Duchess Castle is a relatively recent ruin in a land of ancient ruins. The beer hike for this fine November day passed both Duchess Castle and some small ruins and petroglyphs on a ridge high above. Located in a portion of Bandelier National Monument known as Tsankawi, what is called Duchess Castle is on the floor of Los Alamos Canyon adjacent to a much older (circa 1100’s) unexcavated Puebloan village site. It was built in 1917-18 as a summer house for two women – Verra von Blumenthal and Rose Dougan. They hired men from the nearby San Ildefonso Pueblo to build the structures on land leased from the U.S. Forest Service and was built, in part, from stones scavenged from the village site. In its day, this home was known as “the fort”.
Neither of the women was a duchess, although Verra was a Russian who some say was related to the Russian royal family and was a baroness. She was a promoter of Russian arts and crafts who had experience building markets for these items on behalf of their creators. Her companion Rose was a younger woman from a wealthy family in Richmond, Indiana who had at one time learned about flying from the Wright Brothers who lived nearby her Indiana home. The two women had a vision of helping Native American artists and artisans to profit more than they were from their art and to elevate their art forms above the status they had then as folk art souvenirs. Their summer house was intended to be a place for meeting and instruction to that end, but it is unclear how much of that ever took place there. However, the ladies were well-connected to the emerging Santa Fe artist colony, and their ideas and patronage were embedded into the creation in 1922 of what has since become the world-famous, annual Santa Fe Indian Market.
It doesn’t seem that the house was in use for very long and the site became part of Bandelier in 1932. The surrounding area is home to tens of thousands of much older archaeological sites and Bandelier showcases many. I hiked past the ruins of “the fort” up to one of the ridges to the south to photograph some small ruins and petroglyphs that can be viewed there. One of the most interesting petroglyphs is a nearly life-sized depiction of a conquistador on his horse with sword held high. The Spanish entered this area in the early 1600’s and it’s not a stretch to imagine this as the vintage of the rock art.
The beer break up on the ridge featured a lager I found on special at the nearby Kokoman’s beverage store -Euphony made by Campanology Brewing Company from Waunakee, WI. This is a crisp, malty beer that suited the day perfectly. I looked up Campanology and the best I could tell they are owned by Trader Joe’s. I couldn’t find much more about them, but maybe a reader will know more and comment. I did find a contract brewery in Waunakee called Octopi Brewing and it made me wonder if that might be a brewery that Trader Joe’s utilizes. A nice beer regardless.
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