Hillsboro

hillsboro walking


A Walking Tour of Hillsboro

DRIVING DIRECTIONS

FROM THE EAST:  Exit Interstate 25 onto State Highway 152.  Travel 17 miles west. (See our East of Hillsboro to Emory Pass Auto Tour.)

FROM THE SOUTH:  From Hatch travel west on NM-26 for 19 miles.  At Nutt, turn right (north) onto NM-27 and travel 30 miles (See our NM-27 Auto Tour).

From Deming travel north on US-180, turn east onto NM-26 after 1.5 miles.  Travel for 28 miles, at Nutt turn north (left) on NM-27 and travel 30 miles.

FROM THE WEST: From Silver City travel east on US-180 for 8 miles.  Turn left onto NM-152 and travel 49 miles.  (See our East of Hillsboro to Emory Pass Auto Tour).

IN HILLSBORO
(Numbers correspond
to map above)


1.  THE HILLSBORO COMMUNITY CENTER.  Built in 1922 it served as the High School until 1937 and as an elementary school until 1971.

2. COURT HOUSE AND JAIL RUINS.  Built in the 1892, demolished after the County Seat was moved to Hot Springs (currently called Truth or Consequences).  Elenora Street.

3. The Burke-Porter House from about 1886.  

4. GENERAL STORE CAFE.  10697 Highway 152.   Built in 1879 and continually occupied since that time.  In the past the building has been a bank, a post office, a general store, and a drug store.  It retains the ambiance of the 1880’s and serves excellent US and Mexican food.  Open Friday to Tuesday 8 - 3:00.  Wi-Fi Hotspot.

5. US POST OFFICE.  Built in the early 1890‘s. 

6. The former location of the Barbershop Cafe, formerly the S-BAR-X.  It has been a dance hall, bar, and cafe and consignment shop.

7. THE OLD BANK

8. HATCHER HOTEL/HOSPITAL built in early 1890’s was used as a hospital until 1923 and then as a hotel and cafe. Now the location of the Black Range Vineyard Wine Bar and (next door) a Fruit and Vegetable Outlet (in season).

9. SUE’S ANTIQUES.  This building has been a pool hall, a dance hall, and a general store.  It now houses an extensive collection of memorabilia from the early days of the area.

10.  BLACK RANGE MUSEUM and Gift Shop of the Hillsboro Historical Society.  Among other things this building was Tom Ying’s restaurant in the winter of 1918.  Hillsboro History (3/18/2011) has a nice blog about Tom Ying’s Meal Tickets.  One of Sadie Orchard’s enterprises, the Ocean Grove Hotel, was next door.  

Antique trucks and cars are found about town.

Parking on Main Street can be a problem at times.

And in the winter the traffic is terrible

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Traveling west from Interstate 25 on New Mexico 152 you cross a long section of relatively flat terrain.  Three miles or so before Hillsboro the road begins to snake and twist and drops into the Percha Creek stream valley, where the picturesque community of Hillsboro awaits.  The tall cottonwood trees are a hallmark of this community and are the first signs that things are indeed different here.  It is, after all, an inhabited “ghost town”, its Community Center and Library is shown to the left.

Hillsboro, as a commercial center, started as a mining town in 1877 when gold was discovered.  (More than 100,000 troy ounces of gold were eventually taken form the area.)  There are indications that Hispanic ranchers/farmers may have been in the area earlier, and Indian tribes lived in the vicinity and used the surrounding areas regularly. 

From 1884 to 1936, Hillsboro was the county seat of Sierra County.  The court house ruins are all that remain of that function.

The Hillsboro Community Center (HCC) (pictured above) is the site of many community events, including a vigorous concert series with regional, national, and international acts appearing periodically.  The music venue tends to the Western, Bluegrass, and Folk genres but is sometimes supplemented by Jazz, Classical, and International fare.  Many other events are hosted at the HCC, including town meetings, meetings of the various organizations in town, Christmas in the Foothills, and an annual bicycle race.  The HCC originally served as a high school and later a grade school.


Most of Hillsboro is in a flood plain, and periodically there are floods.  Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Church, for instance, had to be rebuilt following the 1972 floods.  Although the area has been in severe drought for several years, when a heavy rain does come the streets become swiftly flowing (but shallow) streams.


