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Hillsboro's History Comes Alive May 19

For a little town, historic Hillsboro is a happening place—especially on Saturday, May 19. That's when Hillsboro will celebrate New Mexico Heritage Preservation Month with a tour of historic homes and gardens and a Heritage Music Festival. Lieutenant Governor Diane Denish will be on hand to kick off the festivities.

The stone arches are all that survive of Hillsboro's courthouse.

Hillsboro is located 17 miles east of I-25 via Hwy. 152 on the east slope of the Black Range, about 40 miles east of Silver City. The town began in 1877 when two prospectors found gold and silver in the foothills and drainages. The 65-acre townsite, enclosed by two ridges, is located on Percha Creek. Hillsboro soon developed a substantial business district, fine homes, professional offices and a beautiful brick courthouse, and was a stop on was the last stagecoach route in the West. Many structures have survived the subsequent 130 years of ups and downs.

The self-guided "A Gift to the Street" tour, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., will showcase six homes and three gardens:

Nolan and Winkler—As you enter town from the east, on the right, stands a "morada," a small home with a portal (covered porch) on the south side. Its authentic floor plan is a row of rooms with connecting doors, with a dirt-covered roof and a shed roof covering small rooms on the north. This style displays the Spanish Colonial church influence and the economical pueblo style of pre-Spanish dwellings along the Rio Grande.

Hillsboro Court—Recently purchased from a five-generation Hillsboro family, the Shoenradts, the Court is undergoing rehabilitation by Mary Ann Sapp. Beginning with the large center adobe, built before 1931, this group of adobe buildings evolved into an auto court surrounding a courtyard of grass and flowers.

Haley/Gritzbaugh Home—One of the town's newer homes, this is a straw-bale construction at the west end of town. Designed and built by owners Jan Haley and Gary Gritzbaugh, the home shows how a new structure, with modern but traditional technology, can fit into an existing historic community.

Richman/Steadman House—This Victorian cottage was built circa 1895 and is undergoing an extensive renovation by its owner, a skilled restoration carpenter who recognized its historical bones under layers of "nuevo" materials.

Merk House—The fifth home is a tall adobe with a symmetrical facade, two bay windows and a Victorian-style front door. A long, cool-looking porch and a "banco" straw-bale fence complete a lovely picture facing Elenora Street. The front portion of the home, built about 1898, is original; the rear portion, also adobe, duplicates the footprint of the street wing, enclosing a "great room."

Sullivan House—One of the documented oldest (1885) historical adobes in town, this sits on the "hill," tucked between the Community Center and the Community Church. The classic three-room adobe was built by the first generation of the Sullivan/Tafoya family from Monticello, and was rehabbed in the 1980s by well-known artists Bob "Shoofly" and Julie Shufelt.

Happy Flats Iris Garden—Entering Hillsboro from the east, you'll find a riot of color on the site of a long-gone Pentecostal mission.

Ed's Garden—A walled courtyard and portal behind an 1883 adobe on Main Street house an intimate garden with a rainbow of flowers.

Dobrott Garden—On Elenora Street, a black rock cottage is the backdrop for a garden of native plants.

In addition to the house and garden tours, all businesses will be open, along with Hillsboro's two churches and the site of the courthouse ruin.

Signs will be in front of each site, and guides will be present. Tickets with a guidebook and map may be purchased at any tour home. Tickets are $10 per adult, children under 12 free, or $5 per adult, paid in advance, by mailing a check to Friends of the Hillsboro Community Library, Home Tour Event, PO Box 205, Hillsboro, NM 88042.


The Heritage Music Festival, held in the Hillsboro Community Center following the tours from 2-10 p.m., was also created with an eye toward Hillsboro's historic structures. Funds raised by the May 19 concerts will go toward purchase of the 1892 courthouse and jail site and ruins located five doors west of the community center. The fledgling Hillsboro Historic Society aims to protect this hilltop site, with its spectacular view framed by the elegant arched brick entry of the former courthouse.

The celebrated courthouse was sold in 1939, and taken apart brick by brick. Its demise resulted from a dispute that erupted when the seat of county government was moved from Hillsboro to the more populous and prosperous city of Hot Springs (now Truth or Consequences). The salvaged bricks were trucked down the road 32 miles, where they were used to build new storefronts in downtown Hot Springs.

The Hillsboro Community Center, site of the music festival, is rich in architectural history, too. Built in 1922, it was the first high school in Sierra County. Designed by the best architects of the day, Trost and Trost from El Paso, the U-shaped complex featured four classrooms surrounding an auditorium, entered from a courtyard. The imposing facade and massive walls are constructed with traditional adobe. Sierra County High School served the region until 1940, when the building became an elementary school until 1970. It was deeded to the Hillsboro Community Club in 1972. In the 1990s, local volunteers lovingly oversaw a restoration of the center. A monthly series of concerts and dances began in 2003, which inspired the installation of a new sound and light system in 2005, funded by a state grant.

Bringing together folk, blues, country and bluegrass bands, the festival will showcase local and regional musicians who reflect New Mexico's diverse musical roots:

2 p.m.—Electric Campfire Orchestra (acoustic eclectic swing oldies)

3 p.m.—The Deming Fusiliers (Appalachian string band)

4 p.m.—Sistah Acidophilus and Her Bad Habitz (acoustic old-time blues)

5 p.m.—The Hassle Family (New folk and old protest)

6 p.m.—Tim Wiedenkeller (Banjo virtuoso)

7 p.m.—Mackie Redd (local singer-songwriter with Nashville roots)

8- 10 p.m.—The Adobe Brothers (danceable high-energy bluegrass and gospel)

Tickets are $5 per band. $20 buys a day pass for adults. Children 10 and under are free. A limited number of advance tickets will be on sale at the Percha Creek Traders (a local artists co-op) at 300 Main St. Tickets may be reserved with a credit card and picked up on the day of the event; call 895-5116.

The festival is being created through the cooperation of the HCC Board of Directors, the Hillsboro Historic Society, the Friends of the Library, the Percha Creek Traders and the Black Range Lodge. Sponsoring organizations include the Sierra County Tourism Advisory Board, the Sierra County Arts Council and the Elephant Butte Rotary Club.

Volunteers will provide refreshments in the HCC kitchen, to raise funds for continued maintenance. A silent auction featuring donations from local artists and businesses and sales of a special commemorative poster will raise money and awareness of the community's efforts to preserve an important symbol of the past. If the festival proves a success, it will become an annual event.

Visit www.HillsboroNM.org and www.HillsboroNM.com for more information.


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