History of

The Dorsey Mansion

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 CIRCA 1886

     The Dorsey Mansion at Chico Springs, is just off the Santa Fe Trail in Colfax County. It is a magnificent log and masonry Victorian mansion built by Senator Stephen W. Dorsey.

     Construction on the rambling 2-story log house began in 1878, with completion in 1880. In about 1884, he began to remodel his home, adding the stone castle structure that included faces of his wife Helen Dorsey, his brother John and himself carved in stone on the castle tower. (Along with a few gargoyles.) Among a few of the amenities of this magnificent house, is an art gallery, billiard room, library, 9 bedrooms, a 60 guest dining room, servant quarters and the first indoor bathroom.  (Prior to that, he had a spacious 8 hole outhouse behind the mansion.)  But, not to be outdone, the grounds boast an 1800's swimming pool, with 3 islands and a gazebo!

     Mustered out of Civil War service in 1867, Stephen Wallace Dorsey went west. First to Arkansas where he got involved in a railroad scheme and ended up as a "carpetbag" U.S. Senator. Then to New Mexico, where he eventually built a lavish Victorian mansion for himself on a vast and fraud-ridden land grant. Cattle baron, industrial and mining speculator, dabbler in politics, wheeler-dealer, and the respondent of countless lawsuits. He entertained splendidly at his sprawling log and masonry home at Mountain Springs, Colfax County, New Mexico. Whether defending himself in the celebrated Mail Route fraud and conspiracy trials in Washington, or manipulating cattle counts on his New Mexico spread, Stephen W. Dorsey was utterly irrepressible. The ex-Senator had even tried his hand at founding a town---and named it Clayton, for his son. With the railroad from Fort Worth to Denver nearing completion, Clayton, New Mexico was soon to become a major shipping point. However, Dorsey realized very little, if any, profit from this venture either, and in October of 1892, the Dorseys were nearly destitute.

     In a half-hearted attempt to retain the mansion, he converted it into a sanatorium for tubercular patients. He soon resigned from this venture and simply moved to Colorado, then to California....a speculator in grandiose schemes to the last. Through the years and courts, the mansion was embroiled in lawsuits from creditors.  It was almost uncertain who actually owned the property, until  Helen Dorsey's  death in 1897, and it was then determined that she was the sole owner.  In 1901 the mansion property was sold at public auction. The high bidder was Solomon Floersheim, one of the creditors. 

     Over the next 60+ years there was a succession of owners. 1902: Dr. H. B. Masten----1907: William Van Bruggen (He ran the mercantile and post office in the art gallery)----1912: Lewis Griggs (Van Bruggen's brother-in-law) Through the next several years, the outbuildings fell to ruin, along with parts of the log cabin section of the mansion. In 1956 the post office closed and subsequently, the mercantile. Ten years later, in 1966, the house and 40 acres were sold to K. E. Deaton. The Deaton's set out to renovate the mansion and save it from ruin, but after the death of Mr. Deaton, it was sold in 1973 to the State of New Mexico/Museum of New Mexico.

     It was placed on the New Mexico State Register of cultural Properties in 1971 and a year later, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, through the hard work of the Deaton family. The Dorsey Mansion was declared a New Mexico State Monument by a proclamation of the Governor in 1976. The Museum of New Mexico began restoration, but found it too expensive, and on December 4, 1987, the Dorsey Mansion State Monument was sold to Dr. Roger W. Akers and Sandra Henning, who have been lovingly restoring the old mansion to its former grandeur.

 

     

 

Senator Stephen W. Dorsey
       
Senator Stephen W. Dorsey

 

Stephen Dorsey is one of the West's most outlandish characters, in the post-Civil War era.

 

Helen Dorsey

Mrs. Helen Dorsey

 

After the Civil War, Colonel Dorsey returned to Ohio in 1865 to marry the prettiest girl in Oberlin, Ohio.

 

Mansion Floorplan
LOWER LEVEL FLOORPLAN

 

The building is a 2-story, 36 room, 10,000 square foot mansion, complete with a stone castle tower. Built near Point of Rocks, on the Santa Fe Trail.

 

Castle Tower
Castle Tower

The stone masons, brought in from Italy, hand carved the Dorsey's busts on the castle tower. (And a few gargoyles too.)

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Revised: 20 Aug 2010 15:36:16 -0700 .

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