Fierro, New Mexico Was A Mining Town
I visited Fierro, New Mexico in the fall of 2006. These images went missing for about ten years and then I found them again.
"Fierro" means "iron" in Spanish and the town of Fierro is located a few miles north east of Silver City. Fierro was founded in 1841 by a German immigrant. It was a mining town that went belly up during the great depression.
Those who were not killed in mining accidents moved away when the economy tanked, creating a ghost town and leaving behind a church with a lonely caretaker.
St. Anthony's Catholic Church
St. Anthony's Catholic Church was built by the miners of Fierro in 1916. I don't know who would be attending church there nowadays, but I guess there's at least one person.
While poking around the outside of the church I was approached by a woman who asked if I wanted to see the inside. Her name was Juana and I said, "yes, please!" Juana let me in and preceded to regale me with with her personal testimony of the power of the Christ. Keep in mind that this was a long time ago so I may have forgotten some of the finer points but I remember her saying, "It's in the blood, the power is in the blood", over and over again.
Juana let me wander all through the church and shoot whatever photos I wanted. After a while she said, "I'm going home, bring the keys back to my house when you're done." So I did.
It was close to Halloween and Juana had ghosts hanging from trees in her yard. I didn't take any photos inside her house because that seemed rude. I can tell you though, that the inside of her house was decorated like the gift shop of a southwestern ghost town. Every possible surface, both horizontal and vertical, was covered in do-dads, artifacts, photographs, and religious paraphernalia.
Juana cooked tortillas from scratch and fried eggs over easy. All of it was delicious. She told a terrible story of how all the men in her family had been killed in the mine. Her father, her brothers, her husband, her son... all killed in mining accidents. She told me about making burritos as a child and selling them to "white people like you".
Juana was the caretaker of the church and the only resident I remember encountering in Fierro. She was gracious and friendly but I wonder sometimes if she was real.
A Treasure From The Archives
Included in my recently discovered treasure trove of lost images was this trip to Cuervo, New Mexico in September of 2005. The photos were unedited so, to match the look of my more recent ghost town work, I transferred the images to my phone and edited them with Snapseed. I'm pretty sure I shot these with a first generation Canon Digital Rebel and the 18-55mm kit lens that came with it.
One Day They All Left
While visiting Cuervo, you expect to see the word "Croatoan" carved in a tree. It's like the inhabitants of the town all went on an ill fated field trip. Many of the houses are still furnished and even the hair salon looks ready for business... sorta. Do keep in mind that this was in 2005, there's no telling what is or isn't there now.
A Bit Of History
Cuervo was founded in 1901 when the railroad came through. In 1910 the surrounding land was opened to cattle ranching and this gave more people a reason to live there. In the 1940's, when Route 66 came to town, the population peaked at over 300. Despite a rapidly dwindling population, Cuervo managed to keep it's own post office until September 10, 2011 but it does still have it's own zip code of 88417.
Today, Cuervo is considered an unincorporated community. It is located roughly 17 miles east of Santa Rosa off I-40. If you go there, don't go alone. There are still a few observant locals living in the hills above and they are most certainly aware of any visitors to the ghost town. In fact, the last time I was there (circa 2011) my group was confronted by a local with a rifle. After chatting with him for awhile, he turned out to be friendly but nonetheless you wouldn't want to be there alone. Additionally, there are plenty of things like uncovered wells that are overgrown with weeds and many ways to get hurt. Don't go ghost town exploring alone, it's just not a good idea. And, as always, take only photos and leave only footprints.
Before The Flood
Way back in 2012, I took a trip to Boulder, CO with my friend Amy. We went to attend a Bryan Kest yoga workshop. One of the other fun things we did on our trip was visit the semi-ghost town of Gold Hill that is located at the top of mountain behind the city of Boulder.
Gold Hill is a census designated place which means that a few people live there so they have to call it something. According to the 2010 census, the population was 230. The town has (had?) an active town meeting with elected officials but no municipal government.
Originally a mining camp, Gold Hill holds a historical significance in Colorado history as the site of the first major discovery of gold during the 1859 Colorado Gold Rush. During it's heyday in the late 1800's the population soared to around 1500 but has been in a long decline since then.
Gold Hill also boasts the oldest public school house in Colorado which has been in continuous operation since 1873. There are lots of historical wooden structures, some abandoned, some renovated and modernized. It's a fun little town to walk around and look at stuff, maybe stop in to the local coffee shop for a mocha.
Be advised that, if it's still there, the access road to reach Gold Hill which sits at an elevation of 8300 feet is not paved and is sketchy on a good day. DO NOT ATTEMPT in inclement weather. From 4th and Mapleton in Boulder, take Sunshine Canyon Road all the way to the top.
Before attempting to reach Gold Hill, I highly recommend doing some research to see if it's still there. After the massive flooding of the area in 2013, I had heard from a resident of Morrison that Gold Hill was leveled and washed away. So far I've had a hard time verifying this information but I wouldn't drive all the way back out there unless I knew for sure.
The Creepiest Thing Ever
I wish I had taken a wider shot to show the context but this really bizarre tile was embedded in the wall of a stairwell that would've led to the basement of the structure. The basement is all that was left though so it was more like a stairway to a hole in the ground. Next to the knives on the table in Navarino, WI this wall tile is ranking high on the list of creepiest thing found in abandoned structures. And to have put it in the stairwell to the basement, where the evil resides, is just messed up.
