Route 66 Side Trip

Route 66 Side Trip

Ghosts of San Miguel

Route 66 Side Trip


San Miguel Mission

Santa Fe's Oldest Neighborhood

San Miguel Mission is perhaps the oldest church in the United States, but it is surrounded by equally old homes and shops in Santa Fe's oldest district. The block around San Miguel was once the site of an Indian Pueblo dating back to the 1200s. Across the narrow street from the church is the oldest house in the United States, in fact the street is lined with sunbaked adobe buildings going back to the early 1600s. Centuries of history have unfolded here, some tragic and violent. There's history here from countless lives and the unfolding of human drama. This is the area that saw a clash of cultures with the coming of the Spanish and the subjugation of the Pueblo Indians. The Pueblo Revolt against the Spanish overlords started with the ringing of San Miguel's bell in 1680. So much life and so much death has happened in and around San Miguel Mission, is there any wonder that some of these souls have refused to leave even after centuries have passed? Whether you believe in ghosts or not, there's something other worldly about Santa Fe' oldest neighborhood as you will see.

San Miguel Interior The Interior of San Miguel is a wonderful blend of Native American and Spanish Colonial styles. Some of the artwork dates back to the 1600s. You can feel the history of Santa Fe all around you. This is a sacred place. Maybe that's why some spirits refuse to leave.

Altar Figures
Beautiful Santos Grace the Back Altar.

Restoration of the Oldest House in the U.S.

As part of Hampton Inn's Save-A-Landmark® program they hired the contractor, Olin Construction, and provided the funds to refurbish the deteriorating interior of the oldest house in the U.S.  On the 15th of May, 2003 the Route 66 Caravan, also sponsored by Hampton Inn® and led by Jim Conkle of the California Route 66 Preservation Foundation stopped by to celebrate this great part of our American and Route 66 heritage. I was a part of this historic event and was looking forward to taking some great pictures that day. We got more than we bargained for. I wonder if the refurbishment  of the Oldest House in the United States might have stirred up more than just the dust of centuries gone by...

Oldest House Interior

House Restoration

Brother Lester with old Spanish Relic

Brother Lester holds an old Spanish artifact dug from the floor of the oldest house when the electrician was laying a new electric line. Could this have been an anchor to tether pack mules or horses? The groove in the center was purposely cut into the rock as if to hold a rope.


History of the Oldest House

Oldest House Circa 1880s
The oldest house in the 1880s

Oldest House Exterior 2003
The oldest house today.

This old adobe is known as the oldest house in the U.S. and was built over an ancient pueblo that dates back to the 1200s. In fact some of the lower walls show evidence of  Pueblo adobe work rather than Spanish Colonial adobe work. The original Spanish section of the oldest house dates back to 1610. Most likely Indian laborers, the same people that built San Miguel Mission across the street, built it. When you think of four hundred years of history, of the human drama being played out within the walls of this old adobe house it can be staggering. How many lifetimes were spent in this house? How many generations lived and died here. What where their stories? Who were the people that once called this old house home? We will probably never know. Ah, what stories lie buried under the dust of centuries!

Oldest House Circa 1912
The oldest house in 1912, notice the second story is gone.
The second story was rebuilt in 1925.

Oldest House in the Afternoon In the twentieth century the house was used as a store and curio shop. At one time there was an old Indian mummy sitting in a rocking chair in the back room. Legend has it he used to live in the house during the late 1920s - early 1930s. When someone noticed he hadn't shown up at the mission for a few days the Brothers came looking for him. He had died in the house.
An even eerier legend has it that the old Indian is still around. Some visitors claim that they will see an old Indian sitting in the corner then look again and he will be gone. Brother Lester, the director of San Miguel Mission, hinted that there were some mighty strange legends and happenings from time to time along this oldest block in the oldest city in the U.S. I was about to find out too. In fact a couple of months after the Route 66 Caravan's visit to San Miguel and the oldest house Brother Lester sent me an e-mail. He was taking a visitor on a tour of the newly refurbished old house and that person had to leave the premises abruptly later claiming that they couldn't bear to stay in the house any longer. They felt some sort of a presence that scared the heck out of them. But I digress, let's start back on that fine spring day in May of 2003.


