On the Mesilla Plaza, three miles southwest of Las Cruces, is the National Registered Historical Building that is now the site of the Double Eagle and Peppers Restaurants. First constructed in the late 1840’s, the building has witnessed many colorful and historical events, including the Mexican-American War of 1846, the confirmation of the Gadsden Purchase on the Plaza in 1853 and the Secessionist Convention declaration of Mesilla as capital of the Arizona Territory in 1861. (It was destined to be the only territory of the Confederacy). Also, notorious Billy the Kid was jailed by Sheriff Pat Garrett and tried here in 1881.
In 1972, the private residence was acquired by Robert 0. Anderson. The year 1984 saw major restoration completed by the present owner, C. W. “Buddy” Ritter, a fifth generation Mesilla decedent. Antiques, many of which have their equal only in the finest museums, were painstakingly collected by well-known designer John Meigs.
Upon passing through the post-Civil War, 1,000 pound cast iron and gilded gates, patrons are surrounded by a vast assortment of antiques. The divider separating the entry and the Imperial Bar has two rolled-glass panels etched with water lilies and cattails, framed with oak-turned columns and spindle fretwork. The large cherry and walnut German cupboard is in the style of Empire Revival and has a French polished veneer finish with a pullout serving tray. The 12-foot gold-leafed pier mirror is carved with a shell and acanthus leaf pattern. A shadowbox protecting the ornate solid gold-framed print of a reclining “Dame with Pussy” is American, circa 1930, numbered 902 and signed V. Curws.
The 30-foot hand-carved oak and walnut Eastlake style bar is framed with four Corinthian columns in gold leaf. The detail of the back bar is illuminated by two Imperial French floral Corones: each five feet tall, with 23 lighted brass flowers, 10 of which have blue Lalique crystal rosette shades. bar-from-right-250w02The antique brass foot rail was originally from the Billy the Kid Saloon. Hanging above the bar are two magnificent classic French Baccarat chandeliers, measuring seven feet by three feet.
The large museum-quality pastel, “A Nude Woman With Her Dog,” by Georges Lefevre, is in the Rubenesque style from France, circa 1910. The long silk screen of the “Girl Carrying Flowers” and the oil painting of the young “Woman in Green Playing Tambourine” are of Turkish influence, circa 1905-1920. “The Selling of the Slave Girl,” signed by A. Salazar in 1916, has been in the owner’s family collection since 1923. The pastel of a “Young Girl Embracing Her Mother” is European and a Greek Revival style.
The Louis XV style mirror is of hand-carved walnut in a floral and lattice design. The ceiling in this room and many of the other rooms is highly decorative pressed tin, accented with 18 karat gold.
Lew Wallace Room
The room to the right of the main entry is named after Territorial lew-wallace-room-250w02Governor Lew Wallace, who was the author of the novel “Ben Hur.” He denied Billy the Kid’s plea for a pardon, which led to the “Kid’s” jailbreak from the Lincoln County Courthouse. This room and the adjacent owner’s office are part of the original structure.
The furniture bears Victorian and Eastlake influence. The major oil painting on the south wall, “Sea Nymphs on Rocks,” is from the famed Hudson River School and is signed by W. L. Judson, circa 1910. The Flemish oil painting of a street scene, is signed by Wilfred Jentin, circa 1880. The large oval oil painting of “Lewis and Clark’s Discovery of the West” is very unusual. The goddess “Diana,” signed by F. Bauer, is circa 1910. The 1857 map of New Mexico and Arizona shows Mesilla as the capital of Arizona, with both Territories extending to California.
The Gadsden Patio commemorates the Gadsden Purchase, which was signed on the Mesilla Plaza. In 1849, one year after the Mexican-American War ended, gold was discovered in California. Jefferson Davis, Secretary of State under President Franklin Pierce, appealed to the President for the exclusive right to extend his Southern Railroad Company to California. The only passable route, because of mountains to the north, crossed the Rio Grande River near Mesilla, which belonged to Mexico at the time.
