HIKERS CRESTING THE TOOTH OF TIME see a sprawling white house below the apex of the ridge on the Philmont Scout Ranch. They might wonder why it’s not part of the ranch, which entirely surrounds its 225 acres. It might have been, says Dave Emery, majority owner and managing partner of Casa del Gavilan Historic Inn, had the Boy Scouts of America shown interest when the property, near Cimarrón, came up for sale in 1994.
The owners, each of whom has a past association with Philmont, saw the opportunity to preserve and revive the inn. Today they oversee the six-room “House of the Hawk,” a National Register of Historic Places–listed guest lodging.
Emery gleaned information about the house, its original owner, and its significance by talking with locals and guests and spending hours sifting through dusty volumes at area libraries.
John “Jack” Nairn, an amateur archaeologist and travel and history writer, built the casa in 1910–11 with his wife, Gertrude, to be their primary residence. The adobe construction was so unusual for the time that the Cimarron News and Cimarron Citizen called it “perhaps one of the oddest dwellings in America,” incorrectly citing George H. Webster Jr., of the neighboring Urraca Ranch as the owner. What the article got right was the “strictly modern” interior, with 20 fireplaces and an exterior plastered in “tierra blanca, a white mud.” The cost: $100,000, about $2.8 million today.
For all the hype then, the casa is now considered one of the earliest and best-preserved examples of Pueblo Revival architecture. Nairn lived there until the 1940s, selling the property to the man who would donate a portion of his larger spread to establish Philmont Boy Scout Ranch. The remainder became UU Bar Ranch. Several living room sconces bear the UU brand, remnants of its brief sojourn as the ranch’s headquarters. New owners restored the house in 1969, adding the grand entry portico and serene sunporch. In the mid-1980s, the inn was born.
There’s no television. Cell-phone service is spotty. The Wi-Fi gets lost in the 18-inch-thick adobe walls. In its place, there’s a remarkable sense of tranquility. “The house has an aura when you walk through it that’s hard to find anywhere else,” Emery says.
Ed Risley and his wife, Kristin, of Santa Fe spent a weekend immersed in the comfy-rustic ambience and unspoiled scenery. “There’s a great library and game room, and we skimmed books about the area,” Ed says. “There’s so much history, and an amazing courtyard. We saw a herd of antelope, plus buffalo and horses. It still has the feel of a 100-year-old hacienda.”