Sunday, May 28, 2017

Dorsey Mansion

Distance: 56 Miles

Dorsey Mansion is currently closed to the public.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Dorsey Mansion at Chico Spring is just off the Santa Fe Trail in Colfax County. Travel through the rolling grasslands 24 miles east of Springer on Hwy 56, then 12 miles north on a dirt road to see this monument to the dreams, ambitions, calamity and eventual poverty of its owner, Stephen W. Dorsey. A Union Army officer in the Civil War and the United States Senator from Arkansas, Dorsey selected the grasslands as the site of his family home and the operating center of a 24,000-acre cattle ranch. At its peak, Dorsey's ranch was eight miles wide and sixty miles long with more than 50,000 animals and a story book castle. It was the focal point for social life in northern New Mexico and a gathering place for men to plot state and national politics. Dorsey and his beautiful wife Helen were financially successful and nationally known. In less than 30 years though, they had lost everything. Dorsey's wife predeceased him; he fell into obscurity and died in poverty. As William H. Robinson said in the November 1985 issue of True West Magazine, "Of Stephen W. Dorsey's expansive empire, only a forlorn mansion on a vast and lonely grassland remains."

Construction on the rambling, two-story house began in 1878 with completion in 1880. In about 1884, he began to remodel his home, adding the stone castle structure with faces of his wife Helen, his brother John and himself carved in stone on the tower. In the fall of 1886, the castle was completed and an open house celebration was held in the elegant mansion of 36 rooms (10,000 square feet). The mansion consists of a living room/salon with cherry wood staircase brought from Chicago and inlaid hardwood floor in alternate colors. Off the salon is the dining room, which can comfortably seat 60 guests and has a marble fireplace from Italy and brass Victorian chandeliers. Adjacent to the dining room is the art gallery, where sunlight enters through the sky lights in the cathedral ceiling. The beams of the ceiling are arranged to represent the owner's cattle brand -- triangle dot. The art gallery, the last room constructed in the house, was built to exhibit paintings Dorsey brought home from Paris, France, his stuffed animal trophies, and other curiosities moved from his sportsman's lodge and displayed along with his paintings. The billiard room was set up in what had been Dorsey's dining room in the log house section, which also had a library and sitting room with floor-to-ceiling windows, again, with the doors bearing the triangle dot brand.

Surrounding the mansion are the remains of a unique combination smoke house and greenhouse (believed to be the first in New Mexico), a large stone fountain with carved gargoyles, a bobcat and a rattlesnake on top, a smaller ornate cast iron three-tiered fountain with leaves and fronds on it and a large pool with three islands in the middle on which there is a gazebo.