When you think of castles, images of moats and drawbridges might come to mind. But just 5 miles outside of Las Vegas stands Montezuma Castle. Built as a destination hotel by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad in 1886, this 90,000-square-foot Queen Anne structure was considered one of the places to visit at the turn of the century.
As a luxury hotel, the castle capitalized on the area’s natural hot springs, and was a gateway to the excellent trout fishing in nearby Gallinas Creek. Guests included Theodore Roosevelt, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, Jesse James, and Emperor Hirohito of Japan. After closing in 1903, the property was owned by several institutions including the YMCA, the Southern Baptist Church, the Catholic Church, and was even rented out for low-budget horror movies like The Evil.
In 1981, the complex (100 acres) was purchased by the United World College, and in 2001 the school invested over $10.5 million in upgrades. Now Montezuma Castle (or the Davis International Center as it’s know today) houses multiple college facilities including the school’s dinning hall, dorm rooms, offices and classrooms.
Montezuma Castle has won many awards as one of the great historical restorations in the United States, and was designated one of “America’s Treasures” by the White House Millennium Council. The building is only open to the public on certain days of the year, so check with the school’s website (www.uwc-usa.org/index.cfm) for dates and times.
Dwan Light Sanctuary
Public Art Space
Among this area’s many treasures, one jewel shines unlike any other. It’s the Dwan Light Sanctuary, located on the campus of the United World College in Montezuma, NM, just outside of Las Vegas.
The sanctuary is a naturally illuminated temple designed for thought, contemplation and peace. It was founded by noted art collector, philanthropist and visionary Virginia Dwan. Her projects are closely identified with the American movements of Minimalism, Conceptual Art, and Earthworks. The sanctuary was designed by Dwan, Charles Ross, and Laban Wingert in 1996 as a gift to UWC.
The Sanctuary is located in a forested area near the historic Montezuma Hotel which is now a part of the UWC Campus, just a few minutes from Las Vegas. It is best known for its innovative use of prisms in place of windows to capture and project the light of the world into ever changing rainbow lattices.
A Place For Illumination and Reflection
As you enter, you’ll see a stark, open white space, unadorned with decoration except for the twelve giant prism-windows and skylights that cast ethereal rays of light onto the floor and walls. The movement of surrounding trees, clouds and the position of the sun create an ever-changing display of light and color.
This peaceful refuge has no single purpose, except to provide a meditative environment for students and the general public. The space is also used for weekly yoga, summer concerts (classical and meditative guitar), memorials, sound healing, poetry readings and religious ceremonies and celebrations of all faiths.
Dwan Light Sanctuary is open to visitors from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily. Because the Sanctuary is located on a private campus, visitors are requested to stop at the Welcome Center to register and receive a visitor’s pass.