TAOS — It was Taos Pueblo land in the first place, but over many years the 14.3 acres encompassing the Lineberry Estate eventually fell out of its hands. Now, it’s back.

At document-signing ceremonies conducted earlier this week, Taos Pueblo reacquired the property, termed by tribal officials as “the gateway to life.”

“This is a very important occasion for Taos Pueblo,” tribal Gov. Gilbert Suazo said about the purchase for an undisclosed amount. “This property that we are talking about is Taos Pueblo land from way back, aboriginal land, [that] later became part of the Taos Pueblo Grant, and these lands were lost in various ways through other owners. We’re always glad to get those lands back.”

Suazo said negotiations to acquire the property have been ongoing through the summer and involved working with members of the Taos Pueblo business development team: Kathy Dice of First New Mexico Title, Angel Reyes, president and CEO of Centinel Bank in the town of Taos, and representatives of the Lineberry Foundation.

After the ceremonies, Teresa Leger, an attorney for the pueblo, said officials stated the property may be developed into a tribally operated convention center.

The Lineberry Estate at 501 Paseo del Pueblo Norte has figured prominently in the art history of the town of Taos.

Once known as “El Rancho de la Mariposa,” it was originally owned by Chicago painter Duane Van Vechten (1898-1977), who worked in a studio she built on the property. In 1935, she met and married businessman Edwin Lineberry.

“Together they built and operated the first grocery store in Taos and also the Kachina Lodge, which bordered their estate,” according to a “Remarkable Women of Taos” profile at taos.org. Van Vechten “created unique Southwestern designs for the lodge as well as the wooden totem pole in the center of the circular Kiva Coffee shop, which is meant to represent ‘Bird, Beast, Man and Infinity.’ “

After Van Vechten’s death, Lineberry “found himself with all her paintings as well as many others they had acquired over the years,” taos.org continues. “These paintings were given or purchased from friends, many who were some of the first artists in Taos, now known as the Taos Society of Artists. Ed wished that others could appreciate the collection, and upon remarrying, he and his second wife, Novella, would establish a museum in memory of his first wife, Duane, and the Taos founders, so they could ‘receive the tribute they deserve.’ In 1994, the Van Vechten-Lineberry Taos Art Museum was created to promote and honor Taos’ finest artists.”

The facility was considered state-of-the-art with climate-controlled galleries and storage areas, along with video security behind the property’s legendary and imposing high wall. But, after only a few years, funds to keep it open dwindled, and it was closed by 2003.

The artwork pertaining to the Taos Society of Artists formed the basis for the Taos Art Museum now housed in the Fechin House. The rest was sold at auction by Sotheby’s.

Leger said proceeds from the property sale will be directed by the Lineberry Foundation toward philanthropic endeavors.

This story first appeared in the Taos News, a sister publication of the Santa Fe New Mexican.

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