The Sealed Off Upper Room

One of the highlights of the day was when we gained access to a sealed off room in the oldest house. The closed off upper room, which really turned out to be more of an attic than a room, was right above the room the old Indian mummy used to be on exhibit. When it was opened up for the electricians I couldn't wait to pop my head in and take some pictures. Brother Lester, the director of San Miguel Mission, said that as far as he knew no one had been up there since the 1920s when the second story was repaired. I climbed the shaky ladder and slowly looked around the dark room. I carefully pointed my camera at a corner and the flash lit up the room; I could see dusty boxes in a corner. I took a few more pictures for good measure and glanced back at the boxes. I wondered what was in those boxes. One of the electricians carried one of the closer boxes down for us to look at. What we found up there was great in my pickin' mindset. Evidently the room had been entered in the 1940s because we found fragments of newspaper dating back to 1947 in the box. We also found two 1940s vintage Coke bottles with Santa Fe embossed on the bottom. Of course I just love those soda bottles you know. We also found an old tin cigar sign that was used as a patch for the floor. But all of us could see more boxes farther back covered with dust (see pictures). Everything found in the room goes to San Miguel Mission and St. Michael's College run by the Christian Brothers. Eventually an exhibit will be set up. The most startling discovery came later as I checked the pictures I took of the long sealed off room.

Oldest House Closed Off Attic

Cigar Sign

Dust covers everything in the upper room. Notice those boxes piled in the corner?

Parts of an old tin cigar sign used to repair the floor of the upper room.


Ghosts of Santa Fe's Oldest Neighborhood?

When downloading the pictures I took of the sealed room to my computer I was in for a disappointment, or so I thought. As soon as I saw the pictures I knew something was wrong.  Every picture I took had spots and even small crossed lines in it! (Look carefully, the picture of the attic above has those spots too - but that was the best of the lot.) I couldn't image what caused this anomaly. No other pictures but those of the attic were effected. My first thought was how the heck did I get water spots on my lens? My pictures were ruined. But could there possibly be another explanation?

Oldest House Ghosts?

Not long ago I watched a show on the History Channel where ghost hunters were using digital cameras to catch points of light and lines in otherwise dark spooky places. They claimed this was a manifestation of ghostly energy. Could my pictures be some sort of ghost picture? Well this sealed off room was certainly dark and spooky. And four hundred years of human drama is certainly long enough to pick up a wayward spirit or two.

Brother Lester had told me something else earlier in the day - the alarm company awakened him twice the night before when they detected movement in a San Miguel Church office. The office had once been living quarters for some of the Brothers and one had even died in that room. Investigation into the cause of the motion the alarm detected showed nothing was in the office. Nothing was disturbed and the doors were securely locked. Maybe it was just a very big mouse - right? He also told me about the church's gift shop possibly being haunted too. Several employees have had some rather unnerving experiences in the gift shop over the years. Maybe all this construction had disturbed some spirited spirits.

There's a Pizza place, The Upper Crust, next to the oldest house and across the street from San Miguel Mission that has its own ghosts too. This time they are so well known they even have names. Cowboy Jack and The Lady appear to patrons out for a pizza from time to time. The building the pizza parlor is in dates back to the 1600s too.

As far as the oldest house goes, perhaps the ghost of the old Indian was checking US out. 'Tis a mystery to me.

You be the judge, but I still can't explain those
strange spots in the pictures...


Take this exit to return to Route 66 in Santa Fe ...

WA66WestBUTT.jpg (1879 bytes)

Photographs taken May 2003

©2001-2003 GRandall Web Design Service