Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

<<Back to Treasures Index
Von Horvath

Irene Von Horvath


Honored May, 1998

Irene Von Horvath

Irene has been a very busy lady with her fingers in many pies.  For the past 45 years she has put her architectural background to use for Santa Fe trying to preserve Santa Fe’s Spanish-style.  She was a member of the city’s planning commission from 1955 to 1967.  During that time, she jumped into her old Jeep station wagon and drove in several circles around the city’s downtown, mapping out what would become Paseo de Peralta loop (originally named Irene Street), the street that circles the city and diverts traffic from the downtown, to prevent widening a few of the downtown streets in the name of smoother traffic.  “Bigger streets would have only hurt Santa Fe’s character,” she said.  She pushed designating new streets with Spanish names.  She also was co-author (with Oliver LaFarge) of the original Historic Styles Ordinance, Santa Fe’s first attempt to preserve the unique architecture that defines the city. In the late 1980’s, von Horvath helped break an impasse over completion of Atalaya Trail, then donated 21 acres of her wonderful mountain property on Camino Cruz Blanca to conservation groups. 

If there is any meeting in the area that is considering something that will affect the future of Santa Fe, Irene will be there.  She showed up for one meeting three hours after she had left the hospital following double hip replacement surgery.  One of her friends described her as having “six or eight heads of steam going at the same time.”  She doesn’t attend meetings to be viewed as “involved” and doesn’t feel comfortable just coming out against something unless she has an alternative to offer.  Many of her suggestions have been incorporated into the Community Plan and endorsed by the City Council such as Escarpment Ordinances and Mountain District Ordinances which lead to protection for the hills surrounding the city.

Irene was given a New Mexico Heritage Preservation Award in 1997.  She received many accolades from friends nominating her as a Living Treasure:

“In spite of all her achievements, Irene remains very self-effacing, playing down her own role in projects and giving generous credit to others.  I do not know anyone who so embodies the spirit of Santa Fe and whose love of the city has had such a profound effect on all of our lives.”

“I have never known anyone as dedicated to public service as Irene.”

The headline for an article written about Irene in 1999 pretty much sums up who she is, “Defender of Small-town Charm.”

Irene Von Horvath was born November 23, 1918 and died in Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 6, 2007

Photo © 1998 by Steven Northup