Day Five - Old Town Silver City, Ft. Bayard, Piños Altos, Diane's! - Saturday, April 22nd
The next morning, recovered from our crash, we head out to Silver City's
downtown - and Old Town. After a quick stop at the Visitor's Center to grab a flyer or two, we head over to the Historical Society's building
, an old brick Victorian.
Okay, the idea of a brick
Victorian is somewhat weird. Silver City had a very
early ordinance that everything had to be made out of brick, as a fire-prevention measure (I suspect they'd seen one too many small towns go up in flames). So that meant that - if you wanted to build a Victorian-style home, you had to do it in brick.
It works, but it's sorta odd.
At the Historical Society, we pick up a set of walking-tour maps of the city, directing us to some of the more interesting and/or historical buildings there. We immediately hike off on the first one, a tour of downtown Silver City.
In some ways, it reminds me of old town Pasadena - certainly, the buildings are from about the same era. But while most of Pasadena's have long since been, basically, hollowed out, with whole new insides built in the "historical" shells, Silver City's are basically intact - with the odd minor remodel here and there.
One of the buildings is a beautiful old house (still used
as a house - and not as a museum, gift shop, what have you) perched on the edge of a deep arroyo that cuts through the town. Reading the guide, we find out that this "deep arroyo" is actually
the remains of the town's Main Street - and that this house is the only building that was on it still standing.
It seems that back at the dawn of the 20th
century, heavy-duty floods ran down the town and actually washed away the street, cutting down twenty feet in places. The owner of the house managed to get her sewing circle together and sew sandbags, protecting the house from the floods with came up to within feet of her front door. Hers was the only house on Main to survive the flood. To this day, that front door over looks not a street, but what the locals refer to as "The Big Ditch" - which is now a park.
One thing you also notice - and this is probably also
because of those floods - is that Silver City has some of the highest
curbs I've ever seen. Some of the sidewalks are a good five feet above the street. You don't see many sidewalks that have to have stairs built in them at the crosswalks!
While walking though the town (and finding Dee Dee's second
good cup of coffee in New Mexico) we notice a small restaurant called "Diane's" - and the salad someone's being served looks real
good. So we decide that's to be our place of dinner for the evening.
Finishing our first walking tour (sort on time, we will do the other two as driving
tours later that evening, finishing the second just as the sun sets), we get back in the car and head on out to one of our planned destinations, Fort Bayard
Now home to the local Medical Center, Fort Bayard was once home to the famous 9th
Cavalry - the African-American "Buffalo Soldiers"
of song and story. Judging by the old pictures of the grounds, the place hasn't changed all that much since that time.
We visit the Fort's cemetery
, perched on a ridge just to the north. It's surprisingly small, especially for a military cemetery, and a lot of the headstones date from the early years of the fort.
Back on the fort's grounds, there's a statue of Corporal Clinton Greaves - first of the Ninth to win a Congressional Medal of Honor - commemorating the "Buffalo Soldiers." It sits out in the center of the field that fronts (what I think was) the fort's administration building.
They were doing some work on the old dormitory buildings, so we couldn't really see those, so instead, we headed out on a long, narrow, dirt track that said it went to the Fort Bayard Nature Preserve "administration center."
Well, it went out into the middle of nowhere, near the start of several trails that looked interesting, but we saw nothing particularly "administrative" in the area.
(closest we got was a fire-crew camp)
After bumping our way back to Fort Bayard, then back to the highway, we headed off to our next destination, Piños Altos
, a small (former) mining town to the east of Silver City. Like Silver City, it retains several buildings from that era: Unlike it, those buildings more look like what you think when you hear the words "old west mining town."
One of those buildings is an old adobe church built - by of all people - William Randolph Hearst's wife! Apparently, much of the gold that decorates San Simeon (Hearst Castle) comes from here and they sorta wanted to give a gift back - or she did, anyway...
We also checked-out a three-quarter scale reproduction of "Fort Cobre" - an old Spanish, then Mexican, then United States fort that used to exist in the area. Apart from the fort reproduction itself, there are several "displays" of old cabins, mines, and houses within, all giving a good view of life in the nineteenth century west.
(and, Boy!, do I not
want to have to live like that!)
The day running low, we head back to Silver City (and the aforementioned driving version of the walking tours) then go to Diane's for dinner.
And, darn it, now we've got another
favorite restaurant eight-hundred miles from home!
Don't quite know how to classify Diane's food, as it's not in any particular style (we had a Greek dish for an appetizer, Dee Dee then had chicken while I had a cheese-ravioli with mushroom dinner), but it's all good, with friendly service, and a nice casual atmosphere (and I'm big on "casual"). It was so good, in fact, that the following morning...
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