over sixty years. Many residents and visitors cherish memories of this important chapter in the Harwood’s history. With its Spanish Pueblo Revival architecture, the Library’s rooms were a blend of wood floors, Spanish Colonial style furnishings and hammered tin ornaments, its spare adobe spaces textured by the quiet tread of patrons on creaking plank floors and suffused with a fragrant scent of vanilla released from the pages of the old books.

The Harwoods held an extensive private collection of books in their residence on Ledoux Street, a property comprising several small adobe structures that they had purchased in late 1916 and that Burt began to remodel the following year. He used local adobe construction techniques in keeping with what would become known as Spanish Pueblo or Pueblo Revival architecture, a conscious recourse to adobe structures blending stylistic features from Pueblo and Spanish Colonial missions. The Harwood property, known early on as “El Pueblito” would be deeded to the University of New Mexico by Lucy Harwood in 1935, “designated and maintained in perpetuity under the name and style, ‘The Harwood Foundation of the University of New Mexico’ … to be utilized as an educational, cultural and art center in connection with the work of the University” (Deed of Conveyance, 1935). The property underwent a major expansion and renovation in 1937 as a joint UNM-WPA project, designed by the architect John Gaw Meem in the Pueblo Revival Style, more familiar to the public as the Santa Fe Style.

In 1923, following the 1922 death of Burt Harwood, Lucy Harwood formally converted the property on Ledoux Street to the Harwood Foundation. The Foundation was to serve as a cultural center for the community, with a library having a leading role. By 1926 Lucy had made the Harwoods’ private collection of books available to the community. Mabel Dodge Luhan donated books from her own collection, and along with others contributed funds and inspired support. Luhan made sure that the library had both bestsellers and classics, and her gifts comprise much of its special collections. With its makeshift public library—in which books from the Harwoods’ personal collection were made available to the Taos community from the porch of their Ledoux Street residence - the Harwood residence became a meeting place for artists and townspeople.

A formal lending library was established. “The lending library continued to grow through donations. A fee was charged to become a member of the foundation, but no one was ever denied use of the library. Community members began to contribute local art and artifacts to the foundation, as well as books”. (Journal of Libraries and the Cultural Record).  Former Harwood Curator David Witt has noted that the Harwood described its activities on its official stationary as “Art, History, Library.”

The first librarian for the library, now in its new wing built under the 1937 WPA renovation, was Mr. Albert Gee, who had been hired by Lucy Harwood just prior to her death in 1938. The Taos Library website’s History page brings the story to the present:

By this time [1937], the Harwood housed a public library, an art gallery and museum, and a community hall, none of which existed elsewhere in Taos. In the 1940s the Taos County Project was initiated through the Carnegie Foundation, which brought a bookmobile that was active into the 1950s and operated out of the Harwood.  Later Librarians included Willard “Spud” Johnson, who was a writer of note and publisher of The Horse Fly, the “World’s Smallest and Most Inadequate Newspaper.” Mrs. Toni Tarleton, a former Harvey Girl, succeeded Johnson and, for many years, was the sole employee in the library. In the 1970s the Harwood Foundation became a National Historic Place, becoming eligible for grant monies that would fund an extensive renovation.

The Town of Taos took over management of the Library while it was still in its original Ledoux Street location. In 1993 the Town of Taos, the Friends of the Harwood Public Library and other community organizations began raising money to build a new library building. The Town of Taos contributed property it owned behind Town Hall and refinanced existing bonds to create major funds for the library. The Friends group raised an additional $300,000. Construction of the new building, designed by Robert Sturtcman, began in 1995 and the present library opened in July, 1996.

By 2004 the Taos Library had outgrown its new location and plans and fundraising for expansion began in January, 2005.

Lucy Case Harwood established the Harwood home as a place where working artists, musicians, and writers could come and find lodging, solace and camaraderie. The cultural consequences of that decision place her achievement on a level with that of her art patron neighbor Mabel Dodge Luhan. For, as the noted American historian Shelby Foote once wrote, “A university is just a group of buildings gathered around a library”.