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Although the town does not have a grocery store, bank, dry goods store, or gas station, there are indications that gas may have been available once along the side streets.  There are antique cars here and there symbolizing the populace’s love of things of the past, and in some of the local washes there are examples of distributed automotive art - sometimes referred to as illegal dumping.

Although few in number, the people of Hillsboro and the immediate area come from diverse backgrounds.  Politically the town’s people reflect the national schism.  Work backgrounds run the gamut from business and law to ranching, the arts, applied science, and academics of all types.  Some continue to pursue their day jobs and others are retired.  Of the retired folk, most are actively pursuing their dreams.  Artists, fine art photographers, musicians, and crafts people are found in significant numbers.

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If you drive into town after 9 p.m. you will find the town lit by a few street lights and not much else.  That means that you can look to the sky and see why the Milky Way is called the Milky Way, that there are more stars than a city person can imagine, and that the moon does, in fact, cast strong shadows.

The decorative tastes of the townspeople tend to run to simple elegance rather than glitz, and there are many examples of this orientation on public display about town.

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Javelina (Collared Peccary), Mule Deer, and Striped Skunks are found about town, as are (rarely) Black Bear and Mountain Lion.  Mammals flourish in the more general area, including four species of skunks, Bobcats, Ringtails, vagrant Coatis, Coyotes, Gray Fox, Elk, and (rumored) Wolf.

Birdlife abounds in town, including many southwestern specialities.  One home in town has a yard-list (the number of species seen in, or immediately above, the yard) of 146 bird species.  That is a significant number for such a small area.

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The geology of the area is a complex mixture of igneous and sedimentary rock.  This, of course, is why prospectors scour the washes and ridges every weekend, placing claim markers wherever they find rock.  It is also the reason that some of the rock beds are rich in fossils - like the crinoid head found near the town of Kingston, which is just up the road.

There are several biomes in the area, and the plant life can be both exotic in appearance and very colorful.  A drive in from the freeway during the spring, especially at dusk, can be breathtaking as the setting sun shines through the Apache Plume (and into your eyes).  This area is at the northern edge of the Chihuahuan Desert - one of the four deserts of North America.

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The countryside around Hillsboro is wide open and there are numerous walks to be had, generally on old mining roads or cross-country.

One of the wonders of Hillsboro and nearby Kingston is that although the past is cherished, the residents have a clear vision of the future.  Kingston, for instance, is a center for cost-effective building practices which are environmentally responsible.  (See information on the Kingston page.)  In Hillsboro, solar panels are becoming a regular feature of the rooftops and rain harvesting is carried to an art form here.  

Many homes in Hillsboro have greenhouses and gardens.  A number of the residents raise chickens for eggs.  The bounty is willingly shared during the harvest seasons.

The weather is four seasons long, with winter being the shortest.  Following the coldest winter nights the days warm up to a rather nice winter’s day.  The hottest time tends to be June and July prior to the monsoon rains.  The rains are fickle:  during calendar years 2011 and 2012 the total annual rainfall was about six inches, although the average is around twelve to thirteen inches.

It is a mixture of the past and the future which is the heart of Hillsboro.  It is a place where hours can be spent in quiet contemplation of the seasons, where days can be spent walking the hills (perhaps finding a large marker at the site of a horse’s grave), and a lifetime can be spent in pursuing knowledge and wisdom and in celebrating the human spirit.


The organizations in Hillsboro are run by volunteers.  Most services are provided by the Volunteer Fire and Rescue, the Volunteer Library, the Volunteer Community Center, the Volunteer Water Department, and the Volunteer Hillsboro Historical Society.

The Hillsboro Historical Society has a geographic scope which covers the Animas and Percha drainages as well as the area south to Lake Valley.  It currently owns and operates the Black Range Museum and is in the process of restoring that site and the Hillsboro Courthouse ruins.  Part of its collection is this fire truck which saw service in Hillsboro in earlier days.


Hillsborough 1884 description

The “Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Wyoming, and Arizona Gazetteer and Business Directory 1884-1885” described Hillsboro as (p. 321):

The following is a more detailed description of the town, repeating in some cases, information contained above.





