The Catron Building: A Historic Life on the Plaza

For over a hundred years, the Catron Building has sat on our storied corner of the Santa Fe Plaza, where it has championed the pursuit of retail and ready-to-wear for a dynamic local and traveled clientele.

Original Catron Building Illustration
Illustration via Museum of New Mexico

Constructed in 1891, the building has been home to several businesses that have impacted the facade and interiors of the Railroad Commercial style structure.

However, over the last century the corner has maintained the architectural accents and details crafted by Italian artisans, as well as the cultural influences rooted in Santa Fe.

The White House in the Catron Building
Image via The Palace of the Governors Photo Archives
Shopkeepers standing outside the Catron Building
Image via The Palace of the Governors Photo Archives

This retail history began in 1912 with The White House, founded by German immigrant and businesswoman Johanna Ulfelder, whose goal was to present quality garments and textiles to the women of Santa Fe.

Portrait of Johanna Ulfelder
Image via Abe and Marion Silver

Operating under Johanna’s direction for nearly 20 years, The White House showcased goods, fabrics and women’s clothing within the walls of the Catron Building.

Interior of The White House clothing shop
Image via Abe and Marion Silver

Over the next few decades, Johanna’s family built upon her legacy, after inheriting her business, and expanded its presence on the Plaza through The Guarantee, a second storefront featuring clothing and footwear.

While The Guarantee grew as a mainstay on the Plaza for the second half of the 1900s, the next family to oversee the business was finding its start on the other side of the world.

The Guarantee in the Catron Building
Image via Abe and Marion Silver

In 1962, Helga Wittrien left her home in Germany to hitchhike across the Middle East en route to Asia.

Wearing a shift dress and big sunglasses, she met Greig Porter, an American Peace Corps volunteer, in Kathmandu, Nepal.

The two eventually married and welcomed their daughter, Shobhan, into the world and their travels.

Helga Wittrien on her journey across the Middle East and Asia
Greig Porter in Nepal during his service in the American Peace Corps

The Porters moved to Santa Fe in 1979, eventually opening Santa Fe Dry Goods in 1989.

Just shy of one hundred years since its construction, Helga and Greig found themselves in the Catron Building’s long-lasting, historic corner of the Santa Fe Plaza where The White House originally stood.

It was on this corner where they curated Santa Fe Dry Goods with clothing and accessories from Europe, Asia and South America.

September 1986 Cover of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation Bulletin
Historic Santa Fe Foundation Bulletin September 1986 Cover

Thirty years later, following her own world-traveling, Shobhan returned to Santa Fe, purchasing Santa Fe Dry Goods from her parents in 2008 and establishing the next step in the Catron Building’s retail legacy.

Shobhan Porter on her world travels

Over a decade later, Santa Fe Dry Goods has evolved into a nexus of global fashion and highcraft.

The store is dedicated to working with craftspeople worldwide, aiming to bridge modern tastes with an authentic, highly informed approach to design.

Taking inspiration from historical fabrication and design techniques, Santa Fe Dry Goods showcases designers who create clothing, accessories and jewelry that are modern but reflect the historic techniques at the root of global fashion.

In 2013, the space next to Santa Fe Dry Goods became available.

Shobhan took the opportunity to expand by opening a second store, Workshop, coincidentally located in the same space previously occupied by The Guarantee.

Starting Workshop with a vision to explore unconventional styles she encountered while traveling Europe, the store’s purpose is to represent up and coming designers who are redefining traditional notions of fashion.

Following Santa Fe Dry Goods’ expansion in 2013 with the opening of Workshop next door, the remaining storefront, previously occupied by The Guarantee, became Wildlife in 2018.

With two stores focused on women’s fashion, Wildlife is dedicated to providing beautifully crafted goods for the home.

Taking inspiration from nature as a source of materials, the store offers artisan-made goods from around the world.

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