Santa Fe Living Treasures – Elder Stories

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Sara Melton

Sara Melton

Honored May, 2004

Sara Melton

It probably is no exaggeration to say that the face of Santa Fe would be different if Sara Melton was not here. A resident now for more than three decades, she has poured into the city more fierce love and unyielding architectural and historical integrity than perhaps any other Santa Fean. Her name is a synonym for the preservation of the structures, styles, areas, laws and organizations that make and keep Santa Fe unique.

A real-estate agent by profession, she became fascinated with the graceful, flat-roofed Pueblo and Territorial houses and other buildings that were erected long ago, and have been landmarks in the city's ongoing and dramatic history. But unlike passive citizens who merely appreciate Santa Fe’s ancient charm, she has fought ferociously for it.

She has worked with almost every board or organization dedicated to preserving what is best in the city's fabric. The full list is too long to cite here, but it includes: the Old Santa Fe Association, the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, the Historical Design Review Board, the Land Use Resource Center, the Planning Policy Commission, among other groups—always as a volunteer, never for pay. Moreover, she has attended countless meetings of the city council and county commission, where she is known as a watchdog.

Through the years Sara Melton has acquired an encyclopedic knowledge of buildings, issues, neighborhoods, history, zoning and renovation issues—information she is eager to share. She arguably knows more about such things than any other person; and many of the people she has assisted regard her almost with awe, as reflected in their praise: "a moral compass," "a mission of protecting Santa Fe's historic character," "guardian of all that is the historic heritage," "an unmatchable resource," "loves Santa Fe with a fierce passion," "a mainstay in preserving the integrity of Santa Fe's historic fabric." One person said: "One of the few people who knows what is in Chapter 14, the city's land-use development code." And another: "The community owes so much to Sara."

In 2002, Sara Melton signed a historic preservation easement on a Spanish-Colonial-era adobe house she owns just off Paseo de Peralta on Otero Street, in the heart of the Historic District. Under terms of the easement, she made a commitment to never let the building's historic character be diminished, during or after her lifetime. It will endure.

In August 2003 the Old Santa Fe Association board of directors held a day-long retreat to fully consider its role and future course. As part of the day, the group's assets and deficits were listed. Only one individual was officially declared an asset: Sara Melton.

Story by Richard McCord
Photo ©2004 by Steve Northrup