A STROLL THROUGH HILLSBORO
Or, if you wish, you can drive

Our tour starts at the intersection of Elenora Street and NM-27, just south of NM-152 - across from and uphill a bit from the volunteer fire department. 

If you turn left and head south on NM-27 for about 30 yards you will find the Cuna Cueva Gallery.  The gallery features “unique, one-of-a-kind art from Mexico as well as custom designed furniture and jewelry” - well worth the visit.

The Hillsboro Cemetery is just up the hill and to the left.  When your view is like that shown below - you know you have arrived.


Returning to the intersection and heading west on Elenora, the Hillsboro Community Center quickly comes into view.  It is an important meeting spot for the people of Hillsboro, Berrenda Creek, Lake Valley, Kingston, and Animas Creek.  It is an active music venue and lectures, movies and community meetings are sometimes hosted.  The public library which is housed here provides free internet and phone service.  Built in 1922 (the original plans are shown to the right), this building housed the high school until 1937 and the grade school until 1971.  The Hillsboro Historical Society Blog has an interesting article about the architectural firm which designed the structure.  This building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Just west of the community center is the Sullivan House which was built in the 1890’s by the Sullivan/Tafoya family.  This building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Continuing west, the Union Church was built in 1892. To the right is an early view of the inside of the church.  Note the ornate pews. The recollections of Reverend Kuykendall (from 1937) and information about his diaries are covered in the May 9, 2012 posting of the Hillsboro Historical Society.  The church as it looks today is shown below.  According to”The English Work of the MEC in Hillsboro, Lake Valley, & Kingston” by Willard Steinsiek (2008) pp. 27-28:

“Rev. Henry Carlson...preached a sermon on ‘A Temple of Worship     for the Lord’...(which moved the people)...to undertake a new    church.”  Steinsiek goes on to quotes a church report that ‘although the new church is plainly the outgrowth of this inspired Methodist sermon, by one of those uncontrollable tides which arise in the affairs of new communities, the enterprise got upon a union basis.  The building is advancing to completion...but remains to be seen how far it will be conducive to the ultimate strength of Christianity in that charge.’   


So the hoped for Methodist Church became The Union Church of 
Hillsboro.  It was outfitted with opera house chairs of metal and wood, with a hat rack under each chair, and a chandelier with space for 12 oil lamps to be individually filled and lit.  Thomas Harwood, himself, dedicated the Union Church Building in May of 1893.”

Immediately to the west of the church is the Miller House, shown as it looks today in the photo below.  It was Built in 1898 from black slag bricks from a local smelter.  Remains of the slag pile can be seen just before the bridge as you enter Hillsboro from the east.  The photograph below, from about 1900, shows Ninette Stocker Miller (left) and her sister Harriet Stocker Galles on the porch of the house.  The December 5, 2011 blog of the Hillsboro Historical Society covers the history of this interesting family.  This building is on the National Register of Historic Places (George Tambling and Ninette Stocker Miller House).  This home is available for nightly or extended stay rental through airbnb.

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Next to the Miller House is the house that Frank W. Parker, the presiding judge in the Fountain Murder Trial, lived in.  It dates, (obviously) to 1899 or earlier.  In 1912 Parker  became Justice of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

Skipping a home you will come to the ruins of the Court House and Jail.  Built in the 1880‘s this building was demolished after the County Seat was moved to Hot Springs (currently called Truth or Consequences) in 1936. Before the County Seat was moved there had been at least one attempt to move the County Seat.  In 1909 an attempt was made to move it to Cutter.  Julian Chaves who led the attempt to move the County Seat to Cutter lived next door to the Millers.  The courthouse and jail ruins are now owned by the Hillsboro Historical Society.



Across the street from the Courthouse ruins is the Dines House (photo below), it was built before 1893 and is one of at least two homes which are two houses combined into one.  It is now an art school and studio.


On the hill above the ruins is the King House (photo below), built in about 1900 by a mine manager in Lake Valley.


At the corner of Fourth and Elenora Street is the Tirey House (photo below).


