D.H. Lawrence Ranch
D. H. Lawrence, author of literary classics such as Women in Love and Lady Chatterley’s Lover, and his wife, Frieda, first came to New Mexico in September 1922 at the invitation of Mabel Dodge Luhan, a New York socialite and arts patron who lived in Taos. The trip was pivotal for Lawrence. While the English-born writer only spent a total of eleven months during his three visits to New Mexico, the state made a notable impression on him. He wrote: “I think New Mexico was the greatest experience from the outside world that I have ever had. It certainly changed me forever...”
After Lawrence died near Vence, France in 1930, Frieda returned to the ranch accompanied by Angelo Ravagli, her Italian lover, and later, her third husband. In 1934 Frieda had this memorial built for Lawrence. The following year she had Lawrence exhumed, cremated and brought the ashes to the ranch. Her plan was to have the ashes housed in an urn inside the memorial, but Brett and Luhan wanted to scatter the ashes over the ranch (while Lawrence was alive, the three women often competed for his attention). In response, Frieda dumped his ashes into a wheelbarrow containing wet cement and exclaimed “Now let’s see them steal this!” The cement was used to make the memorial’s altar, which displays Lawrence’s initials flanked by green leaves and yellow flowers. There are other stories concerning the whereabouts of Lawrence’s ashes, but this one is the most widely accepted. At the top of the altar is a statue of Lawrence’s personal symbol, the phoenix. Outside and to the left, as one enters the memorial, is Frieda’s grave. She died in 1956 at her home in El Prado, New Mexico on her 77th birthday. It was her wish to be buried here. In 1955, eight months prior to her death, Frieda gave the Kiowa Ranch to the University of New Mexico. She stipulated that the ranch be used for educational,cultural, and recreational purposes, and that the Lawrence memorial be open to the public. Since then, the ranch has been known as the D. H. Lawrence Ranch.
Under this mammoth pine tree, D.H. Lawrence spent his mornings writing at a small table. In 1929, five years after Lawrence’s final visit to New Mexico, artist Georgia O’Keeffe came to Taos and spent several weeks at the Kiowa Ranch. During her visit she painted the stately pine. O’Keeffe wrote that she would lie on the long-weathered carpenter’s bench under the tall tree, staring up past the trunk, up into the branches, and into the night sky. The scene is captured in her now-famous oil painting The Lawrence Tree, which is currently owned by the Wadsworth Athenaeum in Hartford, Connecticut.
On May 5, 1924, when D.H. Lawrence and his wife,Frieda, moved to the Kiowa Ranch, two dwellings and a small barn existed on the property. Of the two houses, Lawrence and Frieda chose the larger Homesteader’s Cabin, as their mountain home. The Homesteader’s Cabin features three rooms, and was probably built during the latter part of the 19th century by John Craig, who homesteaded the land in the 1880s. Ponderosa pines cut from the property were used to build this and the other cabins. An adobe plaster, which is a mixture of mud, straw and water, can be seen between the pine logs. The west wall of the Homesteader’s Cabin features a striking picture of a buffalo, painted in 1935 by a Taos Pueblo artist, Trinidad Archuleta. Directly south of the cabin is a meadow that was created when the trees were cleared. This is where Mary and William McClure, the second owners of the ranch, grazed their angora goats at the turn of the 20th century. Lawrence, Frieda, and Brett, with the help of three Taos Pueblo Indians and a local carpenter, spent most of May and June 1924 repairing the buildings. The chimney of this cabin was rebuilt with adobe bricks,and all the buildings were restored and reroofed. It was in this cabin that Lawrence worked on his manuscripts while Brett shouldered the typing duties since Lawrence did not know how to type.
Artist Dorothy Brett (1883-1977) better know as Brett or Lady Brett, studied painting at the Slade School in London from 1910 to 1916. During that time she established friendships with writers such as Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence and George Bernard Shaw. In January 1924, after a trip to New Mexico, D.H. Lawrence asked several friends to move to Taos with him to create a utopian society he called Rananim. Only Brett accepted his offer. In March 1924 Lawrence, Frieda and Brett set sail for the United States. They arrived at the Kiowa Ranch in May with Lawrence and Frieda taking the larger of the two cabins and Brett settling in the smaller one. Her days at the Kiowa Ranch were often spent painting. She also assisted Lawrence by typing his manuscripts. Lawrence left New Mexico in 1925, but Brett settled permanently in Taos, eventually becoming an American citizen. Lady Brett was known for her portraits, landscapes and depictions of American Indian scenes. Dorothy Brett died in 1977 at the age of 94.