Secretary Davis persuaded President Pierce to recall James Gadsden, Ambassador to England. Gadsden lived in Mesilla for the next three years negotiating the purchase of the land extending from the Rio Grande to California. On Dec. 30, 1853, the Mexican Flag was lowered and the 32-star American Flag was raised, declaring this land to be part of the United States.
The signed Gadsden Purchase, a fifteen-million-dollar agreement, was then sent to the two Congresses for ratification in the summer of 1854. It is believed that Mexican President Santa Ana had his soldiers ambush the courier, stealing the fifteen-million-dollar draft.
The seven-foot carved stone fountain is surrounded by Areca Palms, Springerie Ferns and Bougainvillea trailing from the cathedral atrium. Four marble statues of women are from the Greek and Roman Revival periods and are late 19th century. The alabaster bust on the east wall shows a female wearing a bronze gladiator helmet, circa 1900. The Sequoia redwood architectural medallion is a large piece of Victorian ginger bread from the Gump Mansion in San Francisco.
The three Library of Congress archive proofs of the Gadsden Purchase — the only known copies in New Mexico — are mounted in circa 1850 ornate nickel silver frames. A rare 1849 map of “The Frontiers of Utah and New Mexico” depicts the Gadsden Purchase area of southern New Mexico, including Mesilla. A pair of gilded bronze torches, with frosted crystal flame shades, light the entrance to the Maximillian Dining Room.
Porfirio and Salon
The entry to Peppers Restaurant, a vista to Southwestern Dining, was named for the President of Mexico (1876-1911). The cowhide-covered Empire sofa and snakeskin-covered Grecian Revival chairs are outstanding pieces of Southwestern decor. The wrought iron chandelier is an especially fine piece of Spanish Toledo work and is complimented by the Mesilla blacksmith gates. The window into the Juarez Room was an original doorway with hand-hewn lintel, now much too low to use for a door. The turquoise lizard-covered Queen Anne chairs and ebony tables accent the Southwest Dining decor of pottery duck, fish ladies and hand-carved pigs. The Indian pottery and graphic motifs painted on the floors and French doors are examples of award-winning designs by Karen Wood.
Mexico revolted against Spain and won the 1821 Revolution, claiming most of western America. Texans’ battle with General Santa Ana at the Alamo in 1836 was one of the many subsequent disagreements between the United States and Mexico. In 1846, the United States declared War on Mexico. The U.S.. won, and in 1848 signed the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the War. From this treaty, more than half of the Republic of Mexico was deeded to the United States, including the present states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Utah and Nevada.
The International Boundary was established 12 miles north of present Las Cruces. The new border placed Mesilla in Mexico and the large town of Doña Anna in the United States. Wanting to remain Mexican citizens, many of the residents of Doña Ana moved to Mesilla, doubling the population overnight.
Named President of Mexico in 1857, Benito Juarez led the Liberal Mexicans in La Reforma against the French-supported regime of Maximillian. This room’s ceiling is of original vigas crossed with latillas, which in some areas are covered with plaster. The New Mexico colonial chairs were copied from a 350-year-old museum piece and are hand-carved. The Mexican folkart pieces decorating the Juarez Room represent the release of bad dreams and evil thoughts. This symbolism and humor still cause these fifteen hand painted clay pieces to be highly sought by collectors.
Folklore enhances the hidden Carlotta Salon. In the 1850’s, the restaurant was the home of an affluent Mexican family who hired a maid. The family had a teenage son who fell in love with this maid, much to the distress of his mother, who had much better things planned for her son.
Love persisted, however, and his mother came home one afternoon to find the two lovers entwined. Enraged at what she saw, the mother grabbed a pair of scissors from the chest of drawers and stabbed the maid to death. In the process, the mother mistakenly stabbed her son, as he stepped to save his lover.