The first home beyond 5th Avenue on Elenora (south side or left as you come down from the Courthouse Ruins) is the Murphy or Sheriff’s House.  It was built in the 1890’s by Sheriff Tom Murphy. 

Across the street is the Burke-Porter House from about 1886. 

Turning around and backtracking a bit to 5th Avenue turn left to Highway 152.  At the corner of 5th and Highway 152 are two adobe homes, one on each side of 5th, both were built in 1893.  The building on the western corner (shown below) is the Will M. Robins House.  The building on the eastern corner is the John M. Webster House, both are on the National Register of Historic Places.  There are several adobe homes built in a Victorian style in town.


Turning right down Highway 152 and just past the house on the corner is an adobe house built in the 1890’s in “the Italian Style”.  It is known locally as the “Pink Adobe” (photo below) and was the home of Fred Mister who owned one of the last stage coach lines to operate in the United States.  A discussion of the operations of that stage line and the conditions of sale when it was last sold can be found in “The Transport Side of Sadie Orchard” on our Tales of Lake Valley page (one of the stagecoaches involved in the sale was the Mountain Pride which is now on display at the Lincoln Historic Site in Lincoln, New Mexico).


Across the street from the Pink Adobe is the Meyer’s House.  It dates from the late 1870’s.

Next to the Pink Adobe is an adobe home (shown below) built in the 1880’s but which has been added on to and modified in the 1940’s and 1970’s.  In 1888 ownership was transferred as part of the Ryan divorce.  Hillsboro has a number of homes which employ alternative energy (mostly solar), water conservation measures including harvesting rainwater, and greenhouses (2nd photo below).

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Next door (east) is the Tittman House.  Two adobe homes built before 1893 which were combined in the 1920’s.  Tittman was a delegate to the New Mexico Constitutional Convention in 1910. (Detail shown here.)

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Across the street from the Tittman House is the Enchanted Villa Bed and Breakfast. It was built in the later part of 1930’s by Sir Victor Sassoon, who used it as a vacation home.  He was a British baronet who lived most of his life in China, primarily Shanghai.  Sassoon and Sandy Tittman were friends.  On March 9, 1941, The Albuquerque Journal carried a short article about their meeting for lunch with Mrs. Hemlick in the US Senate Dining Room.  Sassoon was in Washington, D.C. to meet with Lord Halifax, the “English” Ambassador to the United States.  By 1938 the relationship between Sassoon and the Japanese had become very tenuous.  The Japanese controlled Shanghai, and much of China, at that point, but seemed to leave the international community and enclave (where many of Sassoon’s holdings were) more or less alone - not wishing to antagonize the British or Americans.  A stalemate of sorts had developed, with the Japanese resorting to subterfuge and warfare by gangs that committed arson, murder, and kidnapping as a way to destabilize the international community.  The situation became untenable for Sassoon, and he left Shanghai in the spring of 1941 - apparently to have lunch  with Miss Tittman.  When the United States entered the war, Sassoon was in Bombay.  Following the war, Sassoon liquidated as many of his holdings in China as possible and moved to the Bahamas. 

Sasson’s wife founded the Sassoon Heart Foundation following his death.  The Foundation has been recognized in many ways, including the stamp above.  Sasson owned thousands of properties, some large like the Cathay Mansion in Shanghai (above) and some not quite so large like the building which is now the Enchanted Villa B&B (below).


Next door (east) of the Tittman House is the William H. Bucher House, built prior to 1893 (photo below).  This is one of several homes in Hillsboro which are on the National Register of Historic Places.


Across the street from the Bucher House is Our Lady of Guadalupe Catholic Mission.  It was reconstructed from the original plans after being destroyed in the 1972 flood.

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On the hill behind the Bed and Breakfast is a private home which was the elementary school in Hillsboro until 1937; it was built prior to 1893.  (In the photograph of the courthouse ruins, above, this old elementary school can be seen across the valley.)  The elementary school was moved to what is now the Community Center in 1937, at the same time that the High School that was housed in the Community Center was moved to Truth or Consequences.

To the east of the Catholic Mission is the Garcia home built prior to 1893.   It was a commercial space and a law office at first.

