6 Reasons People Love Santa Fe’s Historic East Side

Darlene Streit

A guide to one of Santa Fe’s oldest and most fascinating neighborhoods.
 
 
Santa Fe’s East Side is immersed in history, culture, and natural beauty. It’s undoubtedly one of the most popular areas to explore, for both visitors and residents alike. To live on the East Side or visit it, is to see some of the most impressive architecture around and to enjoy some of the best restaurants, cafes, and art galleries in all of Santa Fe.
 
Let’s take a look at this historic neighborhood and learn a bit about its rich history, to understand the top reasons people love Santa Fe’s historic East Side.
 

Historic Pueblo Architecture

Even a brief walk through this neighborhood will give you a sense of its deeply historic design aesthetic. Much of the architecture here is in the historic and distinctive Pueblo style, which includes design elements like adobe, stucco, and earth-colored exteriors. You may also see the use of concrete, mortar, and large wood components. Heavy doors, ceiling beams, and portale posts create complementary counterpoints to the stucco exteriors.

While many of the area’s homes were traditionally built with adobe (sun-dried mud bricks made from earth, clay and straw) there is more variety in the building materials used today. Though beautiful, adobe is quite expensive and labor-intensive to build with, requiring artisanal knowledge to authentically construct these classic structures, brick by brick, by hand. For decades now, new homes and buildings have been built with conventional wood framing and other materials, while retaining the historic ‘look’ of the area.
 
 
In order to preserve and protect the rich history of Santa Fe, various neighborhoods fall under the review of historic boards. These boards are dedicated to maintaining the cohesive and authentic appearance of homes and buildings within these areas. In 1957, the Santa Fe Eastside Historic District was established for this purpose, along with the formation of the Historic Districts Review Board. The "H-Board" or "HDRB" exists to protect the values of property within the Historic Districts. Due to restrictions in architectural design, building materials, stucco colors, decorative elements, etc. all exterior facade and hardscape changes within the Santa Fe Eastside Historic District require prior approval.

This oversight preserves the unique character and aesthetic richness that has set the Santa Fe area apart for centuries, and has contributed to making it one of the most beloved and most visited destinations in the world.
 
 

Fabulous Art Galleries Along Canyon Road

Canyon Road, within the Eastside Historic District, is one of the most well-known and desirable areas in Santa Fe. This walkable half-mile road features over a hundred galleries, boutiques, and restaurants, as well as many luxury homes. Upper Canyon Road is where you’ll find a number of stunning properties, all within walking distance to the vibrant daytime and nighttime activity.

With over 80 art galleries you’ll be exposed to a range of styles — including western, traditional, contemporary, Native American, abstract, modern, digital, photorealistic, modern, and figurative. Just a few of the galleries you’ll see are Ventana Fine Art, Manitou Galleries, Sage Creek Gallery, Nüart Gallery and Pottery of the Southwest. Each has its own unique style and charm, and the culmination of them makes for a diverse and highly interesting cultural experience.
 
 

Historic Homes and Age-Old Character

Santa Fe’s Historic East Side is a mix of multi-generational families and newcomers, and homes are often hidden behind high walls or accessed by narrow, dirt lanes. Their styles recall the city’s early history and lend Santa Fe a unique heritage. Some homes date back centuries, and these neighborhoods boast some of Santa Fe’s most photographed adobe homes and gardens.

Views are somewhat scarce here, but authenticity and atmosphere dominate. All of the buildings in Santa Fe’s East Side are particularly low in order to prevent view obstruction. This is an important part of what makes this area so desirable and is enforced by city-mandated historical limitations.

One of the perks of this rule? The stunning skies at sunset. You’re also able to see the Sangre de Cristo Mountains (part of the Rocky Mountains) and the Sandia and Jemez mountain ranges — both can be seen from almost anywhere in town. And when the sun sets and casts the Sangres with a warm, red glow, you’ll understand the origin of their name: the “Blood of Christ” mountains.
 
