Grand Central Hotel, Socorro, NM
(click photo for a larger image.)
I find this 1886 photograph of the Grand Central Hotel in Socorro, N.M (the wood structure) from the J.E. Smith collection to be a most amazing. In front of the hotel are oxen and carts of a shipping company. The reason this picture is so interesting to me is that is visually ties several significant, and a few insignificant, details of our New Mexico Western heritage together.
As shown in this partial map of Socorro, the Grand Central Hotel was located near the corner of California Street and Manzanares.
The Grand Central Hotel was the premier hotel in Socorro in 1883. During its term as a hotel, “anyone who was anyone” stayed there. And apparently, it was a first class establishment. Offering travelers what they needed including free telephone for guests, a fine wine room and the best table (food) in any territory.
What did a fine wine room offer? Here is the list of spirits, wines, beers and mineral waters available in Socorro which were remarkable with Lockhart’s Grand Central Hotel and Bar leading the pack. In 1886, some of his offerings included “the best beer on draught, Whyland & Co.’s celebrated Century Whisky; Gaff’s and Kentucky Prince, in bottles; Seven – year – old McBreyer; genuine imported Hennessy Brandy, Dekuyper gin; Port and Sherry wines; five-year old Peach Brandy; Bass’s Ale and (Guiness) Porter, on draught or bottled; and imported Belfast Ginger ale.”
Of course you might not want to refuse a drink offered by someone like Joel Fowler (click here to see our page about him). This is the Hotel in which Joe Fowler murdered a man for refusing to drink with him on December 8, 1883.
Some may wonder what it would cost to stay in a new first class hotel in Socorro in 1883. This May 12, 1883 ad in the Lincoln County Leader gives us the advertised rates.
But as Socorro’s business and population grew, so did the number of hotels and eventually the old was replaced by the new. After a long run, the Grand Central Hotel could not compete with newer hotels and the building was used for other purposes.
According to the Socorro Chieftain, December 6 1902, an arsonist burned the hotel to the ground on Monday, December 1,1902.
“…was now burning fiercely and the fire had gained such headway that it was at once evident that there was no hope of saving the building and that every possible effort would be necessary to save neighboring buildings from destruction…The hose company was promptly on the scene and it was only by the hardest kind of work that the brick block occupied by the post office, Katzenstein’s store, Liles & Torres’ saloon, and A.C. Abeytia’s store was saved from destruction”
But one can still go to the street where this once grand hotel stood and imagine what a fine business it once was, what it was like “in the day”, and what the people were like who stayed there.
Before we leave this photograph, take a look at the oxen and the carts they were pulling. At a later time we will have a page about the El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. The “Royal Road to the Interior Land”. By 1609, official caravans traveled north from Mexico City to northern New Mexico every three to seven years. They used massive carts and oxen, carrying as much as three tons of cargo, and averaging 10 miles a day, the one-way trip took about six months.
Until the Magdalena railroad spur was built, wagons, pulled by oxen, also carried ore mined in Magdalena over 34 miles to the smelter in Socorro. That trip was over some pretty steep grades and pretty rough terrain!
Did you know that oxen also wore iron shoes? Imagine being a farrier for one of these beasts, custom making the shoes, and tacking them on. Here is a picture of what an ox shoes looks like. If you are interested, when you come stay at Concho Hills Guest Ranch, we can drive to nearby Chloride, NM and see the real thing!
- Recollections of a Western Ranchman, by Captain William French,1928
- Black Range, August 17, 1883
- Lincoln County Leader, May 12, 1883
- Socorro Chieftain, December 6 1902
- Southwest Crossroads, Cultures &Histories of the American Southwest; “Alma” by N.H. Thorp (WPA) field writer.
The J.E. Smith Collection Photographs are available for purchase in varying sizes, on archival paper or canvas, from Leon Miler at The Alamo Gallery and Gifts in Socorro, New Mexico or from Concho Hills Guest Ranch.