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Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. Historic Properties Department. Larsen Abiquiu Research

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-6-2-1

Scope and Contents Note

A summary of the Helen Larsen Abiquiu property research was published in the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum's magazine, O'K Magazine, in fall of 2013.

Introduction to the Abiquiu House and Studio: Each year hundreds of visitors tour Georgia O'Keeffe's house and studio in Abiquiu. They might be surprised to learn that the land they are standing on was part of the land grant to the Pueblo of Santo Tomas Apostol de Abiquiu established by Governor Velez Cachupin in 1754. The land was partitioned in 1825 and again in 1841. Local Abiquiu notable families bought, sold, inherited, intermarried and filed court documents changing ownership boundaries. In 1945 Georgia O'Keeffe was offered purchase of the Abiquiu house by the Catholic Church and bought it from Archbishop Edwin V. Byrne. She had purchased property in the nearby Ghost Ranch in 1940.

Intro to Helen Larsen by Judy Lopez: Helen Larsen's introduction to Abiquiu came in June 2007, when she asked to volunteer for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. She was assigned to the Home and Studio office in Abiquiu and after our first meeting I knew her knowledge and experience was going to be a tremendous asset to our office and the Museum. She first began working on a maintenance manual for the property. However, after a very interesting discussion with a member of the community regarding the history of Georgia O'Keeffe's home, we decided to investigate a bit further. Helen's dedication, determination, and endless volunteer hours of her time to find as much material about the home lead her to find information on the settlement of Abiquiu, the formation and history of the Land Grant, and the first structures on the property in the early 1700s. In 2010, Helen presented her research material to the Museum's Research Center for its archives. Today, Helen still continues with her commitment to further enhance the education of O'Keeffe's life in the community of Abiquiu by working with the Home and Studio on various projects.

From Helen Larsen: My interest in Georgia O'Keeffe dates back to the mid-1960s when I was a History of Art major in college. For my senior thesis, I spent the month of January 1968 at home in Tesuque researching "How New Mexico affected the art and artist who came here to paint". I was introduced to Miss O'Keeffe and was able to spend time with her spread over two days. Fast forward to 2007. After I retired from 20 plus years as a paralegal, I decided to volunteer at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum and was assigned to work in Abiquiu. As Pita Lopez, Director of the Historic Properties, and I worked on another project we started talking about the history of ownership of the Abiquiu house. I had done property title searches during my legal career so felt this could be done easily. How wrong I was. I spent more than two years, interviewed several dozen people, visited title companies, the Rio Arriba County Court house, the State Archives and several other NM Libraries with historic documents. I assembled research on the Abiquiu Genizaro Community Land Grant and family histories for some of the families who lived in Abiquiu in an attempt to fill in the picture of who had owned and/or occupied the house since it was first built in the 1740's. Miss O'Keeffe was well aware of how complicated and interesting the history of her house was and had some 1870's documents translated. These became my starting point.

Intro to Valerie Wheat: Once Helen Larsen's research materials were transferred to the archives at the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, Valerie Wheat began the survey and processing of the collection. Valerie has graciously volunteered her time to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Research Center for the last six years. Her past experiences as a Special Collections Librarian and Bibliographer at the American Museum of Natural History and the University of California San Francisco have proved valuable to the various projects she has completed. In addition to her work at the Museum, she also enjoys volunteering at the Palace of the Governors Photo Archives.

