Twenty miles south of Albuquerque, a southern colonial mansion sits on a busy street corner in the village of Los Lunas. It looks a little out of place, but not just in this small town setting. It would look a little out of place anywhere in the entire state of New Mexico.
The 130-year-old Luna Mansion, with its Victorian decor and spacious bay windows, reopened as a restaurant about five years ago with new owners, a new menu, and a wonderfully restored interior.
How did a southern colonial mansion end up on the Rio Grande? Like so much of New Mexico history, it has to do with railroads. In 1881 the Mansion was part of a land deal between the AT&SF Railway and Don Antonio Jose Luna. In exchange for giving the railroad a right-of-way through his large hacienda, the railroad offered to build him a new house of his own design. He picked southern colonial. However in a nod to local materials, behind the stucco are walls of adobe and terrones--blocks cut from the grassy wetland soil and sun-dried.
Generations of two of the most powerful families in New Mexico, the Luna and Otero families, occupied this distinctive residence. History was written within these walls. For one thing, much of the State Constitution was drafted in the upstairs room. But there is a lot more.
The mansion’s first full-time resident, Tranqulino Luna, was a territorial senator. Maximilliano Luna was a captain in Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Manuel B. Otero was territorial governor from 1897 to 1906. The pioneer naturalist Aldo Leopold was a frequent guest here. Even today’s owners, the Torres family, have ancestors that spent a decade living in the Mansion about 100 years ago. The Torres family also own the restaurant across the street from the Mansion, Teofilo's.
But it was in the 1920‘s that Josefita Manderfield Otero, whose father founded the Santa Fe New Mexican, remodeled the Mansion into what it is today. She added a solarium and raised the portico and its soaring columns all the way to the roof line.
Which brings us to what is perhaps the most famous feature of the Mansion: it is said to be haunted...and one of the most frequently seen specters is that of Josefita Manderfield Otero!
These days, the Luna Mansion is elegant and ready for the holidays. Eating there is a real treat for all ones senses. The Sunday Brunch would make a nice little drive, especially coming back by way of NM 314. Check lunamansion.com for hours, menus and prices.