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Canyon Road Hyrdoelectric Power Plant

Cultural Resource Reconnaissance and Historical Overview of Canyon Road Hydroelectric Power Plant

An archaeological survey and historical research were conducted as part of planned improvements to the old Santa Fe Hydroelectric Plant. This 51-page document reveals the history of water use and delivery systems to the area of downtown Santa Fe from 1609 to present (2008), and includes brief descriptions of human habitations of the area from the Paleoindian period to the Treaty of Guadalupe.

Maps, charts of findings, early 20th century photographs.



By Thomas Merlan and Tim Maxwell



At the request of Vic Johnson, Victor Johnson Architects, in Santa Fe, New Mexico, an archaeological survey and historical research were conducted as part of planned improvements to the old Santa Fe Hydroelectric Plant (Figure 1). The survey was performed by Tim Maxwell on August 20, 2008 and the historical research was undertaken by Tom Merlan. Both researchers are on the City of Santa Fe list of approved consultants for archaeological and historical studies.

Planned improvements at the old hydroelectric plant will result in a new city park and will occur in two phases. During the first phase, existing roads will be reclaimed, a new access constructed, an irrigation system installed, pathways will be built, and temporary restrooms set up. The focus of the subsequent phase will be restoration and transformation of the existing building into a community center with interpretive displays.


Historical research, presented in this report, showed that in 1880 the commissioners ofSanta FeCounty granted to a private corporation, the Santa Fe Water and Improvement Company the “exclusive right and privilege of erecting dams and reservoirs, and impounding water on the River of Santa Fe.” A successor corporate owner, the Water and Improvement Company, built the hydro-electric plant (1209 Canyon Road) in 1894. The Water and Improvement Company was controlled by a Chicago investment firm, the Municipal Investment Company. The Water and Improvement Company and its assets were subsequently sold to Charles F. Street of New York City in 1900. In 1900 as well, the Santa Fe Water and Light Company was incorporated by Charles Street and others, and absorbed the assets of the Santa Fe Electric Company, the Santa Fe Gas and Electric Company, and the Water and Improvement Company. The principal franchise asset of the Santa Fe Water and Light Company was the franchise originally granted by the CountyCommissioners in 1880 to the Santa Fe Water and Improvement Company. Accordingly, Santa Fe’s water was controlled by corporations inChicago and New York for more than half a century. Santa Fe’s water finally returned to the control of a New Mexico corporation, Public Service Company of New Mexico, in 1946. PNM acquired all the assets of the Santa Fe Water and Light Company, including the hydroelectric plant – which had probably been abandoned since at least 1943.


The archaeological survey revealed no materials beyond those associated with the hydroelectric plant, used between 1895 and sometime in the 1940s. Considerable land disturbance has occurred as a result of plant construction and operations. The existing site has been documented on an Archaeological Records Management form and received the number, LA 160599. Given the age of the plant and its importance to Santa Fe history, it is recommended that the site be considered significant under City of Santa Fe ordinances. However, due to the past land alterations and subsurface intrusions, further archaeological work is not recommended.