Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Almost-Capital of New Mexico

“Though the tiny town of Los Cerrillos wasn’t founded until 1879, the area’s history dates back more than 1,500 years.”

So began the information about this town on the Turquoise Trail (Rt. 14 between Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM).

If a town’s history can be described as “roller coaster-like,” then Los Cerrillos is the El Toro* of towns.

Consider the following:

1695 -- Governor Vargas appointed a mayor for El Real de los Cerrillos, making it the oldest western mining settlement for which there is a clear record.

1696 – El Real de los Cerrillos was abandoned.

Mid 1880s – Within a span of six years, gold was discovered, Los Cerrillos was established as a tent camp, the Santa Fe Railroad arrived, and the town became so well known that it was seriously considered for the capital of New Mexico.

Today -- Los Cerrillos, with its streets of dust, is officially a "ghost town," though many residents continue to live there and the town thrives as a Santa Fe day trip destination.

The town sports the What Not Shop filled with antiques of every description, an old saloon, an art gallery, and riding stables.

At one of our earlier restaurant stops, we were urged to have a drink at Mary's Bar. Unfortunately, the Bar was not open, so we missed the opportunity to meet the 90-year-old bartender.

Down the street from Mary's was the Simoni Store and the Wortley Hotel. I wondered what the car with the words "State of New Mexico" on one door was doing parked awkwardly in the street for a short time.

The Saint Joseph Church, built in 1922, still holds mass every Sunday.

This painting was on the wall of one of the buildings near the church

and this painted pony was on the sidewalk outside one of the stores on the main street. On the pony itself are painted the heads of perhaps eight other horses. Intriguing and creative.

Finally, this house and tree presented a picturesque farewell to the town of Los Cerrillos as the roller coaster pulled into the station.


*Opened in 2006, the adrenaline-pumping, air-time-filled, smooth-as-silk El Toro (Jackson, NJ) is among the best wooden coasters on the planet,” according to one rating system.

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