I have stood on the corner of Amador and Water Streets in Las Cruces since the 1870s, serving as a rest stop for weary drovers and travelers. In 1879, my owner, Martín Amador, added my second floor. I was transformed into the Courthouse for Doña Ana County and I also served as the Post Office, thus becoming a community center where people met and traded stories. Although a couple of my rooms were used as a jail for a few years, I would like to put to rest the myth that Billy the Kid was once an "honored" guest behind those locked doors.
The mid-1880s were a wonderful time for me; the opening of a separate new Courthouse allowed me a new life. The area was growing, bustling with activity. I became the most popular entertainment hall between El Paso and Silver City, my walls ringing with music and laughter. People of all ages roller skated on my beautiful hardwood floors and everyone came to the delightful bailes on Saturday nights. I had a grand stage and hosted delightful theatrical productions, light opera, and puppet shows for the children.
By 1907 my owners, Martín and Refugio Amador had passed, and I came into the care of Corina, their youngest daughter. She was ambitious and savvy like her father; I was to be special, not an ordinary boarding house or hotel. With love and care from Corina and her husband, Frank Campbell, I became the finest hotel in the region. I was filled with beautiful furniture and exotic collections from all over the world. Corina was always searching for new treasures.
Famous people came and went and I was proud to show them my hospitality. I looked so festive when President Teddy Roosevelt visited, and Governor Dillon of New Mexico had a special room during his stay. The Acequia Madre flowed past my windows and I was surrounded by lush greenery.
My Pinto Bar and restaurant were very popular with people from all walks of life—from Pat Garrett to scientists with the Manhattan Project. I had a shaded patio where hotel guests and locals alike would set aside their cares to enjoy our sunny afternoons. Las Crucens used my stunning establishment to mark celebrations of life—wedding anniversaries, birthdays, graduations, quinceaneras. Even now their children and grandchildren tell the stories.
Martin Campbell, one of Corina and Frank’s children, used his skills (and his stories) to enhance my presence in the center of the Mesilla Valley. But the times changed—roads became highways and then highways became interstates. Downtown hotels that had been destinations gave way to motor courts on the outskirts of town. Motels had their own bars and restaurants. Eventually Martin died, and try as they might, the Amador/Campbell family found they could no longer afford to keep my doors open. My life as a hotel seemed over; I became a bystander!
I hardly recognized myself when I was sold in 1972 to be a bank. Granted, it was a local bank, and Mr. Ikard, the bank president, valued my history as an icon near the famous El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. But I am at my heart a hotel. I am listed on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties not as a bank, but as a hotel. Well, at least Las Crucens came through my doors again. And rather than demolish parts of my original structure, the Citizens Bank added a vault and new offices while updating my mechanical systems.
In 1983 I was again dismayed when sold to Doña Ana County for use as administrative offices. While the County, like the bank before it, tried to honor my heritage, I was becoming one of those buildings that was neither genuinely old nor beautifully new. Over the years my thick adobe walls were being damaged by time, water, and misuse; my true nature was being obscured by false ceilings and quick partitions. I was grateful to have been saved from “urban renewal” and “redevelopment”, but I could feel myself slipping away (literally, in the case of my adobe!).
At last, I was horrified, and terrified, to be abandoned in 2006 when everyone left me. The County consolidated its offices and moved into a new Government Center miles away. I was no longer needed, and felt very unwanted. My walls and rooms fell silent after so many decades of life and commerce.
Yet, I determined to keep the faith. Because in my very soul, I was sure that my core structure remained strong. I was ready for rebirth, I awaited restoration.
The Doña Ana County Historical Society was the first group to see my plight. In 2007 citizens who cared about historic buildings brought my situation to the attention of the City Council. A foundation was formed bearing my name and volunteers emerged. With some time and much persuasion, the City decided to help me become a “project” and my future began to look brighter.
In the midst of all this, I am finally experiencing new life flowing through my doors. I am ever so grateful that once again, people are beginning to come to me for events. Couples are making anniversary plans that include me! Groups are using my main lobby for elegant catered events. I am hosting fundraisers not only for myself, but for other community groups as well. And then there are always the Ghost Tours…
While I have this moment to brag, I must let you know that some of my original furnishing that were auctioned off years ago are now coming home, donated by kind admirers. And speaking of my reputation, I must tell you that naming my rooms after female relatives did not mean I was anything other than a fine hotel. I may have my ghosts, but none are ladies of ill-repute!
I am happy at last! As the sole survivor of the hotels that once graced this city, I now look forward to reclaiming my place in the life of this proud Mesilla Valley. The Amador, as I prefer to be known to my friends, is being restored! I will once again be a jewel in the crown of Downtown Las Cruces!