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White, Elizabeth and Martha

Elizabeth and Martha White

In 1923 Amelia Elizabeth and Martha White arrived in Santa Fe and established a home on Garcia Street. The grounds would later become known as “El Delirio”—the name of a beloved bar in Spain frequented by the sisters over the years. In 1972, after both sisters had passed away, El Delirio was bequeathed to what was then the School of American Research, now known as the School for Advanced Research.

Before moving to the Southwest, the sisters had seen a Westminster Dog Show on the East Coast and developed a love for Irish wolfhounds. Nancy Owen Lewis and Kay Leigh Hagan, authors of A Peculiar Alchemy: A Centennial History of SAR, note that the sisters “vowed that if they ever owned a home with sufficient grounds, they would raise and show such dogs.” By 1930, less than four years after the White sisters established their home on Garcia Street, they had purchased a breeding pair, Gelert and Edain of Ambelside. “On March 1, 1931, Martha, who was in New York at the time, received a telegram from estate manager Jack Lambert that read, “Eight healthy pups arrived this evening. Isn’t it grand?” The sisters continued to raise and show the animals, and they soon added Afghans to their preferred breeds. After her sister’s death, Elizabeth stopped showing dogs. But during WWII her passion for canines was reignited by the opportunity to open her kennels and help lead the New Mexico chapter of a program supporting war efforts known as the Dogs for Defense.

As Santa Fe grew, so did the need for a more substantial shelter. In 2005 SFAS moved to new grounds located just off of 599 on Caja del Rio Road. With support from greater community, the City of Santa Fe, and the Bureau of Land Management, the shelter now spans a one-hundred-acre campus complete with a public and private hospital, rehabilitation center, walking trails, and play yards for the shelter’s residents, as well as single and multi-use public dog parks. In 2018 alone, SFAS helped over 2,700 animals find new homes, returned over 1,000 animals to their owners or rescuers, and spayed or neutered nearly 6,500 animals.

Elizabeth and Martha White, Navajo photographer Macneal Crank, “The String Project,” Christina Carfora