From Valerie Wheat: As a volunteer working in the Georgia O'Keeffe Research Center Archives I was handed the task of making an inventory of the material laboriously gathered by Helen Larsen with the goal of creating a record to make the collection accessible to anticipated researchers. Local historians and genealogists and scholars tracing Hispanic land ownership patterns will find it of interest. Much of the material is in Spanish and the handwriting and poor quality of reproduction is a challenge. Materials assembled include copies of census and parish records, Rio Arriba County records, genealogies, legal documents including "documento traspasos" recording transfers, warranty deeds, land claims and quit claims, and maps showing property boundaries. Doctoral dissertations, conference papers, portions of books, and journal articles offer historical background. The National Historic Landmarks Commission nomination report on O'Keeffe's home and studio and Georgia O'Keeffe correspondence about the purchase is included. Some of the material has been copied from the Spanish Archives of New Mexico, the Jose M. Chavez papers held by the Newberry Library in Chicago, the Silviano Salazar papers at the New Mexico State Records Center and Archives, and other collections. Bibliography: For those wanting to learn more about Abiquiu history, see: The Valley of Shining Stone by Lesley Poling-Kempes, works by Frances L. Swadesh, The Witches of Abiquiu by Malcolm Ebright and Rick Hendricks, articles from the New Mexico Historical Review 54:4 1979, Georgia O'Keeffe and Her Houses: Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu by Barbara Buhler Lynes and Agapita Judy Lopez, Abrams in association with the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, 2012.

Larsen, Helen and Valerie Wheat. "Research and History of the Abiquiu House." O'K Magazine, (Fall 2013).


  • Creation: circa 2010-2012, undated

Language of Materials

Materials primarily in English. Some materials in Spanish.

Access Restrictions

The collection is open to the public for research purposes.

Copy and Reproduction Restrictions

Copies of materials may be made for research purposes only.

Historical Note

Georgia O'Keeffe owned two homes in the Chama River valley north of Santa Fe. She bought the first one at the Ghost Ranch in 1940 and the second one in the village of Abiquiu in 1945. In both places, she made the homes her own, suited to her art and life and she occupied both until 1984, when she moved to Santa Fe. The Museum owns and preserves these historic properties. The Abiquiu Home and Studio is open for tours by appointment. Approximately 60 miles northwest of Santa Fe, the Ghost Ranch house is surrounded by the stunning landscape that inspired her art for more than 40 years. Owned and cared for by the Museum, the Ghost Ranch home is not currently open to the public. The 5,000-square-foot compound in Abiquiu was in ruins in 1945 when she first saw it. For the next four years, O'Keeffe supervised its restoration, which was carried out by her friend, Maria Chabot. The house was surrounded by a wall which enclosed a large irrigated garden, allowing her to grow fresh fruits and vegetables. At the center of the home was a patio with a large wooden door, which excited the artist's imagination and motivated her to buy the property. To obtain a view of the Chama River Valley, O'Keeffe converted a stable and buggy house at the edge of the mesa into her studio and bedroom. With the addition of plate glass windows, O'Keeffe gained spectacular views of the ever-changing color of the cottonwood trees below and the road that meandered through the valley. She moved from New York to make New Mexico her permanent residence in 1949, and lived at either Abiquiu or Ghost Ranch until 1984, when she moved to Santa Fe. "About Georgia O'Keeffe, Her Houses," Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, accessed August 25, 2016,


3.38 Linear Feet


Collection includes materials relating to the history of Georgia O'Keeffe's home and studio in Abiquiu, New Mexico. Largely consists of photocopies.

Arrangement of the Collection

The materials are primarily in original order, largely grouped by resources consulted.

Acquisition Information

These materials were created by Helen Larsen, volunteer for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum, under the direction of Agapita Judy Lopez, Director of Historic Properties. The materials were transferred to the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum archives in 2010.

Ownership and Rights

This collection is the physical property of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum. The Museum holds literary rights only for material created by Museum personnel or given to the Museum with such rights specifically assigned. The collection is subject to all copyright laws. The researcher assumes full responsibility for observing all copyright, property, and libel laws as they apply. Contact the Archivist for further copyright and publication information as it pertains to this collection.

Explanation of Rights

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Valerie Wheat in 2012. Revised finding aid published in 2016.

Genre / Form



Finding Aid for the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Historic Properties Department, Larsen Abiquiu Research, circa. 2010-2012, undated
Elizabeth Ehrnst
September 2016
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Georgia O'Keeffe Museum Repository

217 Johnson Street
Santa Fe NM 87501 US