 

Delicious Restaurants and Cafes

One of the best parts of living in this area is the wide variety of dining options, many of which combine the area’s historical authenticity with unmatched food.

In keeping with the East Side’s artistic reputation, you’ll find The Compound. This folk art-inspired restaurant boasts a beautiful patio, on which you’ll enjoy New American dining with a Southwestern flair. It’s a Zagat-rated establishment as well as a recipient of the OpenTable Diner’s Choice Award and a TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice for 2020.

El Farol is one of Santa Fe’s most historic restaurants and has been a local fixture since 1835! Known for traditional Spanish tapas, paella, steaks, and small plates, dinner here many times comes with a show. Listen to live music or enjoy the professional flamenco dancers. El Farol also has a fantastic bar featuring margaritas, sangria, signature cocktails, and live music. It was even heralded as “one of the best bars on Earth” by The New York Times.
 
 
For fine dining in a gorgeous, historic adobe home from 1756, head to Geronimo. Over the years, this New American establishment has won several awards, including the AAA Four Diamond Award, OpenTable Diner’s Choice, and the Forbes 4 Star Award. It’s also a three-time TripAdvisor Traveler’s Choice award winner. Try one of the Geronimo favorites, like the green miso sea bass or the mesquite-grilled Maine lobster tails for a distinctive treat.

For a quaint cafe option, head to The Teahouse. Besides offering fresh teas from around the world, you can enjoy a variety of delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner options, inside or on their tree-peppered patio. Cafe Des Artistes is another nice option. This French-inspired cafe is a lovely spot to enjoy sandwiches and salads or even a sweet treat.
 
 

Exciting Local Events

Santa Fe’s East Side is known for its signature events as well, which bring the entire community together around art, food, and holiday traditions. The Spring Art Festival is a great way to experience the artist’s process as dozens of artists working in various media gather to demonstrate and present their art. There’s also the Canyon Road Art and Wine Stroll, which pairs excellent art with delicious wine. Stroll in and out of galleries while you enjoy glasses of vino and conviviality.

And when it comes time for the winter holidays, Santa Fe comes alive with its famous Christmas Eve Farolito Walk. This much-loved tradition sees residents of the neighborhood around Canyon Road decorating walls, rooftops and sidewalks with “farolitos” — little lanterns (in Spanish) that are made from paper bags, sand, and tea candles. Some shops even remain open the night before Christmas for this celebration.

There’s also the Holiday Block Party, which takes place in early December and unites Canyon Road under a variety of seasonal festivities. From refreshments to live music to stunning art exhibits from Canyon Road art galleries, there’s something for everyone.
 
 

The Surrounding Streets

In addition to Canyon Road, this area of Santa Fe includes other interesting streets. Acequia Madre, Garcia Street, Camino del Monte Sol, East Alameda and Cerro Gordo are just a few worth noting.

Along Acequia Madre, you’ll see the Acequia Madre itself — a historic irrigation ditch that has never ceased to flow and that harkens back to Santa Fe’s Spanish influences.

Garcia Street is known for its selection of homes as well as Garcia Street Books. This locally owned business strives to “provide an environment that fosters a sense of community, kinship and belonging” and is a local staple.
 
 
Camino del Monte Sol is another mini-district where you’ll find a variety of homes in historical styles. In addition to Pueblo Revival houses, some of the first houses here were designed by John Gaw Meem, the premier architect of the Revival styles.

East Alameda is mainly residential but does feature the Inn on Alameda. This quaint and beautiful inn is nestled just steps from the Santa Fe Plaza and is the closest downtown Santa Fe hotel to Canyon Road. 

In addition to lovely homes, Cerro Gordo also offers a trailhead that is a crossroads for multiple trail systems in the Santa Fe area. People love hiking, walking, or biking along these trails, which offer fabulous climbs and seasonal views of wildflowers. 

Are you interested in exploring homes in the Historic East Side or other Santa Fe real estate? Contact Darlene Streit for the area’s best listings and attractions, plus first class concierge services to help you find your dream abode!
 
 
 

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