Archive for the ‘Museums’ category

Richard visits New Mexico’s Ghost Towns and the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway

November 11th, 2009

Boy, do we have a lot of Ghost Towns in New Mexico!  Well over a hundred and certainly more.  Recently, we at Travel Guide NEW MEXICO had a chance to visit a few of these.  I apologize for no pictures with this post … guess the ghosts had a different idea of what should … and shouldn’t … be photographed! 

Part of our trip is along the Geronimo Trail National Scenic Byway which starts in Truth or Consequences.  We didn’t make the entire trek along the by way but certainly got a good start and had a great time.

The trip was incredibly interesting.  We started in Truth or Consequences, which really isn’t a ghost town but certainly isn’t booming the way it once was.  After spending time here, I’m convinced that a “boom” is just around the corner.  With hot springs bubbling everywhere (remember … T or C used to be Hot Springs, New Mexico) and the Spaceport getting ready to launch sometime within the next year or two, Truth or Consequences is really a great place to visit.

I’ll bet I’ve driven by the Geronimo Springs Museum a couple dozen times and never stopped.  Boy … what a pleasant surprise inside.  The folks at the Truth or Consequences visitors center, located right next to the museum, were incredibly helpful.  And, LaRena, the museum’s director, is a wealth of knowledge about this great little city.  You’ll learn why T or C is no longer Hot Springs.  You’ll walk around one corner and see one of the largest displays of Native American pottery that I’ve ever seen. 

And then there is Geronimo himself in life size form.  As LaRena told me … “he was small in stature but big in reputation.”   If she’s around when you visit ask her what others thought of this most famous warrior.  You might be surprised. 

Fossils of our ancient mammals are also in abundance.  I didn’t know they roamed here, but why not? 

I could go on and on about the hot springs but I’ll leave that to our friends at the Grande Sierra Lodge and Spa.  What a place this is!  18 luxury rooms and four hot spring pools plus a lot of other amenities.  Manager and part owner, Sazzi Marri, and her staff will be happy to show you around.  You won’t believe this place and owe it to yourself to call and make a reservation to spend a day or more (  Be sure and tell Sazzi I said “hello” and recommended you call. 

Okay … now on to the Ghost Towns.  Our first stop was Hillsboro, which is still home to about 100 people.  The folks there told me they have the two best restaurants in New Mexico and we thought the food … all home made … was great.  Hillsboro’s really laid back so be patient when ordering.  There is no rush!  One of the restaurants is open for dinner on Saturday night so if you time your visit right you might have a fun evening with the locals.  Be prepared, however, because they only make so many meals.  When they are gone they’re gone! 

You have to visit Hillsboro’s old courthouse with a great history and story about a very famous trial that was held there.

The jailhouse next door was more interesting to me than the tales of what transpired in the courthouse.  Steel doors and windows are still intact and you can peer into the cells and see just exactly why you wouldn’t want to spend time there.  The view is so spectacular one of the locals told me he thinks the folks housed there probably asked to be arrested just to enjoy the view!

I would encourage you to walk the Main Street and side streets.  If you see people sitting on the porch or walking nearby stop and ask them questions about the homes and town.  They’ll be more than happy to answer your questions.

Down the road a few miles is Kingston, in the late 1800’s the largest city in New Mexico outshining Albuquerque by about 1,000 people. Today, only 10 people on full time basis call Kingston home. Founded about 1880 this mining boom town quickly became the place to be.  If I remember correctly there were somewhere around 28 saloons, a post office, general store and hotels.  Then the price of silver dropped by 90% overnight and the mining stopped as quickly as it started.  The Percha Bank Gallery & Museum is a wonderful place to visit.  It looks exactly as it did when the town was booming, complete with teller cages and huge vault.  Mark Nero, the director, will be happy to share the history with you.  There are great old photographs of the folks who once lived there – a lot of fun to look at while visiting with Mark! 

Just west of Elephant Butte, out near the airport, is Cuchillo.  Now this is a ghost town complete with ghosts!  Paranormals have confirmed the presence of spirits throughout the town and a couple of the locals I talked with have heard the recordings and one recognized the voice of the person speaking.  A little spooky … but the local café, which is open Friday-Sunday, is a great place to stop for a friendly … and ghost free … meal.  Here, the specialty is Mexican food … not New Mexican food.  This means the chile isn’t hot but everything is made fresh and worth the stop.  Don’t be surprised if the kitchen help comes out and chats with you about the town and history! 

We continued past Cuchillo and headed toward Chloride where the road literally ends!  Just off Highway 52 past Winston is this great little town, which is literally being restored by Don Edmund, his wife and daughter.  I could write a book about my conversation with Don.  He showed us all over town and explained every building there, including the bank that never had a dime in its vault! And the “hanging tree” that never hung anyone!    

