Las Cruces Blog

Saturday, June 08, 2013

La Posta - From the Founding of Mesilla, to Corn Exchange Hotel, to Billy the Kid Museum, to Famous Landmark

La Posta - From the Founding of Mesilla, to Corn Exchange Hotel, to Billy the Kid Museum, to Famous LandmarkThe story of a building, its people, and its place.

The building sits on a lot next to the plaza. The lot is a "terreno de solar," a grant to a Mexican citizen by the state of Chihuahua, Mexico, on which to build a house. By the terms of the grant, the grantee is obliged to own a horse and a gun. Within a year or so the grantee - and his lot - are no longer in Mexico - they are both in the United States.

A merchant buys the home, and opens a store. He sells to a partner, who opens Samuel Bean & Co. The Civil War begins and the town is occupied by Confederates. The Confederates are driven out by the Union. Bean is denounced as a "Johnny Reb," and a U. S. Marshal confiscates his store. It is sold for almost nothing on the town plaza. After a fast series of buyers make quick profits, Lola Bennett buys it and builds her dream home. She trades it to John Davis, who establishes the most famous hotel in New Mexico Territory, the Corn Exchange. Davis dies. His widow runs the Corn Exchange as long as she is able. She dies and the church inherits it. The church sells it to the town priest. The priest sells to George Griggs, the impresario of the Billy the Kid Museum. Griggs sells to "Katy" Griggs for $1, who opens the most famous eating place in southern New Mexico - La Posta.

The Corn Exchange hosts guest from as far away as London and Hong Kong, and cities like San Francisco, Denver, Chicago, New York, and Washington D. C.

Ulysses Simpson Grant, Jr., son of the president, stays at the Exchange. As does John S. Chisum, "Cattle King of the West," just two days after being robbed of $100 and a gold watch in a Silver City stage holdup.

Virtually all of the significant people in Billy the Kid's life stay at the Exchange: Sheriff Harvey H. Whitehill, who arrests Billy for his first crime; "Doc" Scurlock, Charles Bowdre, and Richard Brewer, Billy's best friends; Attorneys Albert J. Fountain and John D. Bail, who defend Billy in his trial for murder; William Rynerson, the District Attorney who relentlessly pursues Billy; Simon Newcomb, the prosecuting DA in Billy's trial; and Judge Warren Bristol, who sentences Billy to "be hanged by the neck until his body be dead." Even Billy's implacable enemies James Dolan and John Riley stay at the Exchange.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

New Domain for Blog! (Yippee!!)

now has its own domain:

For the latest news, photos, and happenings, just click:

First Electric Light in New Mexico ... July 23, 1881....

... just 4 days before Black Thursday....

... green, green, green....

... a squall lead by a rainbow....

....without the semiotic overhead....


...THE PLACE to hang....


....some fifty men being killed and buried on the spot....

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Dust Bowl

The dust in the last few days has been bothersome, but for a real dust storm, consider this photo of New Mexico in 1935 -- during the "Dust Bowl."

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.



Friday, April 13, 2007

Wind = Dust

Strong winds today, from the West.

This is what the Organs looked like this afternoon with the dust in the air.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

Pat Garrett Marker

The city of Las Cruces is considering the approval of a 1,703.9 acre subdivision on the East Mesa south of Hwy 70 called "The Vistas at Presidio II."

Unknown to virtually everyone in Las Cruces, this block contains a marker built by Jarvis Garrett to memorialize the spot where his Dad was shot. Jarvis Garrett is the youngest son of Pat Garrett. is the lawman who is most famous for having shot .

A local organization called has been formed "to ensure that the site where the death occurred is set aside for a memorial to Pat, and that the marker set up by Jarvis is retained and protected." Their web site is:

Here's what the marker looks like:

Pat Garrett was shot February 28, 1908. You can see "Feb 1908" carved in the marker in this closeup:

Photos courtesy of Friends of Pat Garrett.

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Saturday, March 24, 2007

200,000 -- Coming Soon

Las Cruces and Doña Ana County continue explosive growth. estimates just released for 2006 put the number of people in the county as of July 1, 2006 at approximately 194,000.

