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"This is a Norman Rockwell community."

the summer of 1997, a medicine man visiting the home of Judy "Montana" McWilliams and Rosemary Aitken saw a band of Ute Indians walking across their land.

They were his ancestors of long ago who traveled and summered here before it was developed in the 1920sand only he saw the vision of them that day.

"This is a very enchanting place," the medicine man said, before performing a healing ceremony for McWilliams who had just lost her father. He was standing on the grounds of the Na-Te-So Pueblo-a 2-acre property on Tesuque Roadand he was not alone in his assessment.

Others believe the enchantment of Na-Te-So dates to its beginnings in 1925 when Navajo, Tesuque and San Illdefonso Indians were recruited from the Southwest to build the adobe dwellings, modeled after a real mission in New Mexico. That includes current owners McWilliams and Aitken, who hope the next family to buy Na-Te-So will be as captivated by its history as they have been for the last 16 years.

The home, including four casitas (small adobe houses) with wood-burning fireplaces and a large workshop, is for sale.

Developed by Denver's mortuary magnate George Olinger for promotion of the Indian Hills subdivision, a summer colony he envisioned for city dwellers, the Indian village was designed to draw the tourist trade. There were art shops offering beadwork, silver-smithing, textiles and potters who became famous for their worksuch as the late Luis "Wo-Peen"Gonzales and his wife, Juanita. There was a museum, a ceremonial house and a kiva used as a special gathering place. It afforded visitors a chance to peer into the lives of the natives, to see how they worked, played and worshiped.

In addition, an artist colony developed across the road, drawing writersand musicians.

Only a few short years after the pueblo opened, however, the stock market crashed. Despite the renovations to Parmalee Gulch Road, which had been carved wide into the landscape with comfortable grades and a fine gravel surface, Denverites were no longer inclined to travel an hour away or spend their dwindling revenues.

For years the village remained unoccupied and deteriorated before Willard Spence, a Denver minister and avid potter, purchased it in 1949. He had become fascinated with the traditional pottery of the Pueblo Indians on a church-sponsored retreat in New Mexico. Believing it to be "poetry of the Earth" he was determined to make that poetry immortal in vessels of his own making.

When he returned from the retreat, he purchased the remaining structures of the Na-Te-So Pueblo and prepared to restore portions of it. He purchased a large kiln and soon opened Indian Hills Pottery. Nine years later, when his daughters headed to college and he accepted a call from the church in Wisconsin, an artist friend took over operations on Spence's behalf. But after moderate success, the pottery shop closed in 1961.

Reports followed of hippies and an assortment of domesticated animals living at the pueblos after that. One owner was an art teacher who rented out the casitas for a rumored $100 a month but was stingy with water, prompting those who occupied it to haul water from a community well a few miles away.

One couple, now New York attorneys, showed up on McWilliams' doorstep one day, eager to take a peek at the casita where they once lived without water, remembering those adventures as fond ones.

By the time McWilliams and Aitken bought Na-Te-So, in 1990, several of the buildings made of hand-carved mud bricks were gone. The two became especially motivated to renovate the remaining buildings when they watched the wall of one casita fall to the ground during a heavy rain.

Familiar with adobe, when she spent summers as a child in Taos, McWilliams buried herself along with Aitken in research about restoration processes. In the mid-1990s they discovered a group called the Collaborative that provided surveys of the structures and connected them with Native American Indian artisans who helped reconstruct the adobe over the course of about two years.

The Indians set up teepees on the property and performed ceremonies to sanctify the land. The authentic bricks used in the reconstruction process were shipped on a flatbed truck from Espanola, N.M. After they were installed, cement stucco was applied to the outside adobe to protect it. They also hand-peeled the vegas (beams) for the roofs. Currently, there are four guest casitas and a large workshoptwo of which still require some "interior" renovation.

When they bought it, the previous owner knew little of its history, but McWilliams and Aitken have accumulated stacks of it since in the form of postcards, brochures, photos and other memorabilia. More details are immortalized in museums and libraries and the memories of local schoolchildren who have visited Na-Te-So during annual field trips.

The main house is now roughly 3,000 square feet and includes portions of the original residence designed by Jean Allard Jeancon, who also lived there and ran the Na-Te-So operations. The sunken great room now has a passive solar wall; the outdoor gardens have a fountain, hot tub room and attached greenhouse. The casitas have wood-burning beehive fireplaces.

McWilliams and Aitken will soon be moving to Denver and plan to travel more. McWilliams, who majored in journalism loves photography and gardening, is a retired engineer and once worked for the office of energy conservation under Gov. Roy Romer. Aitken, who was unavailable for an interview, enjoys restoring old buildings and she works at the Tattered Cover Bookstore.

"This property owns me," McWilliams said. "I want to put on my vagabond shoes."

As McWilliams describes it, the duo's stay there has been, well, enchanting. To this day, when friends visit from out of town, they walk through the gates and their cares melt away.

"This is a Norman Rockwell community," she said, describing the annual Fourth of July parade-an event that spreads young families along Parmalee Gulch Road to gather candy tossed from passing floats and most always, except this year, includes a late show of fireworks sponsored by the local fire department in a field near the pueblo.

The owners may be a hard act to follow, for they have fully embraced their time here busying themselves with the development of a community plan along with other residents in years past, and they joined the local improvement association to champion issues of water quality and other benefits.

"It's not just a house; it's truly a lifestyle," explained McWilliams. Yet she hesitates to overemphasize the historic responsibilities, lest she scare away a perfect buyer.

The property is zoned commercial and with work could be turned into a bed and breakfast, though McWilliams and Aitken hope it becomes the property of another caring family-in particular, one that is concerned with the environment, one that cares about the history of Na-Te-So and the local community.

"Obviously, that's asking a lot," McWilliams said. "But Indian Hills is the best place to live and raise your kids." (Or, grandkids, since this pair have 13 between them.)

Indian Hills may be brimming with friendly tribes now, but in times past, its beauty provoked jealousy, according to local legend.

The Ute were the first to discover the 2,200 acres of nearby rocks rimmed with evergreen forests. They camped there and were so enraptured by the land, some say, that bitter feuds between them and other tribes, such as Arapaho and Cheyenne, developed over their attempts to possess it.

Its no wonder that fancy copy in advertising literature from the 1920s describing the newly formed "Indian Hills" subdivision flaunted that attraction.

For this community, complete with an Indian pueblo, could "soothe the most troubled heart-bring indescribable surcease to the urban-weary-make God seem nearer and the petty problems of life far away and cause hope to spring anew within the breast."


The Na-Te-So Pueblo is priced at $659,000--for more information contact Metro Broker agent Blaine Frangas at XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Information for this article was compiled from historic documents, brochures and photographs and older news clippings from the Canyon Courier, Denver Post and Westword.










































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