When you visit stop in at the general store and ask if Don’s around.  If he’s available I’m sure he’ll give you a guided tour like none other.  This is truly a labor of love for the Edmund family.  Don took us up the hill to the cemetery where we noted two graves that said “Killed by Indians” and saw where famous bad guy, John Wesley Harden’s, brother is buried.  His brother was allegedly the “nice guy” of the family and is so honored on his headstone. 

Oh … when you talk with Don ask him about his “hidden treasure” … one of the buildings he bought from the decedents of the original owner and what he found inside after the building was opened for the first time in over 60 years!  

Chloride is really something to see and I can’t wait to take another trip and spend a little more time with Don. 

These ghost towns are pure gold in New Mexico and need to be treated with respect.  Remember … take only pictures and leave only footprints when you leave

And let me know if you run into any ghosts while you are there!

New Mexico Ghost Towns

November 4th, 2009
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The Land of Enchantment still echos with voices from its colorful past. These voices speak especially clearly from the ghost towns, mining camps, and little-known places that populate New Mexico’s landscape.

New Mexico’s story is rich with history, from the Ancient Puebloan Indians, to Spanish explorers, pioneers traveling along the Santa Fe Trail, and prospectors in the 19th century. These many folks left their “footprints,” not only along the many old trails in the “Land of Enchantment,” but also on the many ruins and ghost towns that remain.

Travel Guide NEW MEXICO visits New Mexico’s ghost towns; below are descriptions of the ghost towns we visit in this episode.

Cuchillo, established by ranchers and farmers in the 1850s, was named for a nearby creek and a local Apache chief, Cuchillo Negro (Black Knife). Midway between the mines at Chloride and Winston and the railroad at Engle, it flourished as a stage stop and trade center from the 1880s to the 1930s. Charming original buildings still stand, including the Cuchillo Bar and Store, and San Jose Catholic Church, built in 1907.

Chloride was founded in 1880. Englishman Harry Pye had discovered silver ore there in the late 1870s, and soon after Pye was killed by Apaches, word of the silver find got out. Despite the threat of Indian attacks Chloride grew to over 3,000 people. In its heyday it had nine saloons, a general store, a dry goods store, a millinery shop, a restaurant, a butcher shop, a candy store, a pharmacy, a Chinese laundry, a photography studio, a school, and two hotels. The Black Range newspaper was printed in Chloride from 1882 to 1896. Of the nearly 500 surveyed mines and prospect holes in the Apache Mining District, a dozen or so made big mines, including the Silver Monument, the U.S. Treasury, and the St. Cloud, which is still in operation, though not mining silver. The demise of Chloride began with the Silver Panic of 1893 and was hastened by the presidential election of 1896, which resulted in a drastic decline in silver prices.

Many of Chloride’s original structures still stand. The old Pioneer Store is now a museum; next door the former Monte Cristo Saloon and Dance Hall houses a gift shop and gallery featuring work by local artists. Both are open seven days a week from 10am-4pm. Harry Pye’s cabin is available as a vacation rental. Other landmarks in this tiny town (population 11) include the 200-year-old Hanging Tree and Doodle Dum, the workshop of longtime resident Cassie Hobbs (1904-1989).

Hillsboro was born in 1877 when gold was found at the nearby Opportunity and Ready Pay mines. Despite fierce Indian attacks, the town grew, becoming the county seat in 1884. Area mines produced more than $6 million in gold and silver, and by 1907 the town had a population of 1,200.

Today, this charming, peaceful village of a hundred souls, which boasts flower-filled yards and old cottonwoods lining the main street, offers many enticements, including gift shops; restaurants; artist studios and galleries; the remains of the old county courthouse; the Black Range Museum; Union Church; and Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church. Hillsboro’s Heritage Day is held annually on the day before Mother’s Day.

Kingston was founded when a rich lode of silver ore was discovered at the Solitaire in 1882. It grew rapidly and was the largest town in the territory—and one of the wildest in the Wild West. The town soon offered all of the trappings of civilization and culture. Numerous hotels played host to the likes of Mark Twain, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, and Black Jack Ketchum. Stage lines served all major routes, and the town supported twenty-three saloons,some of which advertised fresh oysters 24 hours a day! The town also had 14 grocery and general stores; a brewery; three newspapers; and an Opera House where the Lillian Russell Troupe once performed. Albert Bacon Fall and Ed Doheny of the Teapot Dome Scandal got their start in Kingston.