This reflects a 2.4% growth for the year, the second highest for the state.

The effects of this growth are everywhere: new housing, new subdivisions, new roads -- more traffic -- commercial development, real estate price increases, multiplying resource demands.

A lot of the effects of growth are cultural. There is a clear clash between the traditional -- one could say organic -- ideas and values of this area and the ideas and values being imported. There is a distinct "California mindset" that is almost brutally in conflict with local culture.

Here are the population estimates in thousands for the last five years for Doña Ana County:

2002 - 179,000
2003 - 182,000
2004 - 185,000
2005 - 189,000
2006 - 194,000

In 1990, the population was 136,000.

Here's the , the latest posted on the Census Bureau site. Among other things, it shows the medium age to be 31.7 years, the median family income to be $34,168, and the average time required to get to work as 17.3 minutes.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Coas Bookstore

The best bookstore in Las Cruces, and perhaps the best bookstore in NM, is .

Coas is a used bookstore with two city branches. The main branch is located in the and has an inventory of over 450,000 books.

Here's the main bookstore:

Here's Downtown Mall side of the bookstore:

Some of the stacks:

The store was founded in 1984, initially as a publishing business, by Patrick H. Beckett, an archaeologist. According to the , "coas" means "digging stick" in Nahuatl, the Aztec language.

The store is open from 9:30am to 6pm Monday through Saturday, and 11am to 5pm Sunday.

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Monday, February 19, 2007

Downtown Mall


Since its completion in 1974, there have been many attempts to make it more appealing to visitors. In 1996, the city commissioned Lea Anne and to create a series of sculptures for the Mall to commemorate El Camino Real.

Some images of the sculptures:

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Friday, February 16, 2007

Las Cruces' Worst Mistake

The hands-down worst mistake in Las Cruces history was the destruction of Main Street under the guise of "urban renewal."

"Urban renewal" was federal policy in the 60s, part of the big government social engineering mindset that began its rule then and is with us still. In the case of Las Cruces, the Federal Government was willing to pay two thirds of the cost of "renewing" the downtown area.

Here are a couple of post card images of Main Street, Las Cruces from the 1940s.

The justifications for the "renewal" of Main Street and surrounding area were the usual ones:

The businesses there were not doing that well,

The buildings were old and unattractive, some dating to the late 1800s,

And, of course, a wonderful urban utopia could be put in its place with businesses that would pay more taxes.

But the truth of "urban renewal" was never an urban utopia.

Instead, businesses that social planners didn't like, but had historical and organic roots, were replaced by businesses they "favored" and were willing to subsidize. Whether the new businesses would make money was a gamble -- the only firms that were certain to profit were those involved in the destruction of the "old" and the construction of the "new."

The plan that was adopted involved closing 7 blocks of Main Street and turning it into a "shaded" walking mall. The blocks on both sides of the mall would be cleared of all buildings to make that space available for new construction. Businesses and home owners that did not voluntarily sell in the cleared areas, or agree to renovations in the walking mall, would be removed by eminent domain.

Implementation of the plan began in 1968 and was finished in 1974.

The "renewal" area contained 160 businesses. 38 agreed to make the required remodeling changes and were permitted to stay. 122 did not and moved or went out of business.

A total of 84 families and 52 individuals lived in the cleared area and were forced to relocate.

Here you can see the "urban renewal" area shortly after its completion. Main Street has been closed and the streets on both sides now loop around it. The extensive empty areas, including the swath to the right of the loop (east), are "cleared" areas.

Here's a better view of the "front" (south end) of the mall:

As the photo makes clear, this was an extremely ugly design with very serious problems. There was absolutely nothing that was attractive to people driving by in cars. All you could see from the loop were the backs of the businesses, and in the walking mall itself, the low "shades" covered anything attractive in the buildings -- not that there was much that was attactive left, because the forced renovations had resulted in the historical storefronts being destroyed or covered with "modern" facades.

The mall was and is a total failure.

