By S. Derrickson Moore
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“Preservation in Progress” was the theme of the fourth annual Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc. tour, and sites ranged from a nearly restored church to the crumbling adobe walls of a mid-19th century home and massive renovation projects just entering the planning stage.
For Martin Amador Campbell, the tour was a trip down a vivid memory lane.
“I was born in the Amador Hotel. My great grandfather had a general store right over there across the street, and I used to visit in this house when I was a child,” he said, gesturing at the scaffolding surrounding the Nestor Armijo house. 150 E. Lohman Ave. The building, currently owned by the Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, dates to 1867, and offered visitors a chance to see large-scale, adobe stabilization work in progress.
“My family owned the Amador Hotel, and I’d like to see it used more for public gatherings and meetings again. I’m very happy to see the preservation efforts here,” Campbell said.
Mary Smith, of Phoenix, Ariz., who greeted visitors at the clubhouse of the old Las Cruces Country Club, 2700 N. Main St., also has some family ties to sites on this year’s tour.
“My great uncle was Henry Trost and this was a Trost & Trost building. We’ve been looking at the family history and identifying over 600 Trost & Trost buildings in Arizona, New Mexico and east Texas. The firm did many styles in addition to Pueblo Revival: Greek Revival, Classical Revival, Mission, Prairie and more. It’s possible we’ll discover more Trost & Trost buildings in this area,” Smith said.
“The tour features buildings newly discovered and proven by MVP to have been designed by Trost & Trost, including the Las Cruces County Club clubhouse in Las Cruces. The Mesilla Park School (now the Papen Center), 304 Bell Ave., on this year’s tour, is also a Trost & Trost building. They were premier architects of the Southwest,” said MVP’s founder Eric Liefeld.
Visitors saw a lot of potential in the old Doña Ana County Courthouse, 251 W. Amador Ave., as they toured a large, recently revealed room that was an original courtroom that had been filled in for other uses by the county. Elegantly painted beams and intricate carved woodwork attracted admirers.
“I’d love to see this turned into apartments. It would be the kind of place I’d like to be, if I could afford to live here,” said Donny Prosise, of Las Cruces.
“It could be a beautiful bed and breakfast, or maybe a complex with offices and restaurants and boutiques on the first floor,” said Trudy Cooper, of Las Cruces.
“Our goal is to restore it as a hotel. We think this is the most iconic historical building in Southern New Mexico and we hope it ignites everybody to see what you can do with historic buildings,” said Bob Pofahl, a developer who is working with the building’s owner, John Hoffman, to restore and repurpose the old Doña Ana County Courthouse.
“We’re beginning a planning process that could take two or three years. When you’re renovating a building like this, you have only one chance to get it right,” Pofahl said.
“I love antiques, including antique buildings,” said Diana Wagner, of Las Cruces, touring the Amador Hotel, 180 W. Amador Ave.
Volunteers from the nonprofit Amador Foundation showed everything from beautifully restored, fully-furnished rooms to areas gutted to bare bones of old wooden wall frames and original adobe bricks. The goal is to give the old hotel and former government building a new life as a museum and community gathering place.
After seeing buildings in several stages of renovation, Linda Jacobs, of Las Cruces, said it was a pleasure to visit the nearly-completed Phillips Chapel CME Church at 638 N. Tornillo St.
“We’re waiting for the creation of doors with nearly 100-year-old wood from Yukon Territory,” said Beth O’Leary, who has worked on recent renovation projects for the church.
Clarence Fielder, church elder and a grandchild of the church’s founders, was on hand to talk about the oldest existing African American Church in New Mexico, now on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties and the National Register of Historic Places.
He’s pleased that the site has continued to be a functioning church since 2003, when Fielder, an NMSU emeritus history professor, began working with Terry Moody, then an NMSU graduate student, on restoration projects.
“Services have continued throughout the process, even if it was just the minister and one parishioner,” Fielder said.
Organizers of the event estimated that more than 500 showed up for the tour.
Tour proceeds benefit programs of the nonprofit Mesilla Valley Preservation, Inc., which is “dedicated to preserving the architectural legacy of the Mesilla Valley in Southern New Mexico and to preserving the future of our past,” according to the group’s mission statement.”
Through workshops, tours, a website and a variety of educational and training efforts, the group focuses on “preservation techniques, traditional construction technology, local architectural history and the history and culture of southern New Mexico,” Liefeld said.
For information about the group and its tours, seminars and projects, visit mvpres.org.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.