About the TCA
Arthur Rochford Manby came to the United States from his native England to make his fortune. He bought seven parcels of land totaling about 23 acres on Paseo del Pueblo north of the Plaza. He built a nineteen-room Spanish-style adobe hacienda, set in a square with three wings, stables and outer walls. Manby landscaped the hacienda in the English style, with a lilac garden that extended to what is now Kit Carson Park. His home was thought to be the largest and most attractive house in Taos. Due to his many shady dealings, Manby was not a popular man. In 1929, a beheaded body was found in his home. Even today, it is uncertain whether this was Manby or whether he had staged his own death and left the area.
The Manby house passed to Dr. Victor Thorne a wealthy New York art collector, who held a second mortgage on the property. Thorne had hoped to use the house as a summer home but never did so.
Miss Helen Williams was sent to Taos by Dr. Thorne to discover the codition of the house and found it in very poor condition. She used Max Luna, a master furniture maker teaching classes under the WPA, and his students, to build furniture for every room of the house. Between 1937 and 1940 Miss Williams worked to transform the house for Dr. Thorne. She installed here the very first central heat in town!
When Dr. Thorne died suddenly without a will, his caretaker, Helen Williams, turned the property into a community center called the Thorne House. It was used as a meeting house for various religious groups and as a social gathering spot.
The Taos Artists' Association, an artist cooperative group, founded in 1952, purchased the house and three acres to the east and turned the house into a museum and artist gallery space.
The Taos Historical Museum and Art Gallery, as it was named, charged 25 cents for admission to the house. Each room was filled with treasures on loan from local residents and from a different culture or time period in Taos. The living room and dining room featured Spanish, handcarved, pine furniture from the Taos Vocational School. The Pioneer Room was completely furnished with articles brought to Taos by covered wagon or ox cart. The Spanish Chapel had santos on display. There was a Colonial Room and an Indian Room. The long hall displayed vestments from Spain worn by Padre Martinez and a mineral and basket collection. The Stables Gallery showed paintings and sculptures and admission there was free.
The Encore Theatre, an open-air theater was built and the first production was presented in July.
The Millicent Rogers Museum rented the Thorne House from the Taos Artists' Association to use as its headquarters.
The Taos Artists' Association became the Taos Art Association, Inc.
The open-air Encore Theatre burned to the ground the same night the theater building on the Plaza burned.
The 280-seat performing venue was the first section of the current Taos Community Auditorium building to be built.
The Stables Gallery moved into the Thorne House.
The auditorium was closed and renovations commenced. The organization of the Board of Directors was modified and the new Board promised to raise the money required to complete the required renovations and to modify the Stables Gallery and Carriage House to accommodate more and varied activities. Through generous anonymous donations of $400,000, those promises were kept.
The newly renovated Taos Community Auditorium opened.
The renovated Stables Gallery reopened. The Taos Art Association, Inc. became the Taos Center for the Arts.
The Taos Community Auditorium building was sold to the town of Taos.
The old lobby of the Taos Community Auditorium building was torn down. The new addition at the front of the building houses the box office, concessions, restrooms and the Encore Gallery.
Today the TCA has adequate and multiple facilities to allow it to concentrate on fulfilling its mission:
The Taos Center for the Arts (TCA) provides and supports a wide range of cultural, artistic and educational activities that enhance the quality of life for the diverse community of Taos and visitors.
The Manby Story
Author: Sara Jean Gray
Editor: Bill Christmas
Fact Checker: Nita Murphy
To those familiar with Taos, the name Manby most likely conjures up the hot springs on the Rio Grande. Manby Hot Springs has been enjoyed from earliest times by native Americans, then by the Spaniards and later still by hippies in the 60s. Now almost anyone with a taste for a beautiful setting and a primitive outdoor spa is drawn to this magical place.
But the story of Arthur R. Manby, an immigrant from England in the 1880s, reveals a complex man who came to New Mexico to make a fortune and a name for himself. And a name for himself he did make, first as a charming bon vivant and visionary and ultimately as a dark and sinister figure who made and lost a fortune in land wrested ruthlessly from Native Americans and Spanish families. Finally he left behind an unsolved mystery of a violent death.
Born to wealth in England in the mid 1860s, Manby's oldest brother Eardley, spoke of the time when young Arthur fell from their two-story balcony, injuring his head making him "peculiar", unable to get along with family and neighbors. Whether this was the case, or it was just his strange bent of character, he was both willful and brilliant. He could be alternately charming and brutally ruthless as it suited his purposes.
Manby arrived in Taos in the territorial days of New Mexico and its early days of statehood. He was entranced by the wide open spaces, the mountains and magical canyons and he was obsessed with the idea of owning it all and creating a mecca for a new civilization and an upscale spa at the spring, which he particularly loved. He dreamed of development that would attract the best people from all over the world. He both charmed and later disgusted the likes of D.H. Lawrence and Mabel Dodge Luhan.
When the New Mexico court returned the 1000 square mile Martinez grant to Native Americans and Spanish families, Manby began an insidious campaign to obtain those lands for himself. He bought land at ridiculously low prices from poor families who needed the money badly. The rest he cheated out of in acrimonious lawsuits.
The ease with which he obtained the Martinez Grant led him to acquire mining properties and create an alliance with the Fergusons, a family with six daughters, one of whom became his confidant, partner and close companion, his Princess Teracita.
He sold parcels of land to investors weaving elaborate stories of development. He created layer upon layer of corporate entities that defied investors or anyone else from knowing what was transpiring. He even charmed and married the 16-year-old daughter of one investor (she claimed to be 17) when he was 48 (he claimed to be 42). Ignored and badly treated, the young bride divorced him soon after. Later relationships with women were equally disastrous.
Manby built a gracious hacienda with grand furnishings, extensive gardens and stables in Taos next to the famous Taos Inn. He most likely used the money from his many investors to do so. He never used the investors' money to improve or develop his other land holdings.
Manby soon fell on hard times and, little by little, lost everythig he had built and acquired. As his dream deteriorated and his debts mounted, so did his mental health. He became more and more irascible and peculiar, avoided most human contact and dressed in dirty ragged clothing instead of the handsome outfits and fine boots of earlier days.
He and Teracita, who had become closer as co-conspirators, formed the US Secret and Civic Service Organization. No one knew its real purpose nor who were its members. Its stated goal was to protect the populace from some undefined menace and its members were required to perform various secret missions. Its real purpose was to fleece its members of large sums of money.
As Manby's debts grew, he became more irascible. He was no longer seen in town. His enemies included former allies as well as Native Americans and Spanish families. Then on a sweltering day, July 3, 1929, a mutilated, decapitated body, assumed to be Manby's was found in his locked mansion. There followed investigations that on the one hand proved it was Manby and on the other hand did not.
Sightings were reported of Manby riding his horse out of town soon after his alleged death. Additional reports alleged sightings in New York and overseas. It remains today one of the most provocative mysteries of early Taos days.
Frank Waters wrote in his biography of Arthur R. Manby, To Possess the Land:
"No mortal judgement can be made on a man like Manby. For in him we must recognize the same illuminating vision and dark shadow cast by the dual nature of every man."