New Mexico 80
(Bygone Byways(TM) since 2001)


"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.80-NM-Gary-Exit 15-Possible old 80 N by tracks.jpg (97419 bytes)  However, decommissioned as a U.S. highway in New Mexico in 1991, Highway 80 has largely been replaced by I-10 for the length of the entire state.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).80-NM-Berino-JM Acosta Real Estate 1.JPG (205847 bytes) 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 80-NM-Las Cruces-Kilby Motel-Old Dona Ana.JPG (135323 bytes) much remains today to remind us that 80 once passed through this part of town.  However, 80PC-NM-Las Cruces-Dona Ana Auto Court 2-NoPM.jpg (233505 bytes)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 80PC-NM-Las Cruces-Dona Ana Auto Court-1941.jpg (285306 bytes)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 Map-NM-1959-NM Detail.gif (121134 bytes)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!


Though apparently 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.  80-NM-Deming-Cabins.jpg (147688 bytes)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 80-NM-Deming-Coronado Apartments.jpg (89177 bytes)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 be demolished.

On newer Pine Street, there also still exist a couple of notable motels that have hung on despite the onslaught of the chains.  Both the80-NM-Deming-Mirador Motel Sign.jpg (146875 bytes) 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 Stage80-NM-Deming-Anselment's Butterfield Stage Sign.jpg (104804 bytes) 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 travels.80-NM-Deming-Anselman's Butterfield Stage Neon.jpg (98326 bytes)  


Author's addendum:  Al Garvin previously of Deming provided me this wonderful story:

"'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 80-NM-Deming-Old Texaco W of Town 2.jpg (98050 bytes)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 80-NM-Deming-Old Texaco W of Town 3.jpg (102241 bytes)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 look80-NM-Hwy NM418 & Pelayo Rd Lkg East.jpg (98536 bytes) at this typical road scene near the intersection of NM418 & Pelayo Road.  There also exist an interesting stone building and abandoned garage here.

 


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.  

    80-NM-Continental Divide-Abandoned Station.jpg (98958 bytes)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 80-NM-Separ-May's Standard 1adj.jpg (157083 bytes)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 80-NM-Separ-May's Standard 4adj.jpg (185793 bytes)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 with us. 

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 couple of80-NM-Lordsburg-Unknown Motel E end of Town.jpg (66821 bytes) 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 town80-NM-Lordsburg-Bel Shore Motel Sign.jpg (75321 bytes) 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 possible.

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 seriously80-NM-Rodeo-Art Gallery.jpg (102570 bytes) 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!

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