Monday, 09 February 2015 20:52

Simon Nusbaum, a little-known Jewish pioneer in Santa Fe

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New Mexicsn May 26, 1986 New Mexicsn May 26, 1986

Simon Nusbaum, a little-known Jewish pioneer in Santa Fe


Arthur Scott



   I begin this story at the end. Currently(2015) at 123 Washington Avenue, in Santa Fe, stands the Hotel de Chimayo owned by Heritage Hotels and Resorts. Formally it was the Hotel Plaza Real constructed around 1988 by Santa Fe hotelier Mike Cerletti on the site of a former City parking lot. In 1960 the Santa Fe New Mexican reported that the city Council voted to lease the Nusbaum property on Washington Avenue for $600 per month, demolish the hundred plus year old house, and establish an 85-car, off- street,  parking lot.  

  The property was then owned by John and Ester Nusbaum. John was the son of Simon Nusbaum. At the time, they were living in Albuquerque and agreed to the

demolition of his father's old adobe house which was then vacant. A side street, Nusbaum Street, had been named after Simon Nusbaum. The clipping above from the May 26, 1986 New Mexican shows the historic house that was razed in 1961 and the parking lot in 1986. This action was loudly and extensively protested by preservationists in Santa Fe but to no avail. It did, however, lead to the founding of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation which has since been able to restore and save a number of historic buildings in town.

   Simon Nusbaum was the brother of my great grandmother Frances Nusbaum Seligman, wife of Bernard Seligman. Bernard and Francis were married around 1865, about ten years after Bernard had settled in business in Santa Fe and had served in several Territorial political positions. Simon joined his sister in Santa Fe travelling over the Santa Fe Trail from Independence, Missouri by "prairie schooner," sometime during the late 1870's. By 1880 he was established in Santa Fe. As a child I remember hearing of Bernard bur never anything about Simon. I became aware of his historical significance through the extensive and meticulous genealogical research of my cousin, Amy Cohen, on the Seligman family and extended Seligman family which is detailed in her blog: . In addition, Deborah Lawrence, volunteer researcher for the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, has been a great deal of help by graciously providing summaries of the HSFA Nusbaum files.

   Simon was born in Philadelphia, PA around 1843. From 1863 to 1877 he lived in Peoria, Il. According to his newspaper obituary in The New Mexican of  February 25, 1921, he presumably spent the three years after leaving Peoria and  arriving in Santa Fe in Deadwood, South Dakota and Independence, Missouri. According to the 1890 and 1895 Territorial census, he was living with his sister and brother-in-law in Santa Fe in Bernard Seligman's household. Additionally, his obituary states that he had participated in a battle with the "bad Indians" during a blockade of Silver City. These were most likely bands of the Apache tribes  that traditionally ranged from northern Mexico through southwestern New Mexico and most likely objected to the miming cities of Lake Valley, Kingston, Hillsboro, and Silver City in their traditional territory along with atrocities committed upon the Indians by local miners.

   He served in the Surveyor General's office and in 1898 he was appointed Postmaster of Santa Fe, serving from 1898 to 1902. An article in the September 28, 1899 New Mexican reported that he had purchased from Henry Pohlman an 800-tree fruit farm with alfalfa pasturage on which he also planned on raising sheep near Teseque.  The December 6, 1900 New Mexican ran an article stating that "Postmaster Simon Nusbaum and his clerk, Frank Andrews, who are making a specialty of high bred Belgian hares, last evening received  a buck that is graded 99 3/4 percent and is therefore almost perfect and is the finest Belgian hare ever brought into the territory." This leaves me wondering if this endeavor was in addition to raising sheep?

   In 1903, rather late in life, he was married a younger woman, Dora Rutledge.. She had a daughter, Nelly Rodgers, from a previous marriage and together they had a son, John. Around 1905-06 Simon bought the house at 123 Washington Avenue that had been built during the 1850's and was owned by Solomon Spiegelberg.


New Mexican October 15, 1956


   As can be seen below the house was still a single-story residence in 1912.




Simon and Dora Nusbaum residence before second story added

Photo by Jesse Nusbaum 1912

Palace of the Governors Negative 061482


   Although the photographer, Jesse Nusbaum, and Simon spelled their last name the same, they were not related. Originally from Greely, Colorado Jesse arrived in Santa Fe around 1909 after graduating from New Mexico Normal college.  He supervised the renovation of the Palace Of The Governors in 1913 and the building of the State Art Museum from 1916-18. In 1918  he enlisted in the Army. He went on to become  the first archeologist hired by the National Park Service. He worked at Mesa Verde National Park and became Park Supervisor. Mistakenly people have, even in newspaper accounts, often identified this house as belonging to Jesse Nusbaum.

   Sometime around 1904 Simon was appointed deputy Territorial treasurer. He went on to serve in that capacity under Treasures J. Howard Vaughn, Levi A. Hughes, Miguel A. Otero Sr., and  Rufus J. Palen. He then retired from public life. Some time after 1912 the second story was added and the residence was converted to a rooming house. Simon died in 1921 and his widow, Dora, continued to run the rooming house as long as she was able. In 1930 the City Council named the side street along the side of the house "Nusbaum Street" after Simon and Dora. And in 1961 the home was ordered razed byr Mayor Leo Murphy and the City Council. Simon, Dira, son John, and his wife Ester are all buried in Fairview Cenetary in Santa Fe. And another forgotten piece of old Santa Fe is gone.

Read 5983 times Last modified on Tuesday, 10 February 2015 21:45


  • Comment Link amy cohen Thursday, 19 February 2015 20:33 posted by amy cohen

    Thanks, Pete, for mentioning my blog! Great article---is that street still called Nusbaum Street?

  • Comment Link Art Encinias Tuesday, 10 February 2015 05:55 posted by Art Encinias

    Excellent article!

  • Comment Link Allan MacGillivray III Monday, 09 February 2015 23:30 posted by Allan MacGillivray III

    Arthur I'm reading Norman Zollinger's novels: Rider to Cibola and Corey Lane, Both historical fiction, some of the best I've read about the Tularosa Basin and Western N.M. during the time Simon was down there: experiencing the Apache raids of Victorio and his mentors. If you havn't read Zollingers works you have a treat in store! Excellent!!

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