Traveling Back Through Time in Taos

by Susanna Starr


Although Starr Interiors, the gallery that I’ve had for decades, has been housed in what was once the home of one of the founding artists of Taos, New Mexico, E.I. Couse, only recently have I gotten entranced with the history of the building. I’ve known about it, but it’s always been in the abstract. My deed was signed under the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, but the building which was originally constructed as a private home, existed long before that. I’d never given much thought to the previous owners and the part they played in the colorful history of Taos.

Since making a connection with Virginia Couse and her husband, Ernie Levitt, who have the Couse Foundation, I’ve become inspired to do some of my own research into this historic building. They’ve been good enough to provide us with some photos when Virginia’s grandfather and his wife, the first Virginia, lived in the house, from 1906-1909, calling it Las Golondrinas. It was there that her grandfather built his studio by opening up the roof and adding on what looked like a greenhouse to provide him with the northern light he needed to paint by.

He also often painted in the courtyard. This courtyard was beautiful then, as now, and a photograph caoturs Couse sitting in the doorway at his easel with a handsome young model from the Pueblo standing in front of him. In another, we see him sitting in the courtyard on one of the rocking chairs with his wife stretched out on the grass, hollyhocks and Virginia creepers lining the sides of the courtyard.

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