After searching for a suitable tract for two and a half years, Ernest Thompson Seton acquired a 2,500-acre tract of land southeast of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in February 1930. He called the place “Seton Village.”
He and Julie Buttree, who would later become his second wife, laid out the village to provide for what he called the College of Indian Wisdom, which would be a school for camp directors and other interested people similar to the ones he had conducted at his Connecticut estates. In addition to the site for their ultimate home, Seton Castle, there were campgrounds and a variety of necessary buildings, including a library and museum, meeting spaces, a small zoo, a tea shop, and a print shop. There were guest houses and home sites for his devotees that wanted to join him. There would be a building designed like a Navajo hogan which would serve as an auditorium and a building patterned after a pueblo kiva which would be used for more ceremonial occasions.
The College of Indian Wisdom had its first summer session in 1932 and attracted participants from across the country. In addition to the Setons, they had a number of instructors and guest speakers at the College, which acted in many ways like a Chautauqua program for the local Santa Fe residents.
In 1935, the Setons’ final “dream home” was completed, which they called “Seton Castle.” Here they entertained guests from around the world. Ultimately the College of Indian Wisdom, which had been renamed Seton Institute a few earlier, had to close as it became impractical due to World War II. Seton died at Seton Castle in 1946.
Seton Village was named a National Historic Landmark in
Seton Castle and the immediately surrounding grounds were acquired by a nonprofit organization called the Academy for the Love of Learning, which planned to renovate Seton Castle and use it for its headquarters. Unfortunately, the Castle caught fire and burned when the renovations were nearly complete. The Academy preserved the footprint of the Castle and many of its stone walls of the Castle as a historical and meditation garden. The site is open to the public.
Fortunately, the contents of the Castle, which included a large amount of art and other items, had been cataloged, removed, and stored off-site for the renovation process, so they were not damaged in the fire. The Academy built its headquarters nearby on the site and included a Seton Gallery where Seton art and other related items are on display. Access to the Gallery is currently by appointment only.