It is said that the ghosts of the young lovers inhabit the Carlotta Salon to this day. The ghosts make their presence known in many ways. Even though modern motion detectors are armed at night, broken glasses and tipped-over chairs are found by morning. There are two upholstered Victorian arm chairs in the room that are rarely used. The cut velvet fabric, however, is worn in the shape of human bodies, one larger than the other, but both small by today’s standards.
The Carlotta Salon was named for Marie Charlotte, daughter of the King of Belgium, who was born in 1840 and died in 1927. She was the wife of Maximillian, Archduke of Austria, and the Empress of Mexico from 1864 to 1867. An oil portrait of her holding her small white Maltese dog dominates the room. The two oval portraits of Señor and Señora Maese, the owners of the home, are of the type frequently commissioned by families of that era. The heavy glided brass and cut crystal lamp once lighted the boudoir or famed red-light madam ‘Silver City Millie.”
A framed Las Cruces Sun News article of the “Young Lover Ghosts” and a photograph believed to be depicting the presence of the ghost lovers are displayed in the salon.
Ferdinand Maximillian Joseph, Archduke of Austria, was made Emperor of Mexico in 1864 by Napoleon III, who hoped to establish a French satellite in the Western Hemisphere. The opposition of the Liberal Mexicans, U. S. protests and political troubles in France led Napoleon to abandon Maximillian. After the withdrawal of the French, Belgian and Austrian forces, Maximillian was captured and shot by Mexican leader Benito Juarez.
The room’s three Baccarat crystal chandeliers, measuring three feet wide and seven feet tall, are in the classic French shape with 18 brass arms containing more than 1,000 hand-cut lead crystals. They are beautiful and add luster to the 18- and 24-karat gold pressed-metal, awe-inspiring ceiling. The magnificent ceiling was painstakingly leafed by hand with six-inch squares of gold. The music balcony has a 18-karat gold-leafed brass railing cast in the lyre pattern with wrought gilded spandrels. The imposing balcony support structure of California Sequoia giant redwood is hand-carved black Bear heads and acanthus leaves gilded in 18-karat gold.
The stained-glass panels over the double doors are in the Greek Revival style of Tiffany, with scrolls and ribbons surrounding the enameled center medallion. The 11 gold leaf French pier mirrors, are ornately carved in the Greek Revival style. It is most unusual to find a collection of this size.
The draperies are a French documentary stripe in silk damask. The huge portrait of King George is in the Louis XIV style. He is dressed in a long robe of ermine with black tails, traditionally worn only by royalty. It is very rare to find a collection of antique Queen Anne chairs of this magnitude. The five round tables are fine antiques from the Victorian, Eastlake and Greek Revival periods.
Queen Isabella sold her jewels to finance Columbus’ voyage of discovery to the New World. Don Cristobal Colon de Carvajal, of Madrid, Spain, the direct descendant of Christopher Columbus, was honored in the Isabella Ballroom in 1992, at a Grand Banquet commemorating the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ voyage to America.
A large, full-length oil painting of a young girl in red with a doll is an important example of primitive American art, circa 1830. If you look closely, the mother’s face is painted on the doll, which was a common technique for traveling artists of the time. An equal to this painting can be found only in museums. The portraits of James Gadsden and Mexican General Manuel Diaz, the authors of the Gadsden Purchase, hang on either side of the French doors. The portraits of a woman with a lace cap, a lady with flowers in her hair and a lady with a lace collar are of the Philadelphia or Baltimore School, circa 180.
The Mexican-colonial oil painting of the Virgin de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico, with three angels above the flames of Hades, is circa 1800’s. “The Mediterranean Harbor” scene and the “Sailing Ships at Sunset” are European 19th century. The oil portrait of a young girl in a blue dress is a European primitive.
The very valuable 17th-century Italian Corinthian columns lintel, imposed by dental and bead molding, acanthus leaves and flowers, have a weathered-gray gilt finish. The rare, early 19th-century round mirror is framed in 18-karat gold-leafed bead and point molding.