"New Mexico-Where history began in
America..." (excerpt from a 1936 road map published
by the New Mexico Highway Department).
Indeed. Coronado...Don Pedro de Peralta...Don Diego de Vargas Zapata Lujan
Ponce de Leon. Strange names out of a long history remind us of the
Spanish and Indian heritage of this land. For hundreds of years, trails
cris-crossed these lands as first the native Americans, then the Spanish, the Mexicans,
and finally the Americans wandered this land in search of trade and a better
life. Many of these trails were incorporated into the fledgling highway
system, and Highway 80 was one of these.
One of the original 1926 roadways, old U.S.
80 originally crossed New Mexico on its relentless journey west.
However, decommissioned as a U.S. highway in New Mexico in 1991, Highway 80 has
largely been replaced by I-10 for the length of the entire state. Not much
seems to remain. Southern New Mexico was then, and remains today, mostly
ranchland. Indeed early 80, like most early U.S. highways, appears to have
stayed by pre-existing railroad tracks as much as possible and rarely cut a new
path across the landscape (see pic at right...more info below). Let's take
a peek at what I have been able to uncover on my whirlwind journeys, and I
solicit input from you, the reader, to help me fill in voids and information on
what once was. From east to west...
Check out my New Mexico
80 driving directions!
Since the earliest part of U.S. Highway history, the road now
known as NM 478 has been carrying the traveler north out of Texas.
Indeed, once part of the old Bankhead Highway, the Old Spanish Trail, Lee
Highway and others, this important road was blessed with receiving the
first Federally-funded highway improvement dollars in the state - FAP #1.
Therefore, in those early years, it seems evident to me that what would
become old U.S. 80 was at that time deemed more important to the state
than the National Old trails Road (which would essentially become the more
famous Route 66).
Passing through Berino, Vado and Mesquite before coming into southern Las
Cruces, little has changed. The area still retains its agricultural
feel as evidenced by the many nut groves and farms (the
heavy smell of scallions in the air was also a sure fire giveaway!) and
makes for a pleasant, relaxing drive.
One of the few vintage relics left in the area is this close-up of J.M. Acosta's Real Estate Sign in Berino.
I have a 1959 map which shows this route by that time
being called Alternate 80 (co-signed with alt 85) with U.S. 80 now located
further east on what is now known as NM460 heading north out of Anthony and the
west I-10 frontage. However, today, no vintage architecture or
anything of real interest remains on the newer NM460 stretch. For the *must see
every inch* roadie only.
The huge I-10 interchanges have completely
wiped out several city blocks of Southern Las Cruces. Hence, not much
remains today to remind us that 80 once passed through this part of town. However, as
you continue north along 478 (old 80 & 85), take your time and look
around-especially as you approach the older downtown area. There are
a few faded
gems yet to be appreciated. For example, take a closer look at the Kilby
Motel...if something looks vaguely familiar, it should-it's the old Dona Ana
from the late 30's era! Take a comparative look at the Kilby today and
these two pics of the old Dona Ana (the colored linen is postmarked 1941) and
prove me wrong!
All highways evolve and mature as the
needs of the motorists change. 80 was no exception. Here is a
comparison of a 1936 map of this area across Southern
New Mexico vs. a 1959 map. Note the differences south of Las Cruces, and
the differences on both sides of Deming. For example, per the 1936 map, old, original 80 dipped further
south through Cambray while the 1959 map shows there being a four mile gap
between Highway 80 and Cambray. Because of clues such as these, I believe the evidence indicates that today, highways NM549 east of
Deming and NM418 west of Deming are the remnants of this older incarnation of
U.S. 80. BTW, I think it's a neat commentary that in 1936, the legend
shows that Highway 80 was paved all the way across New Mexico while its more famous
brother, Route 66, is still shown as gravel and even just graded between Santa Rosa and Santa Fe!
overlaid for the most part with I-10, it's possible that portions the north frontage roads west of Las Cruces are remnants of the last incarnation of Highway
80, though nothing of interest remains. Might as well stay on the
interstate-at least until exit 116 and NM549. NM549
gives a great feel of
older 80 through the center portion of the state. For example, you can
check out the crumbling ruins of Cambray store which once served the local
Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC) folks who did a lot of work in the area
in the early 30's. Further along, the march of time and 'progress'
continue to take their toll...this old, abandoned unknown motel/camp near mile-marker
(MM) 11 has been recently (sometime in 2006/2007) razed and replaced by a home.
Deming. An oasis from the monotony of
the road. I've seen old photos of U.S. 80 going through downtown Deming
with the prominently displayed moniker for the Baker Hotel in the
background. Well, this original 80 is on Spruce Street, with the latest
incarnation of 80 being a block north on Pine Street (now partially U.S. 180
near downtown). Look for some great, narrow 30's era concrete on Spruce
west of downtown along with a couple of great examples of early,
adobe-style auto courts such as the Coronado Apartments shown here. And yes, the Baker is still there!
