Friday, January 30, 2009

From Ghost Town to Art Colony

Located on the scenic Turquoise Trail (Highway 14) between Albuquerque and Santa Fe is the . . . unique . . . community of Madrid, NM.

First, a brief history. From the late 19th century to the middle of the 20th, Madrid was an important coal mining center. When the coal mines closed in 1954, it became a ghost town for about 20 years. In the 1970s, the town was resurrected as an art colony.

The “art colony” quality was apparent as we walked through town. People walked. The town's main street was about a half mile long, and there were very few parking spaces.

People trusted others. We found mail boxes in bunches indicating certainty that both incoming and outgoing mail was not going to be disturbed.

Humor was present. The MADrid Hatter was adjacent to a Victorian bed and breakfast located above the Java Junction coffee shop, and

Tumbleweeds was a shop full of, as the sign says, "Important Stuff."

Color was reminiscent of the '60s. The shop Color and Light focuses on "art . . . celebrating the magic of life."

Function trumped style. I was so caught up in the use of the railroad car as a shop that I forgot what the business was.

Other times art topped function. These cowbells presented colorful items for conversation, but I don't think they'll be worn by any cows in the future.

Sometimes art included film. Maggie's Diner was built for the movie Wild Hogs and still remains on the street through town.

"Non-traditional" counseling services were available. Cosmic Rose provided Astrology and Tarot services.

Signs seemed to be there for amusement not necessarily information. I wasn't sure what to make of the announcements at In Cahoots--was it Open, Not Open, or Closed as the three signs on the ground, the door, and the window, respectively, indicated.

By 1899, all coal production in the area was consolidated at Madrid. Wood-framed cabins were dismantled in Kansas and brought by train to house miners and their families. The town flourished with a population of 2500.

It was refreshing to experience the creativity that now flourished within these old cabins and new shops thanks to today's 300 residents of Madrid, NM.

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