The University of New Mexico was founded in the City Different not the Duke City

The old UNM buidling at the corner of Garfield and Guadalupe streets in Santa Fe.

The history of Santa Fe’s people, places and events continues to amaze me. For instance, take that three-story building at the corner of Garfield and Guadalupe streets. That edifice has experienced many reincarnations. When I was growing up that tall building, by Santa Fe standards, was called the Garfield Apartments. Prior to that it was St. Joseph’s Convent and it was also the Franciscan Hotel back in the day. Although the Garfield building has been many things to many people, few people realize that it was the original University of New Mexico. UNM was incorporated on May 11, 1881 on ten acres of land in Santa Fe. Classes began on Sept. 12, 1881 in the home of the university’s first president, Horatio O. Ladd. Construction for a three-story, red-brick structure followed. The new school building contained dormitories for 25 students, three classrooms, a library and gymnasium. The building was completed in 1887 at a the cost of $20,000.

Horatio O. Ladd was the first president of the UNM when it was located in Santa Fe.

The Rev. Horatio O. Ladd accepted the position as president and arrived in Santa Fe from Chicago on Sept. 10, 1880. Sixty-seven students enrolled the first year and paid $3 per month for tuition and $5 per week for room and board at the homes of their instructors or elsewhere. The school consisted of three departments that included primary, intermediate and academic courses. The university offered free tuition for the 1884–1885 school year which enticed 194 students to attend.

UNM Moves to Albuquerque

Even back then Santa Fe was an expensive city to operate a business. In 1889 the University of New Mexico made the decision to move to Albuquerque. Today, UNM has grown into the largest facility of higher education in the state. It’s also one of the largest employers in Albuquerque. Occasionally, you’ll hear someone refer to the UNM building in Santa Fe . And just to be sure that no one ever forgets, there’s a bronze plaque on the premises that bears the name “University Plaza.”

Please support Ana Pacheco's work at:

Buy Me a Coffee

Our nation’s history would not be complete without the story of Santa Fe. Experience the ultimate Santa Fe tour with local historian Ana Pacheco.