From those glory days, the old Assay Office and the remains of the Victorio Hotel have been renovated as private residences. The Black Range Lodge, a bed and breakfast, offers accommodations in a setting of massive stonewalls and log-beamed ceilings constructed from the ruins of what once was Pretty Sam’s Casino. Some Kingston residents offer straw-bale and natural building workshops.

New Mexico Steam Locomotive

November 4th, 2009
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In the mid 1990s a group of train enthusiasts formed New Mexico Steam Locomotive and Railroad Historical Society for the express purpose of restoring the 2926 to full running condition. At about 10:30 in the morning on June 23, 2000, the giant drive wheels rolled for the first time in forty years, as the 2926 was towed out of the park. This began a two-year pirouette, as the Society moved her about twelve blocks to their newly established “World Headquarters”, as the restoration site is called, at 8th and Haines Streets.

At the World Headquarters, a group of dedicated volunteers is performing the challenging tasks associated with putting the 2926 back in full running order. Assembly of the tender is complete, some work, wiring and piping still to do. Attention has been turned to the locomotive itself. The powerful chugging of steam-driven wheels and the lonesome wail of a steam whistle will once again haunt the rails of central New Mexico.

Geronimo Springs Museum

November 4th, 2009
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Geronimo Springs Museum contains the history of Sierra County, New Mexico. From the mammoth and mastodon skulls and the world-class collection of prehistoric Mimbres pottery to the Apache, Hispanic, military, mining, ranching, and cultural exhibits, the Museum is a fascinating complex of historical artifacts. Each of several rooms at the Geronimo Springs Museum represents a specific subject of history, with displays and artifacts interpreted so that the viewer can understand the items exhibited. The Museum is located downtown in Truth or Consequences, in the historic Hot Springs District, at 211 Main Street.

Geronimo Springs Museum hours are Monday thru Saturday, 9 am to 5 pm, and Sunday 12 to 4 pm. We are closed on New Year’s Day, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial

October 14th, 2009
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The Memorial was established in 1968 by Victor and Jeanne Westphall to honor their son, Lt. David Westphall, who was killed in Vietnam in May 1968. When it opened in 1971, it was one of the first Memorials of its kind in the United States dedicated to Vietnam Veterans. Until recently, it was funded and maintained by the David Westphall Veterans Foundation. The Memorial was formally transferred to New Mexico State Parks in 2005, making it the state’s 33rd park.

Now it is the only state park in the U.S. dedicated solely as a Vietnam Veterans Memorial. The Vietnam Veterans Memorial provides veterans, and those who honor them, a refuge in which to reflect and heal. A representative from the Department of Veterans Services is present to offer assistance to veterans who require or request it. The 6,000 square foot visitor center/museum houses exhibits, videos and memorabilia. Veterans can use on-site computers to locate friends or loved ones.

Tours are available, with advance notice by calling ahead, for schools and other groups wishing to learn more. Since its inception in 1968, it is estimated that there have been more than 2.5 million visitors. In fact, there are between 70,000 and 80,000 visitors each year. Vietnam Veterans Memorial State Park is located in Angel Fire, 30 miles east from Taos on US 64.

The Albuquerque Museum

October 14th, 2009
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The Albuquerque Museum is located in the in the heart of historic Old Town and just across the street from the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Explora, the Children’s Science Museum —as well as our closeness to many other memorable attractions in Albuquerque.

That is perhaps why The Albuquerque Museum is an enjoyable experience for so many visitors each year: one-third of our guests are nonresidents. It’s easy to reach us from the interstate, and there is plenty of available parking. There is great recognition of, and support for, art in our community. It also means we are able to offer a wide range of attractions and programs with only modest charge to the public.

Richard & Will visit the Balloon Museum

October 14th, 2009
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Richard tours the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum with special guest, Will Beske.

The Balloon Museum is dedicated to the art, culture, history, science and sport of lighter-than-air craft. The mission of the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum is to be the leading educational institution of engaging exhibitions and informative programs on the art, culture, history, science and sport of ballooning and other lighter-than-air craft.The Museum encompasses an international, national and regional perspective demonstrating the global development of ballooning achievements through exhibitions, collections and programs designed for diverse audiences. The Museum also showcases the adventurous spirit, endeavors and achievements of individual balloonists.

Very Large Array (VLA) Video

October 1st, 2009
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The Very Large Array (VLA) comprises 27 radio telescopes in a Y pattern spread across the plains of San Agustin 50 miles west of Socorro. The VLA has been used by more astronomers and has been mentioned in more scientific papers than any other radio telescope in the world. Each antenna is an 82-foot diameter dish that weighs 230 tons.

The on-site visitor center and gift shop offers displays and videos that educate about radio astronomy and the VLA telescope, and are open all year from 8:30 a.m. to sunset. A self-guided tour lets visitors explore the antennas up close. (575) 835-7000.

