Sena Plaza is one of the oldest surviving houses in Santa Fe. Located just one block from the city’s plaza, and just across the street from The St. Francis Cathedral. La Casa Sena, which means ” the Sena House”, occupies an old hacienda style adobe. The Sena family was one of the oldest and most notable in Santa Fe. The land La Casa Sena was built on, was originally granted to Captain Arias de Quiros by General Diego de Vargas, who reconquered Santa Fe for the Spanish in 1693. The property was then deeded through family to the wife of Juan Sena and then to their son, Major Jose Sena. In 1864, Major Sena married Dona Isabel Cabeza de Baca and on the inherited land built a small adobe home. Major Sena extended the original structure into a thirty-three room hacienda in 1868, long before New Mexico was to become a state.
Even with it’s thirty-three rooms there wasn’t much room to spare. Isabel and the Major had 22 children (although only 11 survived). The Major was a very social man and entertained the dignitaries of the day, such as frontiersman Kit Carson. Even then the house of Sena served the finest cuisine of the region, featuring venison, rabbit, buffalo and the many chiles native to this area. Spanish hospitality included day-long feasts, with sports, games and dancing.
A ballroom on the second floor of the west wing of the house was often filled with song and merriment. This ballroom also temporarily housed the legislature when the original capital burned in 1892. The hacienda included a chicken house, coach house, servants’ quarters, storerooms and two wells, one of which still exists today. The courtyard, now green and beautiful, was then bare earth, all vegetation eaten by the goats that inhabited it. The main dining room of La Casa Sena now stands where the stables once were.
After Major Sena died, the land was divided among the six surviving children, and in 1927 they deeded the land to Senator Bronson Cutting and his two sisters, Martha and Amelia White. Renovations began and a Tea Room was built in the area where the stables had once been. A second floor was added to the east wing and all of the other rooms became stores or offices. One of these offices was used in the 1940’s by the Manhattan Project, which later developed the Atomic Bomb in nearby Los Alamos.
In the early 1980’s, art dealer Gerald Peters bought the historic building and renovated it to its former grandeur, all the while, protecting its architectural integrity. In 1983, La Casa Sena opened in the space once occupied by the Tea Room, and food and song once again filled the old Sena house.