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Visiting Pagosa Springs during the early 1920s

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Photo courtesy of John M. Motter The Pagosa Springs Town Hall sitting on the parking lot on the west river bank of the San Juan River at the northeast intersection of San Juan and Pagosa streets was a landmark for decades. Time finally caught up with the old building and town business was moved to Triangle Park, where it was conducted until the present building was erected just a few years ago.

Photo courtesy of John M. Motter
The Pagosa Springs Town Hall sitting on the parking lot on the west river bank of the San Juan River at the northeast intersection of San Juan and Pagosa streets was a landmark for decades. Time finally caught up with the old building and town business was moved to Triangle Park, where it was conducted until the present building was erected just a few years ago.

Today, let’s assume we’re visiting Pagosa Springs during the early 1920s. It might be interesting to climb into our car — after cranking it to start it — and drive to the Upper Blanco Basin. The folks who made that trip at that time would have appreciated today’s roads.

A good place to start would be the corner of San Juan and Pagosa Streets downtown. A two-story brick building housing Citizen’s Bank, the only bank in town, occupied the northwest corner of this intersection. During the early 1920s, the present courthouse had not been built. There were likely a few false-front frame buildings occupying the stretch of road now occupied by the courthouse.

On the northeast corner of the intersection today occupied by a parking lot, was the Town Hall building, which also included the fire station and possibly the library.

And so, we steer our jalopy on San Juan Street across the San Juan River. When we get across the river, we immediately turn south down the old road which is the historic entrance to town from the south. Almost immediately, we pass, on our right, the Pagosa Hot Spring resort which included a bathhouse for ladies, a bathhouse for gentlemen, and a combined bathhouse. It is in the early stages of being owned by the Billy Lynn family.

A couple of buildings, probably hotels for hot springs tourists, are located on the left side of the street across from the hot springs. As we go south, the next building is a residence on the right side where today’s Town Hall is located. During that time, there was no bridge across the river at this location. We continue south about a mile to where the road hits Mill Creek and turns left (east). The first Pagosa Springs post office and store were located in this vicinity where a bridge crossed the river during the 1870s. On the river bank on the right at the turn is a water-powered electricity generating plant. The skeleton of that old building remains to this day.

In any case, we follow the road upstream along Mill Creek, (called Frio Creek on an 1870s map) and turn south probably a little before today’s turn at U.S. 84.

U.S. 84 as we know it today did not exist at that time. I’m not sure if the roadway that now encircles Reservoir Hill by way of U.S. 160 existed at that time. Several historical events occurred near this corner.

During the 1920s, remnants may have remained of the New Mexico Lumber Company narrow gauge railroad that originated in Lumberton and ran all of the way to Mill Creek. Also, in 1891 or 1892, the last stage holdup we know about near Pagosa Springs took place at this location.

This story was posted on February 27, 2014.