A grand, centuries-old hacienda with a flair for the dramatic shares its verdant Abiquiu acreage with a rare historic treasure.

El Sueño del Corazón, meaning “Dream of the Heart” is the name aptly given to the magical Hunt Ranch, a grand and elegant adobe hacienda at Abiquiú, a town in northern New Mexico’s dramatic high desert.  

The hacienda was built in the early 1800s, on land that was once part of the vast Plaza Colorado land grant. It “heralded the age of gracious living” in this Valle de la Piedra Lumbre or “Valley of Shining Stone,” whose pristine and light-infused landscape was immortalized by the late artist Georgia O’Keefe. (O’Keefe had a house in Abiquiú, and another at nearby Ghost Ranch.) The area is steeped in the ancient mystique of the Native American presence (dating back at least a millennium) as well as in the colorful history of the early Spanish settlers. 

Harville Hendrix and Helen LaKelly Hunt, New York Times best selling authors of  Getting The Love You Want, Making Marriage Simple” and Faith and Feminism, purchased the historic hacienda in 1993 for their family of eight. With the help of Sharon Woods, principal at the award-winning and nationally recognized Woods Design Builders in Santa Fe (whose team included the late architect John Arrison), New Yorkers Hunt and Hendrix began a meticulous renovation to restore the hacienda to its former grandeur. Their intent was to retain its distinct architectural signature, while bringing the property gracefully into the twenty-first century. 

Today, the hacienda is an architectural legacy in both design and function, blending traditional elements of the Territorial and Pueblo Revival styles with Spanish Colonial detailing. Hand-plastered walls, beamed ceilings, alaceñas (traditional cupboards recessed in walls) and bancos or shepherd’s beds (benches of adobe issued from the walls and covered with sheepskins, hides or blankets for warmth) reflect aspects of the home’s former lives and rich cultural pedigree.

Various portals, or porches, abound, as charming and inviting now as in centuries past. The hacienda’s original footprint on the land was instrumental in affording captivating vistas of nature’s magnificence. Today, the ranch comprises approximately 353 acres. Views of the fields and the sparkling green waters of the Chama River beyond, flanked by stands of cottonwoods, are similar to those the hacienda’s early inhabitants would have enjoyed. 

Owners Hendrix and Hunt did not end their efforts with the hacienda’s structural restoration and interior design. Educators and philanthropists—as well as authors—they sought a way for the hacienda to regain the prominence it once enjoyed as a vital gathering place. They envisioned El Sueño del Corazon as a venue for events related to both commerce and society in the community.

Hunt is an integral part of Women Moving Millions, a global community of female philanthropists making gifts of one million dollars or more to organizations promoting the empowerment of women and girls. She is also founder and president of The Sister Fund, which, according to their website, is “a private foundation that supports and gives voice to women working for justice from a religious framework.” Turning her attention to the women in her community, micro enterprises were formed and funded to meet specific needs. 

For instance, a centralized co-operative of women potters was created, with a store and a communal kiln in a large backyard where artists could gather.  Another small industry of candle makers was established. Hendrix, focusing on the cattle industry, helped to implement better stock nutrition, and encouraged artificial insemination for improved breeding of livestock, whether a household owned three head, or thirty. Their commitment towards effecting change in practical ways, on a local level, provided immediate, useful feedback, and resulted in community-wide improvement in quality of life, income and sustainability. 

On a more personal note, the magnificent location has served as a venue for Return the Romance retreats for couples, along with a variety of training programs for the faculty of Imago Relationship Therapy, a widely used model for couples’ therapy created by Hendrix and Hunt (Oprah is a fan!).  The stately old hacienda, in its many incarnations over hundreds of years, has stylishly stood the test of time, and more than earned its lovely name.