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A Profile of New Mexico’s Old Mesilla

I have posted here before on the site about Old Mesilla located near Las Cruces, New Mexico.  This historical city is a huge tourism draw for the city of Las Cruces and a place my wife and I have visited quite often.    Here is a Google Earth map of Old Mesilla with its various sites labeled:


View Larger Map

To learn more about the history of Old Mesilla I recommend reading my prior posting on the city, but below are some pictures I took from my most recent walk around Old Mesilla.  The first place I checked out was the most iconic structure of Old Mesilla, which is the San Albino Church:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

The church was first constructed in adobe in 1855 and was reconstructed into its present structure in 1906.  It is easily the most striking aspect of the Plaza and a popular place for photographers to take photos of.  Here is the view of the right side of the church:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

And here is the view of the left side of the church:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Here is a closer look at the church’s steeples:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

In the front of the church there is a small courtyard with a plaque that advocates against abortion, which shouldn’t be surprising considering that this is a Catholic Church:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Across from the church is a large plaza with a gazebo that is often used for weddings and other events:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

In fact later on that day during my visit there was in fact a wedding going on in the plaza:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Around the plaza is a number of shops and restaurants that due brisk business from the amount of visitors that Old Mesilla sees every day.  Here are some shops on the northeastern side of the plaza:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Here are shops on the southwestern side of the plaza:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

These shops are beautifully restored and are home to merchants who sell everything from art work, rugs, jewelry, books, and various souvenirs to the town’s various visitors:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Here is a look at the various goods available inside the stores:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Many of the items are made locally but it surprises me how many things that could be made locally are instead imported from China such as this walking stick:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Here is an example of some of the beautiful locally produced art work:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

This furniture was quite nice as well:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

The Thunder de la Mesilla gift store pictured below is the oldest documented brick building in New Mexico:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

It was built in 1860 by Frenchman Augustin Maurin who constructed the building from bricks made from his own kiln.  Maurin wouldn’t have long to enjoy the building he constructed because he was murdered by robbers in 1866 in his adjoining apartment to the store.  His heir Cesar Maurin who inherited the store after Augustin’s death wouldn’t own the building much longer either when he died of natural causes in 1868.  Another Frenchman Pedro Duhalde, a saloonkeeper then moved in and was eventually murdered as well.  The building is now owned by Tiburcio Frietze after being used from everything as a general store, saloon, and a town hall.  Mr. Frietze has restored the building to its present condition to where it is now used as one of the biggest gift shops in Mesilla.

Another historic structure found on the southeastern corner of the Plaza is the Billy the Kid Gift Shop.  It may be hard to believe but this building dates back to 1850 and once was the Capitol building for both Arizona and New Mexico at one point.  Later on it would become the county courthouse where in 1881 Billy the Kid was once tried and sentenced to hang at:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

The El Patio Cantina found on the south side of the plaza is another interesting historic building that was first constructed on the Plaza in 1858 to house the Butterfield Overland Mail stage coach station:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

The building would go on to house the Mesilla Times newspaper and become a saloon until it was purchased by Colonel Albert Jennings Fountain who was Billy the Kid’s defense lawyer in 1881 who used it as his law office.

Colonel Albert Fountain

I have written about Albert Fountain before and his investigation of the notorious gunfighter and rancher baron Oliver Lee that led to his and his 8 year old son’s disappearance and likely deaths near White Sands National Monument in 1896.  The building would go on to become a mercantile store run by the Fountain family before becoming a US Post Office in 1931.   Today the building operates as the El Patio Cantina that is still owned and operated by descendants of the Fountain family.

Down one of the side streets from the El Patio is this vintage wine store:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

If you are into wine this wine seller is well worth checking out since it is stocked with wines from the various wineries in southern New Mexico.  Here is another building just off the plaza that may be owned by the Fountain family as well, the Fountain Theatre:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

This theatre is home to the Mesilla Valley Film Society that shows various alternative, independent, and foreign made films.

Old Mesilla is known for its Plaza but it is first and foremost a residential village with a number of beautiful homes to be admired when walking around the village’s back streets:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Something else I enjoy walking around Old Mesilla is looking at the various ornate doors to the various residential courtyards:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Just off the plaza is also Old Mesilla’s most famous restaurant La Posta:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

According to the restaurants’ website, the earliest records indicate the La Posta Compound was originally constructed in the 1840’s. Sam Bean and his brother Roy Bean, operated a freight and passenger service line to Pinos Altos from this building in the 1850’s. After the Civil War, The La Posta Compound became an important stop on the Butterfield Stagecoach Line.

During the 1870’s and 1880’s, the Corn Exchange Hotel, one of the finest lodges in the Southwest, operated from the building. John Davis, the proprietor of the hotel, died in the late 1870’s, however, his wife Augustina continued to operate the hotel, a restaurant and other businesses in the building until the early 1900’s. La Posta de Mesilla Restaurant originated in the northwest corner of the building in 1939 by Katy Griggs Camunez. The business has grown to become one of the most famous restaurants in the Southwest, occupying 10,000 square feet of the La Posta Compound which now included several shops. After Katy passed away, the property and business was acquired by a great niece, Jerean Camunez Hutchinson and her husband Tom, a.k.a. “Hutch”, who continue to offer the same quality food and great service in the unique dining environment Katy created.

There are many other restaurants located off the plaza that are worth checking out to include my favorite the El Comedor which I have mentioned before on my prior posting about Old Mesilla.

Besides restaurants there are also plenty of local businesses and shops located off the plaza as well:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Just outside of Old Mesilla is the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

According to the park’s website, the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park is New Mexico’s 34th state park, encompassing 300 acres of bosque (riverside forest) along the Rio Grande and 600 acres of adjacent Chihuahuan Desert. The park is a refuge for wildlife and a haven for people seeing the quiet enjoyment of nature.  At the park there is bridge that crosses the Rio Grande river that provides some nice views if you walk out on it.  Here is the view looking south towards El Paso where the Franklin Mountains can be seen out in the distance:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

Here is the view looking north from the bridge:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

From the park there is also some nice views looking back towards Las Cruces which is backdropped by the beautiful Organ Mountains:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

It is the water from the Rio Grande River that makes the area around Old Mesilla a very productive agricultural area:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

In fact just down the road from Old Mesilla is the world’s largest family owned pecan farm:

Picture from Las Cruces, New Mexico

That wraps up this posting on my return to Old Mesilla.  This village is definitely a must see for anyone visiting the El Paso/Las Cruces area due to its historic nature, shopping, restaurants, and just overall charm of the place.  You haven’t really experienced the American Southwest until you have been to Old Mesilla.

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