Last Saturday we drove about 30 miles north to the town of Silver City. This slightly rough-around-the-edges town of 10,000 residents is perched on the outskirts of the Gila National Forest, serving as a gateway of sorts to the high desert forest of evergreen trees and red rock cliffs. The town was founded after the discovery of silver ore in 1870. Soon folks were pouring in from the east, intent on making a fortune. The eastern transplants built grand Victorian houses and hotels, many of which still line the historic main streets alongside newer adobe buildings and colorful painted shops and galleries.
Eventually the silver industry went bust, but unlike many of the boom towns, Silver City did not fall decline after all that wealth was mined away. In part because mining returned to the town in 1910 with the development of a large-scale copper mining operation that continues to be the basis of the town’s economy today. Silver City also has a thriving art and music scene, as evidenced by the many galleries, public murals, and theaters sprinkled around town.
We began our tour of Silver City with a visit to the local museum. As we entered the Silver City Museum a very nice volunteer greeted us and offered up a brief history of the museum, including details about the restored 1881 house that the museum calls home. The house began as a family dwelling, changed hands several times before turning into a boarding house, was acquired by the town who turned it into the city hall, then the local fire department moved in, and finally in 1967 it was turned into a museum.
Our walk around the museum took us through the history of Silver City including exhibits about mining, and an entire room devoted to a series of devastating floods that consumed parts of the town in the 19th century. There were also some great exhibits showcasing the history of southern New Mexico. We both agreed that our favorite was the Ghost Town Diaries, which offered up a glimpse of ghost towns around the state as seen through the lens of photographer Kark Kernberger. It was absolutely fascinating.
After an hour or so at the museum we strolled down the street to the Jalísco Cafe for lunch. The slogan on their sign is true. It sure was some fine Mexican food. Authentic? I really couldn’t say. Tasty, affordable, and served in a timely manner? Absolutely! We noticed that down in these parts of the southwest the restaurants don’t hold back when it comes to spicing things up. The salsa served at the table along with our complimentary chips had some serious heat! I noticed a little warning on their menu about the guacamole, which contains jalapaños. It said something to the effect of “no refunds after the guacamole is on the table”. Hmmm…wonder if they’ve had some complaints? I for one love a little spice to my guacamole, and was more than happy with my guacamole filled tostada.
Full and satisfied we continued our walk around town past several antique stores, tiny shops selling gifty stuff, a handful of restaurants, a surprisingly happening bar (considering it was only early afternoon) art galleries, an interesting looking food co-op, two bike shops, a theater under renovation, and quite a few empty store fronts.
Originally we planned to take a small hike after lunch. The Boston Hill Trails are accessed by several trailheads near the historic district. The trails wind up hills and down into ravines offering up views of the city and glimpses of former mining sites. They sounded just like the kind of thing we normally enjoy, but in the end we decided to skip it because I wasn’t feeling up to it. The night before I started to feel run down and just generally not well. I woke up Saturday morning feeling much better, but by the time we finished walking around town my fatigue had returned full force and I knew I wasn’t up for a hike. Afraid that I was coming down with something we headed home for nap. Luckily whatever it was went away after a nice long nap on Saturday afternoon. Pheww…I hate being sick.
I guess we need to put Silver City on the list for a return visit. I feel like we barely scratched the surface of what the town and surrounding area has to offer. Next time we want to visit the other museum in town, hike the Boston Hill trails, dine on homemade tamales at Masa y Mas, and head north to the Gila Cliff Dwellings and the historic gold mining town of Pinos Altos.