It destroyed Las Cruces' historical downtown heritage and replaced it with an ugly public space that no one wanted to visit.

Here's what the front entrance looks like today:

Here's what the inside of the mall looks like:

Recognizing what a horrible mistake the project was, the city is now removing the mall and restoring Main Street. But it's impossible to recover what was destroyed.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

No Snow!

The surprising story in the last few weeks has been the lack of snow in Las Cruces. There's been extensive snowfall to the east, north, and west -- even some snow south in El Paso -- but virtually none here since . A couple of mornings you could see light snow on the Organs, but it didn't last long.

Here's what the Organs looked like yesterday:

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Saturday, January 06, 2007


Las Cruces got snow this morning -- but light on the west side and very light in the Organs.

The east side of Las Cruces got about an inch. Here what a pecan orchard looked like just outside of town:

This was taken in the foothills of the Organ Mountains, in Solidad Canyon. Even though this is 1200+ feet above Las Cruces, there's little snow.

Another view:

Here's a closeup of the windmill. This being the West, it's got a few bullet holes.

This shows how light the snow was:

By afternoon, the sun was out and snow was going fast.

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Sunday, December 31, 2006

Happy New Year!

2006 ends with no snow in Las Cruces, even though most of New Mexico and the United States has snow -- Albuquerque has 24 inches! Temperatures here are still in the low 70s, high 60s during the day.

There was a small sprinkling of snow on the peaks of the Organ Mountains this morning, which was gone by early afternoon. This photo was taken just before it began to melt.

Happy New Year!

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Saturday, December 16, 2006

Las Cruces Housing Market

For about a decade, Las Cruces has been an extremely attractive place to move to -- housing costs were significantly below the national average and the climate and natural beauty made this area a wonderful place to live.

As a result, a lot of people have moved here.

And they have driven up housing prices enormously.

Here's the Real Estate Industry data for the average selling price of a house in Las Cruces for the last 6 years:

2001 - $126,000
2002 - $134,000
2003 - $143,000
2004 - $168,000
2005 - $199,000
2006 - $216,000 (10 month average)

As you can see, the average cost of a house has increased by $90,000 since 2001.

This rapid run-up in prices has caused a lot of disquiet in long-term Crucens. The cost of living is going up, traffic is getting worse, and resource demand is growing exponentially.

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Friday, December 08, 2006

56 Merc

This wonderful 1956 Mercury Montclair is owned by a local citizen. He purchased it new in 1956 and has owned it ever since. This is the original color, although it has been repainted on the outside.


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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Abandoned Silo

An old silo, north of town.



Wednesday, November 15, 2006

No Comment


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Friday, November 10, 2006

La Entrada Moved

The is gone -- moved to storage.

The removal of the monument is part of the renovation to restore Main Street and remove the Downtown Mall. This reverses the , which closed the historic old street and converted it to a semi-open mall.

La Entrada's creator Anthony Pennock supervised the monument's disassembly. A new location for the monument has not been selected.

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Thursday, November 09, 2006

Stairs First

How often are stairs built first?

From the top landing:

When the building catches up with the stairs, this will be the view:


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Saturday, November 04, 2006

Deadline Passes

The deadline set by the Las Cruces Blackmailer passed yesterday (Friday) at 7 pm with no consequences.

This was the second deadline set by the extortionist.

Here's the 24-hour tip line for any information about the case:

(505) 635-9934


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Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Friday -- 7 pm

According to the local paper, the deadline given by the Las Cruces Blackmailer is 7 pm, Friday, November 3. If the blackmailer isn't paid an undisclosed amount by that time, he (or she) threatens to start shooting school children.

"More bodies will fall. Now they will fall in school yards. Don't believe us? Try us again."

Police are taking this threat extremely seriously. Schools are being kept locked, outside activities are banned, and extra police are patrolling schools.

A letter released to parents by the Las Cruces Public Schools requested that parents cooperate with the following new security measures:

* Please sign in when visiting our building.
* Doors will be locked, please enter through the front door only.
* Help us look for suspicious cars, people or anything out of the ordinary around our campus.

