Discovering La Hacienda Grande becomes a trip back in time. As one sits under the central portal of this low-slung, territorial style adobe fortress scented by potted geraniums and mums, there is an overwhelming sense of history and tradition. Nestled in the cool shade of the tall cottonwood trees along the banks of the Rio Grande, La Hacienda Grande has long been a resting place for weary travelers. In the years 1541 and 1542, Spanish explorer Francisco Vasquez de Coronado came up from Mexico City into what is now New Mexico in search of the fabled Seven Cities of Cibola. While charting out this unexplored territory, Coronado camped here. It is rumored that the Spanish explorer and his party spent two years on the site of La Hacienda Grande.
From 1581 to 1880, the Spanish explorers and missionaries used El Camino Real, the Royal Road to travel between the Spanish stronghold of Mexico City and the New Mexico colonies, whose capital was Santa Fe. For almost 300 years, from the early years of the Spanish empire in the Americas, through the years of the Mexican and United States territorial settlement, El Camino Real was the main thoroughfare for missionaries, colonists, soldiers, and commerce to New Mexico. Until the opening of the Santa Fe Trail in the 1800s, El Camino Real was the only road to the outside world for the province of Mexico. This historic route passed through the grounds of La Hacienda Grande.
In 1711, the Spanish colonizers granted the intermarried Gallegos and Montoya families a large section, 100 square miles, of present day Bernalillo to be used as a farm and ranch. Shortly before or after this time the original structure of La Hacienda Grande was built on this ranch and soon became the center of the Spanish village growing around Bernalillo. The estate served as the economic, cultural, and political center for the surrounding community. Since this time, it has served as a comfortable resting place for travelers along the Rio Grande.
Several local legends surround the Hacienda. One such legend is about Spanish gold and treasures being stored under the floors of La Hacienda Grande. Before Our Lady of Sorrows Catholic Church was built in Bernalillo, the structure served as a chapel on land owned by the intermarried Montoya and Gallegos families. During this period, La Hacienda Grande served as the center of Catholic worship in the Village of Bernalillo. Long before the Spanish arrived, the site was known as sacred land to the nearby Tiguex pueblo tribe.
During the Civil War, Confederate soldiers were ransacking churches in New Mexico and were headed toward Our Lady of Sorrows Church in Bernalillo. For protection, the church brought its Spanish gold and other sacred icons and treasures to the Montoya chapel and buried them under one of the floors of what is now La Hacienda Grande. Our Lady of Sorrows was spared when the soldiers were cut off by the Union army, but for unknown reasons the treasures were left in the chapel. Their exact location was lost, and family members over the years tried different methods to locate the lost treasure.
In 1986 or 1987, a man know to be interested in the gold rented the house (now La Hacienda Grande) for several months. When his rent was overdue, the Montoyas stopped by and found an eight-foot hole in the floor in one of the rooms. The man was never seen again. Guests of the inn yet wonder if the gold is still there or if he recovered and absconded with it.
The old chapel area of the house now functions as its kitchen, the dining room was once the estate's winery and grainery and the living room had been a stable. The doorways to each guest's room, supported by corbels and weathered beams, line the inner walls of a central courtyard which exudes the peaceful quietness of a meditative afternoon.
La Hacienda Grande Bed and Breakfast is currently owned by Shoshana Zimmerman who came near the coolness of the Rio Grande for a more peaceful business lifestyle, having left a successful, high-pressure career in food manufacturing in California. Shoshana is a homeopathic physician in nearby Albuquerque.
The Inn was truly a place of solitude for a weary traveler. Our room was large and had a beautiful kiva fireplace. Coffee and tea was brought to the room every morning just before breakfast. Shoshana prepared a healthy breakfast. After a long day of sightseeing, we would retreat to the lovely gardened courtyard to relax and chat with other guests. Travel stories were exchanged to close out the day. Our stay transported us far from the business of Bernalillo. The brochure above shows the awards obtained by LaHacienda Grande.