Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Allen Stamm

Allen Stamm

Honored May 2003

Allen Stamm

No other Santa Fe builder in the modern era contributed as much as Allen Stamm did to the bedrock concept of "home." A visionary as well as a man of immense integrity, character, compassion and humanity, he built thousands of high-quality—but not high-cost—houses all across the face of this community. He worked always to make them livable, durable, handsome, architecturally sensitive, friendly and, perhaps most important, affordable for ordinary Santa Feans with average incomes.

As a Depression-era graduate of the University of New Mexico, Stamm understood that hard-working but poor people needed decent homes in which to live and raise their families. As early as 1939 he was building "affordable housing" here—long before the term was coined. His first homes ranged from $3,800 to $4,500, and the $300 down payment and $40 monthly mortgage bill were within the reach of state employees.

After serving with the Navy in World War II, he shaped several of Santa Fe’s most distinctive neighborhoods: Cm Mafiana, Cm Alegre, Carlos Rey, among others, and Casa Solana, arguably his best-known project. Despite the modest $10,000 to $20,000 prices, his homes featured hardwood floors, vigas, kiva fireplaces, nichos and other traditional touches, plus superlative workmanship. What they did not have was front-yard fences, for Stamm wanted the people living in his houses to know each other.

He hired women consultants to design the kitchens. He made places for Christmas trees and highchairs, and built garages that were easily converted into bedrooms for growing families. He instituted year-round work for his employees as well as an insurance plan, partnerships for his top executives, and a one-year unconditional guarantee on his houses—all unheard-of concepts before he came. He elevated the building industry’s standards, here and throughout the state. He received many awards, and served countless local causes, from the hospital to the animal shelter.

During his "retirement," in an era when numerous builders were catering to upscale clients, Stamm continued to work tirelessly for affordable housing in Santa Fe, and to support local causes. When he died early this year at the age of 91, he was still at it. For a residence in Santa Fe, there is no higher tribute than to say it is a "Stamm House"—and like the homes he built, his legacy will stand the test of time.

Story by Richard McCord