Puye Cliff Dwellings

Welcome to Puye Cliff Dwellings, a National Historic Landmark and home to the ancestors of today's Santa Clara Pueblo people.

Experience one of northern New Mexico's most awe-inspiring cultural attractions featuring cliff & cave dwellings, early Pueblo architecture, an original Harvey House and a stunning panorama of the valley. Spend time with us, and be touched by the spirit of a special place between the earth and sky.

Puye Cliffs was home to 1,500 Pueblo Indians who lived, farmed and hunted game there from the 900s to 1580 A.D.

Puye Cliffs' inhabitants then moved into the Rio Grande River valley. They became the ancestors of today's Santa Clara people, who now live at Santa Clara Pueblo, 10 miles east of Puye.

Puye Cliffs comprises two levels of cliff and cave dwellings cut into the cliff face, as well as dwellings on the mesa top. Over one mile long, the first level runs the length of the base of the mesa. The second level is about 2,100 feet long. Paths and stairways were cut in the face of the rock to connect the two levels and allow people to climb to the top of the mesa.

Representing early Pueblo architecture, cave dwellings on the mesa top were part of a single, multi-storied complex built around a large, central plaza. While the total number of rooms is unknown, the south part of the complex had 173 on the ground floor and multiple stories in various places, similar to modern-day Taos Pueblo.

The largest of all settlements in the Pajarito Plateau, Puye Cliffs was excavated in summer 1907 by Edgar Hewitt in cooperation with the Southwest Society of the Archeological Institute of America. Puye was the first of the ancient pueblos of the Rio Grande Valley to be systematically excavated.

It was also named a National Historic Landmark in 1966.

The Pajarito Plateau

The Pajarito Plateau was formed from successive layers of basalt and volcanic tuff created by eruptions of the Jemez Caldera volcano. Over time, erosion by rain, snow, wind, and cycles of freezing and thawing carved through the tuff to form sheer cliffs that border the canyons of the Jemez Mountains.

The weathering of the cliffs created a hardened but easily broken surface layer with a soft and crumbly underlying tuff that could be dug away by stone tools.

Beginning in the late 900s, the upland mesas flanking the east side of the Jemez Mountains were settled by ancestral native peoples. At first, they gathered into hundreds of separate family-size dwellings. By 1300 A.D., they were converging into a few principal villages of increasing size.

Such villages included Puye, Tsankawi, Tyuonyi, Otowi, Shufinne and Tsirege. The word "tsirege" - which means "little bird" in the ancestral Tewa language - was adopted and translated into the Spanish "pajarito" by Edgar Hewitt. He applied it as a general name for the great area of prehistoric settlement around the eastern flanks of the Jemez Mountains.

Harvey House at Puye Cliffs

Harvey Houses were built by the legendary Fred Harvey Company in the late 1800s as amenities for tourists traveling to the Southwest by railroad and, later, by passenger car. The Harvey House at Puye Cliffs was the only Harvey House built on an Indian reservation.

Chimayo Museum

In 1995, in its effort to sustain and promote the culture and traditions of this historic Northern New Mexico community, the Chimayó Cultural Preservation Association (CCPA) established the Chimayó Museum.

The museum is located on Plaza del Cerró, center of a Spanish Colonial settlement established in 1740. Plaza del Cerró is enclosed by contiguous adobe buildings. Its three entrances are only wide enough to admit people on foot and animals, making it easy to defend. It is one of the last fortified plazas in New Mexico.

The museum building is a classic adobe with viga ceilings and dirt floors--the traditional style that is the foundation of contemporary Southwestern architecture. It was originally home to Jose Ramon Ortega and Petra Mestas Ortega, ancestors of the world-renowned Ortega family of Rio Grandé weavers. The couple raised fourteen children in the building that is now home to exhibits honoring Chimayó's past and present.

The museum is dedicated to educating the public, particularly young New Mexicans, about the history and culture of Chimayó and its surrounding communities, and to supporting the work of established and emerging local artists.

Photographs on display now date back to the late 1800s and early 1900s and present images of the everyday lives, work, and faith of the people of Chimayó one hundred years ago.

The museum provides a venue for the display of contemporary work, including the Española Student Art Show and Los Maestros. It sponsors community celebrations focusing on local art, crafts, and music, and programs for children in area schools. In 2001, over 300 students visited the museum and toured the historic plaza.

