The museum in Silver City isn’t large but it’s in a nice old Victorian house and is apparently worth a quick visit to see the old photos of the town (especially before the floods that created the Big Ditch – see previous tip). Unfortunately though we spent too long taking photos in the town, and enjoying ice cream at Alotta Gelatto, and got here just after the rather early 4.30 pm closing time (4.00 pm at weekends). So we didn’t get to climb up the cupola, which our Moon Handbook said was worth doing and didn’t get to check out the old maps (I love maps!) and a room furnished in Victorian style. I don’t usually include tips of places I haven’t actually been, but there aren’t a lot of specific sights in Silver so it seemed a shame not to give this one a brief mention.
It may seem odd that a “ditch” is a “thing to do” but this is no ordinary ditch. In fact until the end of the 19th century it was Silver City’s Main Street! But around that time there was a series of floods, and one result of these was that on the night of July 21st 1895 Main Street collapsed into a muddy chasm. Businesses on its west side “turned their backs” on it and started to use their rear entrances on Bullard Street, which therefore gradually became a replacement main street without ever changing its name accordingly, and the original street was never restored.
Nowadays the chasm has been turned into a pleasant park that runs the length of downtown and provides shade on a hot day. About halfway along, on the west side of the park, you can see Warren House (my second photo) which is the only one still standing intact from the pre-flood days. It didn’t appear to be open to the public when we were there. It seemed to be for sale, and I couldn’t help but think that it would make a great location and property for a bed and breakfast, so if anyone’s looking for a business opportunity in that part of the world ...
Penny Park is a wonderful playground that is both a terrific place to take children as well as a symbol of what happens when a community comes together for the benefit of all. Built and maintained entirely with donations and volunteer labor, this place is the envy of much bigger towns, and even adults can appreciate it. It just plain makes you feel good to see it!
The Silver City Museum is located in an 1881 home built in the Mansard-Italianate Style of architecture, for the H. B. Ailman Family. Today, it houses some interesting displays about the history of the area. Hours are 9 AM to 4:30 PM Tuesday through Friday and 10 AM to 4 PM on Saturday and Sunday. The museum is closed on Mondays. Admission is free but a donation of $3 per person is "suggested". The building housing the museum is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Architecturally, one of the most interesting parts of the museum is the cupola. When the home was first built the cupola helped cool the home and provided natural lighting. Today, it offers visitors a nice view of the town. The view to the north is dominated by the Western New Mexico Campus and "Gospel Hill", so called because of the number of churches located there. To the south you will see one of Silver City's oldest neighborhoods. It is named "La Capilla" for the chapel that was located on the hilltop until 1915. To the west the view is dominated by the Grant County Court House.
There are some recreations of shops and other places important to the history of Silver City. The first bank in the area was established in the nearby town of Tyrone. Schools are also important to all towns, the teachers train the leaders of tomorrow. Of course, no museum in Silver City would be complete without a display about Billy the Kid.
There are several historical display in the museum covering the early and later history of the town and the area. The earliest inhabitants in the area were hunter gatherer tribes followed by the Mimbres People who came here about 900 AD. The Spanish came here in the 1400s. Just like today, people from a large number of countries contributred to the rich tapestry that was New Mexico. Mining was very important to the area too. One of the unsung heroes of the old west were the merchants who imported the goods needed by area residents. The late 1800s were a very interesting time in the history of Silver City.
One place not to miss in Silver City is the Western New Mexico University Museum. It is located in Fleming Hall toward the back of the campus. They are reported to have a very fine collection of Mimbres Pottery and other exhibits. Unfortunately the museum was closed when I tried to visit so I have little to no firsthand information. I will expand this tip next time I am in town. I just wanted to let you know the museum is here. Hours are (normally) 9 AM to 4:30 PM Monday through Friday and 10 AM to 4 PM Saturday and Sunday.
Silver City is also the home of the Western New Mexico University. The university has all the usual attractions, an art gallery, a museum etc. It is situated on a hill affording a nice view of the town, and is a pretty campus. I also liked the little Alumni Garden
Directly across the street from the Saint Vincent de Paul Church is the Martin Maher House. This home is a nice example of the Queen Anne-style of architecture and was built in 1887 of locally obtained red brick.
The Grant County Court House was built in 1930 to replace the old Victorian Style court house. It has two murals by Santa Fe Artist Theodore Van Soelen inside depicting the areas ties to mining and ranching.
The Bell Block was built in 1897 and expanded in 1906. It housed some of the main businesses in Silver City at the time. It has galvanized metal fronts stamped with intricate designs to resemble carved stone.
Bullard Street and the areas by it have a lot of the historic buildings housing businesses, and sixth street has the historic homes.
I will also site some specific buildings I found most interesting.
The main street in the historic Ddistrict is Bullard Street. There are a number of historic buildings on the street along with trendy shops, cafes, and other places to attract the students from nearby West New Mexico University and us tourists.
Big Ditch Park was formed during a series of floods that occured between 1895 and 1906. The area was originally the main street in the town; but the repeated destruction caused by the floods made people to decide not to rebuild here. In 1980 the "big ditch" became a city park. It is a nice place to take a short walk, relax, and maybe dip your feet into the cool water.