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Nat Kaplan Job Files

Identifier: MSS-784-BC

Scope and Content

The Nat Kaplan Job Files consist primarily of job files relating to private residences, and commercial structures built by Kaplan's firm, Sagebrush Construction Company. Some of Kaplan’s most notable projects are the Sagebrush Inn in Taos, Governor John Simms Ranch (La Cienega) and house (Albuquerque), Enchanted Mesa Trading Post, the innovative E.W. King house with exposed waterproof adobe and radiant floor heat, Rancho Allegre in La Cienega (used in “Red Sky at Morning" and the television series “Empire”), the Chamisal house with an experimental pumice-insulated roof, the D'arcy McNickle house, the Silo House in Los Poblanos using the existing silo and water troughs from the former dairy, Simms Arabian Ranch in Scottsdale using exposed burnt adobe, the restoration of the Coronado Monument kiva, the law offices of Jeff Bingaman in Santa Fe, and the Uribe house in Baja, CA.


  • 1958-1993

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution.

Biographical Information

Nat Kaplan grew up in Brooklyn, New York, the son of a Russian immigrant. He developed a love for art in early childhood. At age 16, Kaplan worked as a stone mason’s helper at Lake Mohonk, New York, using native materials to build a stone and timber lodge, an experience that influenced his use of indigenous native materials later in his career. Kaplan graduated from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. and began postgraduate study in architecture, landscape architecture and civil engineering at Oklahoma State University in 1934, during which period he designed and built house additions, stone buildings, and landscapes. Kaplan worked closely with Professor J. E. Kirkham, head of the Civil Engineering Department at Oklahoma State, who experimented with inexpensive construction methods, combining a cheap waste material called “cut-back asphalt" with water and Fels Naptha laundry soap to produce an emulsion then mixed with earth to make a highly water-resistant adobe building block. This gave Kaplan his first opportunity to work with adobe, for which he would later become renowned.

In 1937 Kaplan moved to Taos, New Mexico and created watercolors, etchings and carvings, exhibiting his work in Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. In 1939 Kaplan became founding director of the Gallup Art Center where he taught drawing, painting, design, wood carving, metal work, and furniture making. In 1941, using a 40-man Civilian Conservation Corps crew, Kaplan planned the campus expansion and landscaping for Bacone College in Muskogee, OK. Following service in World War II as a camouflage officer for the U.S. Air Force, Kaplan returned to New Mexico in 1946 and worked in the Raton engineering department designing the Van Bremmer dam and Raton sewage system. Kaplan also designed the Vermejo Dam in Cimarron, New Mexico. Kaplan completed his first New Mexican adobe house in 1949, and ultimately built over 150 custom adobe homes using native materials to express his philosophy to “let the house grow out of the land." In 1970 Kaplan was appointed to the Albuquerque Fine Arts Board and served two 3-year terms. He served on the juries for the Albuquerque Zoo Sculpture Competition (1979 and 1981) and for the Albuquerque Arts Board Sculpture Competition (1981). He received the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts in 1984. Kaplan closed his firm Sagebrush Construction Company in 1993 but continues to design homes, paint and exhibit his watercolors.


6 boxes (6 cu. ft.)


The collection consists of Sagebrush Construction Company's client job files. Nat Kaplan was president of the firm.

Related Material

Harry Kinney Papers Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico Nat P. Kaplan Architectural Drawings Center for Southwest Research, University Libraries, University of New Mexico
Finding Aid of the Nat Kaplan Job Files, 1958-1993
Edited Full Draft
Ramona Rand-Caplan
© 2007
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131