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The General Store Cafe was built in 1879.  It was once part of a much larger building.  A significant portion of the original building was destroyed in the 1914 flood and was not reconstructed.  In the past this building has been a bank, the Keller-Miller Mercantile, and a post office.  In 1900, it was the Keller-Miller Mercantile (photos by George T. Miller to the right and below).  Today it is a cafe which serves excellent Mexican and American food (and great pie).

Across the street from the Cafe is the Crews House, probably the first adobe home built in Hillsboro.  It was built in 1879.  Crews was a Brigadier General in the Confederate States Army (CSA) and is buried in the Hillsboro Cemetery.

Continuing east from the Cafe (on the south side of Highway 152), the next building is the Alert-Hatcher building built in about 1894.  Like many structures in town it has had a varied life.  A hospital until 1923, then a hotel and cafe, it is now a private home and the site of the Black Range Winery and a produce outlet (seasonal).  This building is on the National Register of Historic Places.  Dana and Ginger Lamb, well known travel writers/”adventurers” lived at the east end of this complex from 1962 until 1979.

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Across the street from Hatcher building is the building which houses the United States Post Office and Masons Hall.  This building dates from about 1893.  The Post Office is where locals pick up their mail and share the latest news.

Continuing east from the Post Office (on the north side of Highway 152 the next complex of buildings houses what was the Barbershop Cafe and consignment shop (now closed).  The original adobe building was built in 1879 and from just after the beginning of the last century to the end of the 1950’s it was a dance hall, consignment shop, a mercantile, a dance hall and the S-Bar-X Bar.  In 1900 in was a saloon, the photograph was taken by George T. Miller.

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Continuing east on the same side of the street is the site of the old bank.  

A short distance east of the old bank are the ruins of a service station destroyed in the September 2, 1972 flood of Hillsboro.  Across the street is the pre-1893 building which once housed the Slease Garage which is pictured on the cover of Around Hillsboro.

There are a group of buildings on the south side of Highway 152 and the east side of Highway 27.  The building on the corner is Sue’s Antiques.  This building was built prior to 1893 and has housed a dance hall, oil storage facility, a pool hall, and a general store.

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The building which currently houses the Black Range Museum and the Gift Shop of the Hillsboro Historical Society.  It was built prior to 1893 and was originally the Ocean Grove Hotel.  It housed Tom Ying’s restaurant in the winter of 1918 when the photograph to the right was taken. 

In the mid-1890’s Sadie Orchard (right) stood in front of the Shady Grove Hotel, thought to be one of her establishments in the Hillsboro and Kingston areas.  She and her husband also ran a stage coach line.  Photo by George T. Miller.

Across the street from this group of buildings is the Hillsboro Park.  Up the hill on Highway 27 brings you to the starting point of our walking tour.

Continuing east past the park and over the bridge you will note the slag on both sides of the road.  The Miller home (near the beginning of the walking tour) was built from this slag.  The smelter was fully operational in 1900 (photo right).

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The home just uphill on the  north side of NM-152 (photo right) was once the power house.  The plant, which used coal and then diesel generators was built in 1930 and operated until 1952.   In 1941 the Sierra Electric Cooperative was formed with its headquarters in Hillsboro.  By April 1947 the Sierra County Cooperative and the Town of Hot Springs (Truth or Consequences) were before the New Mexico Supreme Court arguing over jurisdiction.

On the north side of NM-152, just east of the drive to the old power house is the Romelia Chavez Luna home, built prior to 1893.

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Continuing east there are a number of homes before you exit town.  This part of town is generally referred to as “Happy Flat” in the area.  The origin of the name is not known, although some believe that it was a derogatory reference to the Hispanics who lived in this part of town.  In 1890 George T. Miller took several photographs of the area (here and in the right column). 

ON THE ROAD TO NUTT:  If you are traveling on to Nutt on Highway 27 visit our NM-27 Auto Tour page which includes video and photographs of views along the way - as well as a description of points of interest.

ON THE ROAD TO KINGSTON: If you are traveling on to Nutt on Highway 27 visit our NM-152 Hillsboro to Emory Pass Auto Tour which includes video and photographs of views along the way - as well as a description of points of interest.




© Robert Barnes 2018