Here's the 24-hour tip line for any information about the case:

(505) 635-9934

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Authorities Take Precautions

The threats to local school children by an unknown extortionist are being taken very seriously by the police and local authorities.

School doors will be locked, and outside activities cancelled or curtailed. Additional police will be present at schools.

If you have any information about this crime, call the 24-hour tip line:

(505) 635-9934


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

"More Bodies Will Fall"

The Las Cruces Blackmailer has sent the local paper a new letter threatening to shoot Crucens unless paid a large sum of money.

Here are the details of his previous extortion attempt:

The Blackmailer had previously set a deadline of September 22. That day passed with no consequences. The local paper states that the Blackmailer has set a new deadline in early November.

It quotes the new letter as saying:

"More bodies will fall. Now they will fall in school yards. Don't believe us? Try us again."

This could be a reference to the tragic shooting of a child several days ago. No one has been identified and arrested in that crime, but authorities are saying they don't think it's related to the threats.

A reward of $51,000 is offered for information leading to the capture and prosecution of the person or persons responsible.

Here's the 24-hour line for reporting tips:

(505) 635-9934

Any kind of information could be valuable.

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According to the Irish myth, the Jack O' Lantern is designed to ward off wandering spirits.

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Thursday, October 26, 2006

Peter Wolf Toth

Las Cruces has one of Peter Wolf Toth's Whispering Giants, as noted .

Since yesterday was the 50th anniversary of the , this is a good time to review his book on his sculptures and life, .

Indian Giver was published in 1980. It begins with his childhood in Hungary. He was born in 1947, the seventh child in a family that eventually numbered 11 kids.

Conditions under the communists were brutally harsh, and got even worse when what little property his father had was taken and given to a party member. They were left with a dirt-floored house in which the only furniture was a table and 13 chairs.

When the people of Hungary revolted against the Russians, it appeared at first they had succeeded. The Russians even agreed to negotiate -- but it was a ruse. They returned with a huge force, mercilessly crushing all opposition. Mass arrests and executions followed.

Two of Toth's brothers escaped to the West, and Toth's parents decided they would follow. For a short period of time the Yugoslavian border was open because the United States was paying Yugoslavia a bounty for every Hungarian that was permitted to leave Hungary.

After a dangerous escape and two years in refugee camps in Europe, Toth and his family came to the United States as sponsored immigrants.

Following his account of his life, Toth describes how he carved his first sculpture in a rock cliff, motivated by a compelling image he saw in the stone. That was 1972.

After carving a second sculpture in wood, he decided he would carve one for each state in the country, taking nothing for his work.

The difficulties and rewards of the first 27 "Whispering Giants" are described, and pictured. These sculptures are not "works" created in a studio -- they are his life, requiring months of travel searching for the appropriate tree and location, and months of carving.

In releasing the image he sees in each unique piece of wood, he satisfies something deep in himself. But he also makes it clear the work itself is a physical pleasure -- the outdoors, the textures, the fragrances -- even scrubbing pitch out of his hair.

This is a wonderful, exuberant book. It is no longer in print, so see if you can find a used copy.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Slow rain most of the night and all morning. Here's what the Organs look like.



Monday, October 23, 2006

Las Cruces Real Estate

Las Cruces has seen huge growth in the last few years. The population of the city has increased 8.5% since 2000, to an estimated 83,000. There are an additional 40,000 to 50,000 people living in the surrounding valley, and a total of about 190,000 in the county (Doña Ana).

Real Estate and housing prices have doubled during that period. The local paper reports that the average closing price of a house in Las Cruces last month was $221,000. A year ago it was $176,000.

I think the growth of Las Cruces is just beginning. Las Cruces offers attractions and advantages that are no longer available in states such as Colorado, Arizona, and Nevada. I predict a huge influx of relatively wealthy people, most from the West Coast.

This is going to continue to change Las Cruces in unfortunate ways.

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Saturday, October 21, 2006

The Trashers

Everywhere in the desert around Las Cruces you see the offal of The Trashers. Not just a few cans, papers, bottles, but pickup loads.


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