Upcoming Historical Society Lecture Features History Of Duchess Castle



Near Tsankawi Mesa are the ruins of a stone house that has long been known as Duchess Castle. In 1917, Verra von Blumenthal, a Russian handicrafts promoter, and Rose Dougan, an early female pilot, built a home on the ancient Pueblo site and worked to support potters from nearby San Ildefonso Pueblo. Join JJ Mortensen, Kit Ruminer, and Rory Gauthier as they present “Duchess Castle,” the next event in the Los Alamos Historical Society Lecture Series. 

The speakers have interesting connections to the Duchess Castle history and have long been interested in the topic. Rory Gauthier participated in the original archaeological survey of the Tsankawi unit in 1988 and served as Bandelier National Monument’s archaeologist from 2001–2014. He retired from the National Park Service following a 30-year career as an archaeologist, chief ranger, and law enforcement ranger at several southwestern parks. Gauthier will interpret the history of the ancient ruins near Duchess Castle.

Since retiring from Los Alamos National Laboratory,  JJ Mortensen has worked part time at the White Rock Visitor Center and volunteers with Kit Ruminer as a Site Steward for Bandelier National Monument’s Tsankawi section. In the 1970s, she and her husband, Fred, visited Duchess Castle for the first time, and since then she has wanted to know more about the site and the women who lived there. 

Around the time that von Blumenthal and Dougan were active in New Mexico history, Kit Ruminer’s grandparents moved to Santa Fe, a fact that adds to her interest in the two women and their times. She volunteers at Bandelier and the Museum of Indian Art and Culture as well as teaming with Mortensen as a Site Steward for Tsankawi. Mortensen and Ruminer will introduce the audience to the women of Duchess Castle.

Join the Los Alamos Historical Society February 11 in Fuller Lodge, 7 p.m., for the story of Duchess Castle and the women who made history at that site. The 2019–2020 Lecture Series is generously sponsored by Robin and Richard McLean.