Best Places to Live

Santa Fe, NM

Population: 84,888

Those leading preservation efforts in Santa Fe, NM today are thankful to a group that got the ball rolling 100 years ago. In 1912, historic preservation first became an issue here when a group of developers came up with plans to tear down many adobe structures, straighten out streets and add modern buildings.

"There was a group of romantic, foresighted people who became the planning commission and said, 'Let's keep the streets as they are. Let's keep the buildings we have. That's where our preservation started," says Elaine Bergman, executive director of The Historic Santa Fe Foundation.

Santa Fe has been classified as one of the best preserved cities in the country. Many of the buildings were constructed with materials found around the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, rocks and red clay. It contains the Palace of the Governors, an adobe structure built in 1610, which is the oldest continuously used public building in the country. Santa Fe is also home to the San Miguel Mission, which was built in the early 1600s and believed to be the oldest church in the United States. Santuario de Guadalupe is the oldest, still-standing church dedicated to Our Lady of Guadalupe in the country. The church dates back to the 1777.

The collection of high-end art galleries and shops in Santa Fe blend together with historic buildings to create an immersive experience. With lots of sunshine throughout the year, the recreational options in Santa Fe are numerous.

"We have an absolute image," Bergman says. "It's not just the mountains in the distance or the beautiful dry mountain air. Our adobe structures define our town."

Number of Properties on the National Register of Historic Places (including districts): 52


• 2009 Distinctive Destination, National Trust for Historic Preservation

Historic Landmarks: Federal Courthouse (1850), Loretto Chapel (1878), Palace of the Governors (1610)