Anthropology Student Earns State Recognition for Hurd Family Property

NMSU anthropology student earns state recognition for Hurd family property

Tucked away in a quiet corner of San Patricio in the mountains near Ruidoso, the 40-acre Hurd family home and studios might not be a destination everyone would immediately recognize. But thanks to a New Mexico State University student receiving her master’s degree in December, the property of artists Peter Hurd and his wife Henriette Wyeth-Hurd is now listed on New Mexico’s State Register of Cultural Properties and has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.

Overhead view of house with red tile roof
The Hurd House in San Patricio near Ruidoso was recently added to the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. (Photo by Brittany Porter) Sunlit studio with canvasses and art supplies
A studio inside the Hurd House in San Patricio near Ruidoso. The 40-acre property, including house and studios, was added to the state register and has been nominated for the National Register of Historic Places. (Photo by Brittany Porter) Woman standing in front of gate with house in background
Brittany Porter stands in front of the gate at Hurd House, a property she nominated for inclusion in New Mexico’s State Register of Cultural Properties. (Courtesy photo)

“There were only five other artists’ homes on the register in New Mexico and all these were in northern New Mexico,” said Brittany Porter, an anthropology graduate student in the College of Arts and Sciences, who spent he last two years working on the nomination, which was approved in October.

Peter Hurd is well known for painting the official White House portrait of President Lyndon Johnson as well as the landscape and people of the southwest. Henriette Wyeth-Hurd, daughter of famed illustrator and artist N.C. Wyeth, painted portraits of women such as Pat Nixon and actress Helen Hayes. Beyond their high profile portraits, both artists’ work reflected their connection with the southwest.

“Their paintings showed real life and the people of New Mexico,” said Porter. “That’s why it was important to me that they be recognized.”

The 40 acres described in the nomination were purchased in the 1930s and are part of a 417-acre parcel representing Peter Hurd’s original purchase in the Hondo Valley. Hurd expanded his ranch to more than 2,000 acres on which he raised cattle.

“Peter Hurd was born and raised in Roswell, New Mexico. I’m from Lincoln County and the
Hurd property was not on the register so I thought it would be a good thing to do.”

Porter received permission to nominate the property from the couple’s youngest son Michael Hurd, an artist who lives on and preserves his parents’ studios and the family’s Sentinel Ranch.

“We have worked hard to preserve the house as it once was and as I’ve always known. I am grateful for the work Brittany Porter invested over these past months,” said Michael Hurd. “She was diligent and tireless in her efforts and we are reaping the reward.

“I am pleased that the registry has come to this conclusion. The Wyeth Compound is a unique piece of history and architecture and I hope this recognition will further establish the value and contribution of the Hurd/Wyeth legacy.”

When Porter presented the Hurd House and Studios to the New Mexico Cultural Properties Review Committee, she made the case based on what she had learned about the history and significance of both artists to the State of New Mexico.

Grants she received from NMSU’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Archaeological Society of New Mexico allowed her to travel to Washington, D.C. to study the Peter Hurd and Henriette Wyeth-Hurd papers in the Archives of American Art.

“The committee was very impressed with Brittany’s efforts,” said Beth O’Leary, NMSU anthropology professor emerita who accompanied Porter to Jemez Pueblo for the presentation.

“She is the first NMSU student to present a nomination to the committee and have it approved before she had completed her master’s degree.”

Although retired in July, O’Leary continued working with Porter as her adviser throughout the fall. Hurd House is one of the first two artists’ properties in southern New Mexico recently added to the state register. The other is the Jimenez House, also in Lincoln County.

O’Leary says this type of project is important for the student and it makes a real contribution to preserving the cultural resources of New Mexico.

“Brittany’s successful nomination of the Hurd House to the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties is the kind of hands-on work employers will look at when she goes out to get a job. It’s also a service for the community to gain this kind of recognition for the work of New Mexico artists.” 

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