Learn more about visiting the Very Large Array here.

Mineral Museum in Socorro

September 30th, 2009
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Upon the campus of the lies one of the great treasure troves of the southwest. Gold, silver, and precious gems, the objects of the Conquistador’s travels and travails, glitter on glass shelves next to other spectacular mineral forms. This El Dorado was given the honorary title “Coronado’s Treasure Chest” by the New Mexico Cuarto-Centennial Commission in 1939.

The mineral museum can trace its origins back to the very beginnings of the New Mexico School of Mines in 1889. The collection was assembled to help in the education of engineers and geologists. It was soon built into one of the finest in the world, winning gold medals at the St. Louis World’s Fair 1904 and the Panama-California exhibition of 1915. Three thousand mineral specimens in 1938 have grown to over 15,000. Coronado’s Treasure Chest is still renowned as can be seen at invited exhibitions at the Denver and Tucson Gem and Mineral Shows and featured articles in mineralogical magazines from around the world.

Fort Craig in Socorro

September 30th, 2009
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Fort Craig, established in 1854, was one of the largest and most important frontier forts in the West. Set in the rugged beauty of Socorro County, N.M., it was one of the eight forts situated along the primary north-south road in the Rio Grande Valley. Fort Craig played a crucial role in Indian campaigns and the Civil War. Military excursions from Fort Craig pursued such notable Apache leaders as Geronimo, Victorio and Nana. The Fort has a rich multicultural history, full of stories of courage, honor and sacrifice.

The Fort was home to Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th Cavalry and 38th and 125th Infantry, the predominantly Hispanic New Mexico Volunteers and New Mexico Militia, and household names like Kit Carson, Rafael Chacón and Captain Jack Crawford.

Fort Craig played a significant role in 19th-century New Mexico history. The fort was situated on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro (the Royal Road to the Interior Lands) – the 1,200-mile Spanish colonial trail from Mexico City to Santa Fe. This road served as New Mexico’s lifeline with Mexico for 223 years and was recognized in 2000 as a National Historic Trail.

In the mid-1800s the New Mexico territory was crossed by a large number of trails. Located along the travel routes were numerous military forts, designed to protect travelers and settlers. These outposts played a key role in the settlement of the American frontier.

Fort Craig was host to the largest U.S. Civil War battle in the Southwest.

It was was the epicenter of a battle that involved thousands of Union and Confederate troops, many of them New Mexico volunteers under the command of Kit Carson. Troops from Fort Craig included companies of Buffalo Soldiers who were garrisoned here while involved in struggles with Native Americans deemed at the time to be hostile.

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Fort Craig remained a Union Army Post manned by regular army troops. In 1862, troops under the command of General H.H. Sibley continued up the Rio Grande after capturing military installations to the south. On February 21, 1862, Sibley’s troops engaged Union troops led by Colonel R.S. Canby. The Battle of Valverde took place upstream from Fort Craig at Valverde Crossing. Although many consider the battle to have been a Confederate victory, Union forces succeeded in holding the fort and half of the Confederate’s supply wagons were destroyed. The loss of the remaining supplies at the Battle of Glorieta, east of Santa Fe, on March 28, 1862, forced the Confederates to retreat to Texas and ended Southern aspirations for military conquest in the West.

After the Civil War, troops stationed at the fort resumed their attempts to control Indian raiding. By the late 1870s, these efforts began to succeed and the surrounding valley prospered under military protection. The fort was temporarily closed from 1878 to 1880 and, because the fort’s military function was no longer necessary, the fort was permanently abandoned in 1885. Nine years later, Fort Craig was sold at auction to the Valverde Land and Irrigation Company, the only bidder. The property was eventually donated to The Archaeological Conservancy by the Oppenheimer family Fort Craig is about 35 miles south of Socorro. Take I-25 to the San Marcial Exit, then east over the Interstate, and south on old Highway 1 (about 11 miles). Then follow the signs to Fort Craig and was transferred to the Bureau of Land Management in 1981. The site is a BLM Special Management Area and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Visit for more information.

Ed Note: Thanks to Michael E. Pitel for contacting us with regard to Fort Craig history. His comments to us follow:

The site of the largest Civil War battle in New Mexico wasn’t Fort Craig.

It was at what was then known as Valverde Crossing, a ford on the Rio Grande a few miles north of Fort Craig, whose troops were involved in the Feb., 1862, engagement.  The Texas Confederate victory became known as the Battle of Valverde.  Today that remote battlefield, on the east bank of the river, is buried beneath 20-25 feet of river silt at the upper end of Elephant Butte Lake.

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