Silver City, New Mexico. Hotels That Hold History, Part I

Posted on November 23, 2015

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images (17)In earlier posts you’ve heard me talk about our interest in vintage and/or historic hotels. And you will no doubt remember our merry chase after Fred Harvey’s iconic restaurants and hotels last winter.

We’ve been at it again this trip with great ‘scores’ in both Salt Lake City and Knab, Utah, as well as a great find in Tucson, Arizona. So, imagine our joy at bagging not one, but FIVE as we traveled through New Mexico!

Our first stop was Silver City.

Silver City is home to both the Palace Hotel and the newer-old Murray Hotel, as well as a rip-roarin’ Western history.

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The two kids at BTK’s museum in Fort Sumner, NM.

In the late 1800’s, Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch were familiar sights in every saloon in town. Billy the Kid spent part of his childhood here, stole stuff here, and was arrested here – twice.

During Billy’s day, ‘Soiled Doves’ shared the streets with rich bankers, mine owners and ranchers, as well as rough and tough cowboys, prospectors, stagecoach robbers and drifters.

However, once mine money brought prosperity to Silver City, it was only natural the newly-rich wanted to smooth away some of the town’s rough edges.

And in those days, building a fine Eastern-style hotel, where potential investors and entrepreneurs could be entertained and impressed, was a great way to show the world a town had been tamed.

The Palace was images (14)opened in 1900, located in a beautifully-designed bank block constructed in 1882 right on the main four corners. While the hotel itself is small, it – and the block it’s in – has a very elegant, Victorian exterior reflecting the boom times brought on by the silver bonanza first discovered in 1870.

images (15)Though once described as being among the finest in the territory, as the silver and gold petered out, so did the Palace.

Passed around from owner to owner, it ended up an apartment building before it was closed in 1980.

But, as Silver City began its reinvention as a tourist destination, the grand old lady was purchased, restored and re-opened to the public in 1990.

Murray_3On the other hand, the Murray Hotel, located just a few doors down from the Palace, evokes a very different era.

Built in 1937 while the country was still reeling from the Great Depression, its developer was then-state Senator W.D. Murray, who apparently survived those hard years just fine.

The building interior was designed in the classic Art Deco style of the times –  elegant, but at the same time functional and  modern, with its swooping curves, mirrors, clean lines and chrome hardware. The exterior was given a simple, streamlined appearance so popular at the time.

The Murray was the community’s social center for decades …. and then came the 1970’s.

Area mines had closed, and travelers were staying along the highway rather than downtown. The Murray struggled to stay afloat, finally giving up the ghost in the 1990’s.

But like the Palace, as Silver City itself came back to life, interest in restoring the fine old building grew. In 2005, just the right couple came along, did what needed to be done (and very well, too) and eventually re-opened in 2012.

However, though honoring days gone by through the restoration of these two lovely hotels, Silver City hasn’t forgotten its wild side, and its wild child.

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A log cabin typical of the one where Billy the Kid spent part of his youth was donated to the city by movie director Ron Howard. It was placed on the spot where the original once stood, now on one end of the city’s Visitor Center parking lot. The cabin was used as a set in Howard’s 2003 movie, “The Missing”.

And that’s what’s fun about the Southwest in general. While of course things change over time, a town’s history doesn’t. Throughout the Southwest people seem to be especially proud of their history, even though some of it WAS a little rough around the edges.

Next – Las Vegas, New Mexico.

 

 

 

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