The Old Cemetery
The photo below makes me think of the song, Mykonos, by the Fleet Foxes. There is an old cemetery outside of town and I made my friends walk for over an hour to find it because I remembered it from a previous trip but couldn't remember how to get there. It is old and creepy and everything a mountain ghost town cemetery should be in the September before the flood.
All of these photos were shot with an iPhone4 (which was cutting edge at the time) using the Hipstmatic app.
A Return Trip To Cerrillos
Back in April, my mom and I made a return trip to Cerrillos and I got some shots that I wasn't able to get the first time. For example, I really wanted to get some photos of the Antonio Simoni building (see above) but on my previous visit there were cars parked out front, ruining the old and haunted vibe that I wanted to show. But on this trip, no cars and a nice little breeze to blow that New Mexico state flag out at the exact perfect angle. Sometimes I get lucky!
To see the photos from my first post about Cerrillos, including Mary's Bar and other iconic locations, click here.
Abandoned House On The Outskirts Of Town
When I say the "outskirts of town", keep in mind that the outskirts of Cerrillos are only about three blocks from the inskirts of town, even though "inskirts" is not a proper word.
So anyway... this house is off HWY 14, The Turquoise Trail, right before the turn off that would take you into town. This house is abandoned BUT it is on the same property as another house that is not abandoned and they're all inside the same fence so don't go inside or you will likely have a wild west encounter with someone who doesn't want you there.
When I initially posted the photo below on Twitter, a woman commented that her daughter used to live in this house. She told me that her daughter lived there with her slacker boyfriend and that the house was a disaster on the inside. She said that her daughter eventually came to her senses and moved out, leaving the boyfriend to his own devices.
This kind of thing happens all the time and I think it's super cool when people recognize and can share what they know about the abandoned places I photograph. Just goes to show that it's a small, small world.
Houses Farther From The Road
Close to house above, off HWY 14, are these other two abandoned houses. They are pretty far off the road but are also on the same property as a house that is clearly inhabited with a No Trespassing sign on the gate to the driveway. The photo below is particularly far from the road (and no good way to zoom in with the MotoX4) but if you look close there is a horse running in front of the house.
And Then There's This Place
This structure is not exactly in Cerrillos or Madrid. It's on HWY 14 in between the two towns. The building has no windows and only one door so maybe it was a jail or a general store? In any case, someone went through a lot of trouble to do the nice brick work over the door.
The building is built into the side of a hill so, if you walk around to the back, you can look down into the interior (since there's no roof). Two camp fire sites show evidence of continued habitation.
The Pump House
This place is actually at the south end of Madrid. There is a gate but it's not locked and there's no signs. Additionally, there are several picnic tables on the north side. Initially, I thought it was an abandoned house but, upon closer inspection, it's a pump house. There is a huge holding tank behind the house and that trough on the right hand side is full of fresh water. Perhaps it was a home or a small store at one time but it's definitely a pump house now.
Gold Mine Road
Be careful on Gold Mine Road. There is a nice bed and breakfast at the top of the hill called Hacienda Dona Andrea de Santa Fe. Other than that, everything else is private property and the hills have eyes! Additionally, if you turn off Gold Mine Road, all those little roads are not paved and are pretty sketchy. Definitely not appropriate for your average city slicker mobile. The photo below was shot from a location pretty close to the bed and breakfast.
All photos shot with Motorola MotoX4 and edited with Snapseed.
So, uh.... what happened here?
If there were one question to sum up the area known as Meadow Lake, it would be, "What happened here?" You could look in any direction and ask this question dozens of times. For starters, there is a man-made lake that was built who knows when or why and was closed for reasons that remain mysterious. Aside from that, run down, abandoned, gutted and often burned mobile homes are strewn across the desert like forgotten dominoes, but right next door could be a beautiful and well maintained home.
And then there's this house.
By any standard of measure, this house would've been considerably nicer than most anything else in the area. For one thing, it's actually a spacious site-built home but then there's also the enclosed courtyard and the in-ground pool. No one up here has an in-ground pool.
And then one day, the whole thing went to hell. From the looks of things, I would guess ruination day was around ten years ago.
As I approach the entrance to the courtyard, the ground is absolutely covered with every manner of thing from the house. There are clothes and shoes and toys and trash..., soo much trash. Aside from this small stuff, furniture is cast about all over the place. There are several couches sitting in the yard.
I tried to find a news story that could explain what happened but came up empty handed. It looks to me like the residents of the house did not salvage any of their belongings after the fire. As you can see in the photos, the house was completely destroyed, and these people just walked away.
Or did they?
It's possible, likely even, that they didn't survive the fire. It's also possible that the fire was not an accident, making whatever happened here a crime as opposed to just an unfortunate event.
Why was nothing cleaned up? Why was nothing rebuilt? If they survived, I would assume they had home-owners insurance but you know what they say about assuming. Where did they go and who owns the land now?
So many questions...
What happened here?
All photos shot with Motorola MotoX4 and edited with Snapseed.
I am DeAnna Vincent, fine art and portrait photographer in Los Lunas, New Mexico. These are the photos from my everyday adventures.