Hillsboro Things to Do
General Store Café: Pause for refreshment
There are a couple of eating options in Hillsboro. The Barbershop Café was recommended in our Moon Handbook and looked lovely both inside and out, but as we were just looking for a cold drink we decided instead on the more casual General Store. This lovely old building is part of a larger structure destroyed in the 1914 flood. In the past it has housed a bank, a post office, a general store and a drug store. Today it is a friendly establishment clearly popular with locals as well as passers-by like us. The interior retains much of its former character with old shop fixtures and fittings, but as it was pretty full with customers enjoying a late Saturday breakfast and we only wanted a drink, we took our orange juices out to the shady porch where we enjoyed watching laid-back Hillsboro go about its morning business.
Percha Creek Traders Co-op: Local arts and crafts
We only popped into Percha Creek Traders to see if they had any nice postcards, but we found ourselves lingering for a while, there was so much to see! We found an excellent selection of local photographs, paintings in all sorts of styles, fabric crafts, jewellery, pottery and more. The sales person explained that this is a local co-operative, run by and for local artists and craftspeople. When they started there were just a handful in the area, but their members now number over 20 and they are growing all the time. Clearly Hillsboro is a place that attracts artists.
What to buy: Although we had only intended to look for postcards, I was also on the look-out on this trip for a picture to go in our recently decorated hallway. But what caught my eye was not a picture but a piece of what I guess you would call “wall art” – a ceramic horse created with a technique known as Raku. This is a traditional Japanese technique in which the glazed piece is fired and removed from the hot kiln and is put directly into water or is allowed to cool in the open air. The result is an unpredictable metallic finish, making each piece unique. The technique has been adopted by local artist Kathy Lovell for her range of “Kathy’s Kritters” (I love the work, but cringe at the name!) We were taken by the turquoise colours of some of her horses and knew that it would be a great match for our hall, so duly bought one. It cost $35 which we thought was good value for something pretty unique. We later saw some of Kathy’s work in other galleries, e.g. in Mesilla, but we were pleased to have bought our horse here in her home town.
We also bought a small bar of locally-made craft soap, scented with sage, for $4, as a present for my Mum.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Hillsboro Off The Beaten Path
Hillsboro lies towards the eastern end of the southern section of Scenic Byway known as the Geronimo Trail. Its immediate surroundings are fairly flat – this is ranching country. But just a few miles west the picture is very different, as the trail climbs and crosses the Black Range Mountains via spectacular Emory Pass. We in fact drove this route...more
If Hillsboro is itself somewhat off the beaten path, Kingston is even more so. It lies just off Highway 152 at the foot of the Black Range Mountains and is officially a ghost town, although a few people live there. It was founded in 1882 after a rich lode of silver ore was discovered in the area, and became a thriving metropolis almost overnight....more
As you continue east on NM Highway 152 you will come to the formerly impassable Pecha Creek Canyon. In 1927 an historic Warren deck truss bridge was built across the canyon. This bridge is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The view here is pretty nice too.more
A "congested" area
Favorite thing: As we drove into Hillsboro we were met with a warning sign – we were apparently approaching a “congested area”. Well, we live in London so we know what a congested area looks like, and let me assure you that it does not look like Hillsboro! It would be hard to find a more peaceful, tranquil little town.
Admittedly in times past it would have been rather different. Hillsboro is one of New Mexico’s many towns founded in the boom times of the mid- to late- 19th century, when silver was mined in the surrounding hills. At one time its population numbered 10,000, but the town went bust when in 1893 the price of silver plummeted. By the mid 1890s fewer than 2,000 residents remained.
Unlike some towns though (including nearby Kingston), Hillsboro managed to survive, kept alive by a few gold mines in the area, and cattle ranches dotted around this wild and rocky landscape. It was for a while the county seat, but lost that status to Hot Springs (later renamed Truth or Consequences) in 1936, and with it most of the remaining population.
Today the population is just 200, and from what we observed when we stopped here one Saturday morning, everyone pretty much knows everyone else. But whether they know you or not, Hillsboro folk are quick to offer a friendly greeting. It’s really worth a short visit to see the nicely restored, characterful old buildings, to grab a cold drink in the atmospheric General Store or the colourful Barbershop Café, and to browse the excellent selection of art and crafts in Perch Traders.
We had only planned to stop for a few minutes, but we lingered. In just a short while Hillsboro and its friendly residents had charmed us. And for the rest of the trip we measured the busyness of a place by how “congested” it was in comparison to lovely, sleepy Hillsboro.Related to:
- Historical Travel