By the time New Mexico finally attained statehood in 1912, it was clear to Santa Fe’s leaders that the vision of a thriving Anglo-American city remained unrealized. While other cities in the state prospered as a result of the railway, Santa Fe’s economy languished. The city’s population, which had stood at 6,600 in 1880, actually fell to 5,600 by 1900.
In response, an imaginative group of city leaders including merchants, and civic and cultural leaders, worked to redefine Santa Fe. They were motivated, in part, by the efforts of Edgar Lee Hewett, an archaeologist who had succeeded in bringing the School of American Archaeology to Santa Fe in 1907 and, subsequently, obtaining the Palace of the Governors as its headquarters.
Hewett and photographer Jesse Nusbaum undertook a remodeling of the Palace, stripping away the Territorial-Period ornamentation added to its exterior in an attempt to restore the building to the Spanish-Colonial appearance. By 1912, the impulse to preserve the “ancient” Santa Fe and its potential for promoting tourism had emerged as the path for economic growth in the city. This interest prompted city leaders to pursue a City Beautiful program in Santa Fe based not on the conventional definition of the Beaux-Arts-inspired City Beautiful movement, but upon the retention of the city’s historic appearance including its narrow winding streets and historic architectural style. This decision to pursue a City Beautiful plan based upon valuing a past that was unique among American cities gave rise to the phrase, “the City Different.”