A well-known Mesilla gem is ready to weave a new chapter in its storied history.
Written by Cassie McClure
Photography by Donicio Madrid
Over generations, homes can become their own personalities, sheltering not just the lives but also the stories of their owners. Josefina’s Inn is not just a historic location, but a colorful fabric in the tapestry of the town of Mesilla, New Mexico. This old-world gem is now for sale to the next caretaker who will take part in its new stories.
The neighboring bells of the Basilica of San Albino bong gently, a constant reminder of time. Josefina’s Inn is a guardian of an era long-gone yet still retained in the thickness of its two-feet thick adobe walls. Built in the 1850’s, and not quite a block away from the Mesilla Plaza, the Inn is a part of the National Registry of Historic Places. The Inn’s original vigas—the polished dark wooden beams—and latillas—sticks that serve as a ceiling cover—overlook the touches of the modern age that have been carefully curated into the Inn over the last 10 years by its current owners, Bob Hamilton and Kathleen Foreman.
Kathleen is the daughter of the Inn’s namesake, Josefina Gamboa Biel Emerson, who lived in what would become Josefina’s Old Gate restaurant. Josefina loved Mesilla, and loved those who took the time to explore it. By way of the annual Christmas midnight mass, Josefina traditionally would invite friends and family into her home for menudo, bizcochos, and wine. Later, as the years went on, she started pulling in curious visitors and passerbys.
The town’s yearly luminaria display, that now attracts hundreds to the plaza in hushed reflection, was an effort of love from Josefina, who first decorated her house and then worked to spread the cheer throughout the village.
A black-and-white portrait of her mother rests on a shelf in the Inn’s office. In it, Josefina sits and looks expectantly out toward the plaza. Kathleen and Bob had owned the restaurant next door, Josefina’s Old Gate Café, through Josefina, but had the chance to buy the adjacent property that would become the Inn in 2006. An entrance to the Inn is next to the patio of the restaurant and, past the brightly painted receiving room, is the office where Kathleen sits to greet curious guests, just as Josefina herself had done.
Kathleen leans over her desk telling how the property was handed off from one family member to another, with names flowing out of her like how someone would reminisce about old friends. What is now the Inn has a colorful past that reaches back into the 1850’s. It grew as families grow, with an addition here, a new quirk there—like what was an indoor pool is now an underground basement for storage.
Bob recounts the 10-hour days filled with projects to bring the Inn up to speed with the newest comforts, but both he and Kathleen radiant pride as they tour and show the bits of what still feels like an expansive and unique home. spacious room offset by flares of color in the talavera tiling and a wine niche with a beautiful wave design on top.
Kathleen’s favprote, the large kitchen, has a new state-of-the-art professional Wolf stove. The original goal was to perhaps do cooking classes, which could easily happen in the starl-white and spacious room offset by flares of color in the talavera tiling anda win niche with a beautiful wave design on top.
Adjacent to the kitchen, is a living room with a kiva fireplace, one of three throughout the home. The beams truly shine and envelop you; it’s easy to imagine the cozy atmosphere of an early November morning with the fire crackling while you’re tucked away on the couch. It’s a house for a reader or collector, with built-in shelving in nearly every room.
The official front door, facing the street which runs toward the plaza, keeps to the heritage of the area, with imported glass from Mexico, detailed to bring light in, but also to retain opacity with ornate flower patterns.
Walking through the carpeted hallway between the suites, Bob points out the marks of life in the transition between rooms, the wood spaces that have worn to a smooth and gentle wave. It’s these transitions between rooms that give a sense of dedicated space to all the different areas. The Inn has two large suites, the King and Queen, each with their own parlor spaces and private bathrooms, with a built-in vanity in the King Suite. The exposed, rustic brick in the Queen Suite feels warm and inviting.
Both suites have double doors that open out to a slice of unexpected refuge in a desert: a filled greenhouse. Lime trees interweave with birds-of-paradise, ivy, and pots filled with well-tended plants. It’s an area for sitting in privacy and inhaling the scents, or peeking out the speakeasy window in the custom-made wooden door that leads to the back patio.
“It’s been a labor of love and it has an aura about it. We put in a lot of love and it feels like the house has loved us for it,” Kathleen says. “We’re eager to find someone who will do the things needed to keep that love flowing.”