History of the "Olive Rush Studio"

Santa Fe Friends Former Meetinghouse at 630 Canyon Road:

A brief history of the building known as the “Olive Rush Studio”

By David Giltrow

The modest adobe-based building is estimated to date to about 1850 (NM Historic Preservation Division). Like the other buildings along Canyon Road at the time, it was a modest farmhouse with several attached acres served by the Acequia Madre. Because of its age and nearly original state of preservation, the Santa Fe Historic Design Review Board considers it a highly significant historical building.

Olive Rush purchased the 700 sq. ft farmhouse in 1920 for her use as a residence and studio. She was a professional artist originally from Indiana who had first visited Santa Fe in 1914 while en route to visit relatives in Whittier, California, with her father. She was a graduate of Earlham College in Richmond, Indiana, and was later to receive an honorary doctorate from her alma mater as a distinguished internationally recognized artist. Upon arriving in Santa Fe, she stayed in the guesthouse of a friend from her days at the Chicago Art Institute, Gus Baumann, until purchasing the modest house on Canyon Road.

She set about expanding the building: adding a small, self-contained apartment for anticipated guests, an additional room (possibly used as a bedroom), and a garage. These changes expanded the building to about 1,000 sq. ft. An existing goat house in the large garden area was completely refurbished and turned into a modest rental casita in the 1930s. Since 1980, it has been occupied by a resident/caretaker.

The main building served as her studio and place of business as well as residence. She gave her artistic touch to the walls and main fireplace with small frescoes and even placed several frescoes on exterior walls. The house served also as a social setting during the developing Santa Fe Artists period and, as time went on, the location of an informal Quaker meeting for worship on Sunday mornings.

Upon her death in 1966, the building and garden was bequeathed to the Santa Fe Friends Meeting which had been formally organized in 1948. Some of her furnishings and paintings, illustrations and watercolors continue to be on view.

The SF Friends Meeting has taken historic preservation seriously. Since 1966, only three minor modifications have taken place to the exterior and interior. All were undertaken with close cooperation of the city’s planning division and the H Board staff and members.

The first work was extensive stuccoing of the exterior, aided by a grant from the NM Historical Preservation Division. The second modification (1992) was to enclose a portal with seasonal window panels to provide weather proofing and enhance security to the main entrance and the guest apartment. The third change in 2002 was to address handicapped access issues. On this tricky exercise, we consulted with the Historic Santa Fe Foundation staff and advisors in addition to city planning staff members. The only external change was to add an entrance from the garage which allows for wheelchair access. This did not change the appearance of the building from the street or from the garden. These last efforts were formally acknowledged by the Santa Fe city council.

The modifications over the years were not taken lightly. For example, the planning for handicapped access took several years to decide, design and complete. Such efforts have provided experience to the Meeting in approaching physical considerations to the meetinghouse with a backing of spiritual considerations in recognition that we need to be careful stewards of both land and property.