Old Urban Setting with Historic Style Home

February 4, 2017 raguirre

Historic home offers luxury and space in a downtown setting.  The bird room Nora Frenger had built specifically for her feathery friends. Right originally built in 1845, the frengers took on a decades-long renovation that would turn the home into an artistic pueblo revival-style masterpiece.


Entrance to The Carlsbad Bathroom

Clara Frenger left her unique mark on every aspect of this home, but nowhere is that more evident than the Carlsbad themed bathroom. Named for Carlsbad Caverns, this hobbit-sized powder room is a miniature tribute to the caverns, complete with stalactites. A door on one side of the bathroom opens to Clara’s library and a hidden door on the other side of the bathroom opens into Mr. Frenger’s wing of the home. “Being artistic, Clara just wanted to mimic something that was in Carlsbad Caverns. For Las Cruces in the ‘50s it was something quite extraordinary,” says Cliff.


When it comes to finding a new home, urban is the new suburban. Millennials and Baby Boomers alike are returning from the suburbs to embrace the convenience and ambiance of downtown Las Cruces. But, not everyone is ready to embrace the modern lines and loft-style homes so often associated with living downtown. Enter the Frenger home.

This sprawling, historic home offers all the benefits of living a block from downtown Las Cruces without sacrificing privacy, space, and, most importantly, style.

There are many old homes surrounding the downtown Las Cruces area, but not many can trace their history back to 1845.

The Frenger family really put the home on the Las Cruces map and transformed it from a small adobe to the full-blown hacienda it is today. “To me, the richness in a historic home is who built it and who renovated it,” says Cliff Schlothauer whose parents, Janet and Gary, purchased the home in 1997. Cliff is an amateur historian and expert on everything there is to know about the Frenger home.

Judge Numa Frenger and his wife Clara purchased the home in 1906. Around 1930 Clara decided to embark on a renovation that would last decades and turn the home into one of the most beautiful and artistic Pueblo Revival style homes in Mesilla Valley history.

The Frengers were jetsetters who loved to throw big parties. He was a roughrider and a friend of Teddy Roosevelt; she was an eccentric Southern Californian who loved birds so much she gave them their own room in the house. “She was such a dynamic person – only a little over five feet tall. She loved to greet her guests in a kimono, which shocked the prim ladies of 1950s Las Cruces,” says Cliff. “She’s responsible for all the artistry we see here today.”

Clara’s artistry and passion for quality is quite literally all over the house, starting with the front door. The pattern on the front door insets was hand-carved to Clara’s own design specifications. In a testament to the quality workmanship of that era, the doors’ original hinges work perfectly despite being nearly a century old.

“Living in a historic home, every day is an adventure,” says Cliff. “There’s always something new to find or discover. Even now after all these decades of mom and dad living here, I still see new things.”

During their years of owning the Frenger home, the Schlothauer family focused on preserving the property and returning it to its Frenger era glory. “We took the house back as close as Clara had it as we could,” says Cliff.

When the Schlothauers decided to add a perimeter wall in the 90s to increase privacy, they stayed true to the Pueblo Revival style. Just outside of Clara’s “bird room,” an exterior staircase leads up to the roof with the same breathtaking views the Frengers enjoyed decades ago. When it came time to restore the aging staircase, the Schlothauer family took the utmost care. The easy fix would have been replacing the stairs with something modern or even creating a replica of the original. Instead, the Schlothauers carefully removed each stone, marked it, and set it aside. In their renovation, they placed each stone in its exact, original location. “I think that’s really a testament to how much my parents care about the history of this house,” says Cliff.

The outdoor living spaces are perfect for a Gatsby inspired party, an afternoon of quiet reflection, or anything in between. There are five separate courtyards, shielded from street traffic and pedestrians by thick adobe walls. When it’s time to party, there’s a mariachi pit and an outdoor bar designed by Clara herself. The driveway was designed as a dance floor and can easily be used for that purpose if the mood strikes.

Clara designed the interior of the house to accommodate her legendary soirées as well. The grand sala includes a rare musician’s loft. “Back in the day when things were refined and sophisticated, you didn’t want loud music to be blasting your guests. When musicians played from the musician’s loft, the music would just float,” Cliff explains.

The ceiling in the grand sala and throughout the home is a work of art in itself. “What a lot of people don’t notice is that every latilla has a gorgeous patina,” Cliff notes.

Clara had some of the best Mexican craftsman of her generation working on her home. Each latilla was dipped by hand with a wash of Clara’s own design. Each ceiling beam in the grand sala is accented with hand-carved corbels that depict the stages of a yucca plant. Clara was hand-painting each one herself but was never able to finish. The Schlothauers opted to leave the remaining corbels unpainted as a tribute to Clara.

One of the biggest misconceptions about the house as a whole is that it’s only partially constructed with adobe. “Decades ago somebody described this house as a small frame house that was added onto with adobe later, but that’s a fallacy,” explains Cliff. While the home has grown and morphed over the years to accommodate different owners’ needs, the main structure has always been adobe with the exception of one small wall.

In the Frenger era the house became known as “La Fantasía” (the fantasy), where Clara Frenger lived out her dreams.  Cliff says, “This house is the artistic embodiment of Clara Frenger who was the mover and shaker of her time.” k


The ceiling in the grand sala  is a work of art  in itself.



331 W. Las Cruces Avenue


u Year Built: 1845

u Square Feet: 5,000+  sq. ft.

u currently offered at:             $495,000


Special Features:

Two One Bedroom Casitas, Five Courtyard Areas, Rooftop Viewing Deck, Musician’s Loft, Large Enclosed Patio, Dendrite Stone Flooring, Thick Adobe Construction, Three Interior Fireplaces, Two Outdoor Fireplaces + Horno


To learn more about this home, please contact the Listing Broker.

Tom Whatley Realtor®                                            

Steinborn & Associates Real Estate

141 Roadrunner Parkway, Suite 141

Las Cruces, NM 88011

(575) 522-3698 Office

(575) 522-4987 Fax

(575) 649-2256 Mobile



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