Museum Hours: Wednesday-Saturday 11:00am-3:00pm

Frank Bond Family Legacy

Franklin Bond (1863-1945) is believed as one of the founders of the city, he was also the first multiple merchant owner in Española. He was a wool grower who emigrated from Canada in 1882. Bond would later married May Anna Caffell of Pueblo, Colorado . At age 21, He established the largest mercantile company in New Mexico ( Espanola Mercantile ), along with G.W. Bond & Bros, and Bond & Nohl companies with his brother George, who was already living in New Mexico. In addition to running the retail business, Frank Bond acquired extensive tracts of land, including the Valle Grande (Baca Location) in the Jemez Mountains . Using this land to raise sheep, he quickly took advantage of the lucrative wool market. His businesses expanded to include wool storage and marketing ventures. In 1924 Bond was spoken of as a possible gubernatorial candidate and again in 1928, but preferred the more reserved work of building the state's economic enterprises than serving in politics. In 1925, Bond temporarily relocated to Albuquerque , establishing business ventures such as the Wool Warehouse Company with his son, Franklin Bond Jr., and other partners.

When Franklin Bond Sr. died in 1945, his son took over as president of Frank Bond & Son. He held the vast family interests until his sudden death from illness in 1953. At that time, with no family member able to manage operations, the family began selling off assets and the company was liquidated. The family also owned mercantiles in Wagon Mound and Roy .

The Bond Family home, which began as a small adobe home grew into a large two-story home, modeling the neoclassical revival style it still exists in downtown. The city purchased the building in the 1970s. The Bond family name has held a strong family legacy, there are 3rd and 4th generations of the Frank Bond name. The family no longer resides in the city.


The history of Española is about the merging of three cultures; that of the Tewa, Hispanic and Anglo. The Tewa people are Native Americans who populated the northern Rio Grande valley from as early as the beginning of the thirteenth century. The Tewa people live in pueblo communities that relied both on farming and hunting for sustenance. Their culture is complex and beautiful with a great many ceremonies and dances and a great appreciation for art and nature. Four of the nineteen existing Tewa pueblos, Ohkay Owingeh, Pojoaque, Santa Clara and San Ildefonso are within a few miles of Española.

Spanish soldiers, exploring northward from Mexico reached the northern Rio Grande valley in 1540, however it wasn't until 1598 that an effort was made to bring Spanish settlers into the area. This effort was led by Don Juan de Oñate. After setting up a temporary headquarter, called San Juan de los Caballeros in the Tewa pueblo of Ohke (now Ohkay Owingeh) they moved seven months later a short distance away to an abandoned Tewa village and established the permanent settlement of San Gabriel. Thus this missionary villa, adjacent to current day Española, was the first European capitol city in what is now the United States.

The Spanish and Tewa had an ambivalent relationship. At the time of the Spanish arrival the Tewa had been subject for many years to attacks from Apaches and Commanches who presented a substantial threat to them. In that sense, the Spanish were an important military ally. On the other hand, cultural conflicts, and particularly pressures from the hundreds of Franciscan priests to convert the Tewa people to Catholicism, created a great deal of friction.

In 1680 a simultaneous and carefully planned uprising of the Tewa people, led by the Ohkay Owingeh medicine man, Pope, was successful in driving the Spanish out of New Mexico altogether. However, when the Spanish, led by Don Diego de Vargas, returned in 1692 the re-occupation of the Rio Grande valley was largely peaceful. Santa Fe was established as the capitol of the region and the next villa established was Santa Cruz de la Cañada which is within the city of Española.

The third culture to mix within the Rio Grande valley was that of the Anglos. With the outbreak of the Mexican-American war in 1846, New Mexico was quickly annexed by the United States. The new territory was problematic, though, because of the predominance of the Hispanic population with strong ties with Mexico and Spain. However, the United States government took early action, aided by the Catholic church, to create schools, hospitals and orphanages in the new territory and to begin to exert cultural influence in the area. With the railroad arriving in New Mexico in 1878 trade and migration from the eastern United States increased dramatically.

Española today is a city where the three cultures exist harmoniously with each other. Tourists and local residents visit the Tewa pueblos during Feast Days to watch ceremonial dances that have been passed down for hundreds of years. Crafts such as Tewa pottery are renowned throughout the world. The Hispanic traditions of Fiestas, posadas, and unique celebrations such as Dia de los Muertos are enormously popular, as is the unique cuisine and craftsmanship. Both of these cultures exist within a very American setting, alongside but not interfering. Visit, stay awhile, enjoy!


Rodeway Inn
604-B South Riverside Dr., Espanola, NM, 87532
(505) 753-2419

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