Exploring the Ranch Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mentor

Architect Joseph Silsbee designed the buildings at Vermejo, now owned by Ted Turner

Casa Grande
Casa Grande at Vermejo
Vermejo, a Ted Turner Reserve

Travel to New Mexico and you might well stumble upon Vermejo. It’s not exactly small: in the words of a recent Curbed article, it’s a ranch and preserve that’s “the size of the Badlands, Acadia, Redwood, and Zion National Parks combined.” Once owned by William H. Bartlett, the property is now owned by another wealthy American: Ted Turner.

Turner’s aim is to use Vermejo as the site of a preservation program — and at the heart of that is an ambitious effort to restore a series of buildings designed by the Chicago-based architect Joseph Silsbee, who may be best-known today as the mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright. While Silsbee’s name isn’t nearly as well-known as that of his protege, a foray into his life and work reveals plenty of architectural gems, the Syracuse Savings Bank among them.

Silsbee designed numerous stone structures for Bartlett, each of them imposing in their own way. 

There was ample room for guests: The central house was a tremendous 30-room hunting and fishing lodge. On the north side of the lodge was Casa Minor, and on the south was the star of the property, which Bartlett built for himself: a 25,000 square-foot, seven-bedroom opus he called Casa Grande.

The central lodge, unfortunately, was destroyed in a fire in 1955, with a structure replacing it built in the 1980s. Turner purchased the property in 1996, and a thorough restoration of the mansion at Vermejo began in 2012. Up next: a similar revitalization effort targeted at Casa Minor. 

Vermejo is open to guests, which will help fund Turner’s conservation efforts on the property — and hopefully keep the area thriving for years to come. 

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