Author's Addendum 08/02/04: A trip through the area
in 07/04 showed the Coronado Apartments to be closed and probably soon to
On newer Pine Street, there also still exist a couple of notable
motels that have hung on despite the onslaught of the chains. Both the
Mirador Motel east of downtown and Anselment's Butterfield Stage Motel just west
of downtown have great signs out front that shout reminders of a time when a
unique moniker was deemed necessary to capture the motorist's eye. Though
a great sign by day, the sight of Anselment's Butterfield Stage
Motel sign by night is truly worth a quick stop off of I-10. These
charging stallions look as if they are going to gallop right off the sign and on
down the street. One of the most impressive neon displays I've seen on my
Author's addendum: Al Garvin previously of Deming provided me this
"'My father Bill Garvin, originally built
the Butterfield Stage Motel in about 1960. I was a freshman in high
school at the time living in Kansas with my mother and visiting my dad in
the summer. He installed the original neon Butterfield Stage motel
sign with the running horses. It looked very similar to the sign
being used now. He added a section to the sign right below it advertising
the prices for the rooms and that caused quite a stir in Deming as no one
had ever done that before. And the neon horses running at night was
quite a draw. Before long all the other motels were doing the
same. My job was to clean the pool every day in exchange for money
to buy my first motorcycle. What fun."
Thanks for the story and sharing with us Al!
If one continues west out of Deming on
Spruce, you will
see further evidence of why I believe NM418 (Spruce turns into NM418 as you head
out of town) must have also been a portion
of original U.S. 80. Just 2 miles past the intersection of NM427, look to
the right for a fantastic sight: a 1920's era old Texaco. Take a look at
the faded lettering on the side. This place
is still advertising tubes for heaven's sake! A strong indicator that this
was indeed, the main thoroughfare at one time.
Continuing west on NM418, you get that wide
open feel that is so common out west. For example, take a look
at this typical road scene near the intersection of NM418 & Pelayo
Road. There also exist an interesting stone building and abandoned garage
As you motor on, NM418 ends and you have to
rejoin the rest of boring humanity by continuing on I-10. But before you
do, be sure to check out the remains of old asphalt on the north side of
the road at the Gage exit (exit 62). From here to Separ, look for
many segments of this old road bed paralleling you on the north side of
the road, but any asphalt/concrete and or bridges/culverts have been
removed a long time ago.
A good exit to explore is I-10 exit 42: Separ & the Continental
Divide. And thanks to the power and reach of the internet, now a much
more interesting one as well! 1/2 mile east of the iconic Bowlin's
Trading Post, a forlorn station awaits. Last year I was wondering on
these pages what the history of this station was, and we now have an
answer! After first being contacted by Robert of Jones
Construction, Robert put me in touch with Dar May, one of the May brothers
who spent his childhood here at Separ and sent me a wonderful history of
the area. All of the following info on Separ comes from Dar's notes,
so Dar, thanks so much for sharing your life with the world!
The name SEPAR, apparently is short for 'SEPARated'. Being near the
continental divide, perhaps locomotives were taken off and shunted back
downhill to other trains needing their services.
In 1948, Dar's father, Rayburn Buris May, purchased a small Standard
station on the south side of old Highway 80 facing north (now under
I-10). This is the little beauty as seen in this first pic to the
left. Wanting a little more room, Raymond quickly (circa 1950, built
a larger station on the north side of the highway facing
south - complete with western wear and post office!. This is
terrific second photo to the left. Circa 1956, construction on I-10
began, and the old station was right in the path. Being an industrious
lot, Rayburn & his wife LaVerne, immediately moved their homestead to
what would be the Southside of I-10 and built the new station whose remnants
you see today. Unfortunately, the interchange was put in further
west by Bowlin's and the little station finally had to call it
quits. The Mays retired and went off to Deming, but again, Dar, we
can't thank you enough for sharing the history of May's Standard Service
Only one more major stop here in western
New Mexico: Lordsburg. Unfortunately, Lordsburg has been hit incredibly
hard by its bypassing. Though U.S. 70 & 80 were both co-signed through
here, it appears as if there are only one or two viable businesses
remaining. I'd advise caution here as I received several stares and a
suspicious, repeat drive-bys while I took a few photos. This is too bad as
Lordsburg looks very interesting and has a neat, old turn of the century
downtown strip (mostly boarded up now). Towards the outer edges, remnants of better times can be
seen in the facade of the old Alamo Motel the eastside of town
and the neat sign of the Bel-Shore Motel towards the west side of town.
Its been some time since any of these places were lit at night.
From here west, unfortunately there's not much left. Many minute stretches of abandoned, early roadbed can be seen at many
of the exits on the north side of the interstate through here. For
example, look for small stretches of old asphalt at exit 29 (Turbine Station Rd)
east of Lordsburg and north of the highway west of Lordsburg. The picture
of the train at the top of the page was taken off of exit 15 (Gary) north by the
train tracks. There is evidence of old asphalt all along this stretch, but
it would take a 4-wheel drive vehicle to explore further/deeper along
this path in search of old concrete. It does seem logical though, as most
of the early highways followed the pre-existing rail right-of-ways as much as
One last turn south at Road Forks, and your
off on the last stretch of 80 (here conveniently named NM 80) down to the
Arizona border and Douglas. Beautiful country with stunning vistas. I would seriously
advise a side-trip to the Chiricahuas as they are a spectacular set of mountains
and spires-an interesting study in volcanism and geologic erosion. There is
also a mine tour available near here at Granite Gap and the small town of Rodeo (see pic)
gives one last glimpse of New Mexico civilization before you forge ahead on
Highway 80 into Arizona!
Don't want to check out Arizona? Feel free to jump
into any Hwy 80 state!