Between 1822 and 1880, the Santa Fe Trail connected the edge of the US frontier to New Mexico over nine hundred miles of plains, which passed through what was called at the time “Unorganized Territory,” but was in fact the nations of the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Kiowa, and Comanche. Previously, the Spanish had enthusiastically enforced a no trading policy with Native Americans, and US explorers who had attempted commerce with the Spanish colony of New Mexico were detained and sent home, but after the successful Mexican revolution of 1821 the newly independent nation was open for business. During this time, (until the railroad made their industry obsolete) many Santa Feans made a fortune as merchants on the trail, including James L. Johnson, who used his considerable wealth to build a sprawling home on the outskirts of the city.
Now called El Zaguán, after the Spanish word for the semi-enclosed hallway typical of the southwest architectural style, the building serves as the headquarters of the Historic Santa Fe Foundation, which preserves, protects, and promotes the historic properties and cultural heritage of the Santa Fe area. Both serving as an historic preservation society and as an educational institution, HSFF maintains numerous properties and works to confer monument status to historically important structures in the Santa Fe area.