Travel through time as we tour Mesilla Park’s most historical property
Written by JESSICA MUNCRIEF
Photography by DONICIO MADRID
1909 – 1917: Political Galas and Open Air Living
Stepping into this sprawling two story adobe nestled in the Mesilla Park neighborhood, it’s easy to imagine how it might have looked during the early years of the 20th century when it served as the home of Dr. Winfred E. Garrison and his wife, Annie. As President of the New Mexico College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now NMSU) and a politically minded member of the committee that led New Mexico to statehood, Dr. Garrison no doubt hosted prominent guests and lavish banquets on the grounds.
The shutters were probably thrown open on the mullioned windows allowing light to stream into the vast entry hall where guests were greeted, served an aperitif, and encouraged to mingle. Perhaps, the women would gather around the piano in the parlor to the right, while the men smoked cigars in the stately library to the left, eventually making their way through the open air courtyard and a formal dining room to gather beneath the trees on the back lawn.
With so many well-preserved architectural details, it is indeed easy to envision the estate as it once was in 1909 when famed architect Henry Trost designed it. Trost, like his contempo- rary Frank Lloyd Wright, used elements of the Prairie School—clean lines and overhangs— which are evident in the design, despite the white façade, red-tiled roof, and arched windows that root it firmly in the Mediterranean Revival realm.
Today, a glass ceiling has been added to the courtyard, panes have been installed in the upper level windows, and a suite of offices now lines the rear wall. However, its original design was much more open, allowing air to circulate from the courtyard and through the entire upstairs rooms where the family would probably retire on hot summer nights. From the entry one could see all the way through three sets of glass doors out to the backyard. It was most likely built with Dr. Garrison’s tuberculosis in mind, and evidently proved to be beneficial as he lived to the ripe age of 94.
The Garrisons moved on in 1917 and the estate changed hands several times until the late 20s when it entered a decidedly different phase in its existence.
1928 – 1967: The Sisters Move In
In May 1928, the Sisters of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd took up residence and transformed the property into a convent. They hand-laid three additional adobe buildings, a stone grotto, and eventually a cinder block chapel on the site—the majority of which still stand.
Having taken a vow of poverty, the nuns relied on only themselves and the generosity of neighbors to finance their endeavors. They supported themselves by taking in laundry and selling needlework and embroidery, honey, and fresh baked bread. Over the years, they took in orphans, offered a program for needy girls in the area, and operated both a grade school and a high school.
“The nuns lived very sparsely. They set up canvas curtain-like dividers around the second story of the main home and each had her own little cubicle with only a bed and dresser. Every day for lunch, they served plain oatmeal,” recounts Deborrah Emerick Buckler, who along with her husband, Bob, are the property’s current owners.
After four decades, the sisters moved on and the property was abandoned until yet another family decided to make it a home.
1969 – Present: The Party’s Back On
During the nuns’ tenure, Lewis and Sara Emerick admired the property during their evening walks along the surrounding roads. Lewis, a developer, had visions of the area as a family neighborhood, so when he heard that a reform school might take over the aban- doned estate, he purchased and occupied the property.
Deborrah, Lewis and Sara’s daughter, remembers moving into the home at the age of 16, when it was still surrounded by wide- open farmland. “Mom named the street Good Shepherd, after the Sisters. There was no electricity, so Daddy ran wiring along the walls and added the baseboards,” she recounts. “It was too loud for me to study in my upstairs bedroom so he put glass in the windows over- looking the courtyard.”
The Emericks also traded out the black flooring in the courtyard for pink marble, added heating and cooling, installed closets, and revamped the kitchen and bathrooms. Sara’s stained glass collection is now dis- played in various windows in the main home and chapel, and she set up a mini-museum on the premises displaying objects left behind by previous tenants and from times long ago.
During the 70s and 80s, Deborrah remem- bers hosting haunted houses in one of the out buildings, Bible studies in the chapel, and parties in the huge rec room on the upper level—“but Daddy limited my guest list to just 100 people,” she laughs. A film, Up in the Cellar, starring a young Joan Collins was filmed here and numerous celebrities and political figures often roamed the grounds.
After Lewis, and later Sara, passed, Deborrah and Bob split their time between the Good Shepherd estate and their home in Portland, Oregon. They’ve bit-by-bit updated elements, always careful to preserve the original character and prepare it for its next chapter.
“I imagine a large family here, perhaps an extended family with multiple generations living together,” says Deborrah.
Another ideal scenario would be to have New Mexico State University acquire the property and restore it as the President’s Mansion.
While it does needs some updating, at over 7,000 square feet on almost two acres in lovely and historic Mesilla Park, the property is plenty big enough for entertaining and hosting guests. Lewis added on a full suite of offices, and there’s also a three bay carport, a guest casita, and a recently refinished basement that Bob says would make a great wine cellar.
With a lifetime of rich history behind it, this beautiful estate still has plenty of good memories left to give.
About this home
3120 Good Shepherd Road
Year Built: 1909
Square feet: 7,260 sq. ft. + 623 sq. ft. casita
Currently Offered at: $750,000
Special Features: Original Woodwork and Architectural Features, Library, Music Room, Butler’s Pantry, Full Office Suite, Refinished Basement, Courtyard/Atrium, 3-Bay Carport, Guest Casita, Adobe Museum/Workshop, Fully Landscaped Grounds, Chapel
Listed by: Mary Mulvihill & Carl Topley
Steinborn & Associates Real Estate 575-523-2850