Tuesday, May 26, 2015

For Sale: Fort Bayard, New Mexico



For this installment we’ll be featuring a place you can actually buy if you’ve got some money and a whole lot of gumption: Fort Bayard, New Mexico. Located ten miles east of Silver City, Fort Bayard was established in 1866 as a direct result of the discovery of gold in nearby Pinos Altos in 1859. As gold brought miners and prospectors to what’s now the region of the Gila Wilderness, the Warm Springs Apache did the best they could to drive the new arrivals either back to where they came from or into their graves, whichever happened first. So a fort was built and named after Brigadier General George D. Bayard, a frontier fighter with the First Cavalry who died in the Civil War at Fredericksburg, VA.

Initially, Fort Bayard was comprised of some huts made out of logs and adobe. Not exactly a formidable defense. But by the time serious campaigns were launched against Mangas Coloradas, Victorio, and Geronimo, it had grown considerably. The Army often sent African-Americans, sometimes referred to as Buffalo Soldiers, to battle Native Americans in the West, and such was the case with Fort Bayard.



A monument to one Buffalo Soldier, Corporal Clinton Greaves, of Company C, 9th U.S. Cavalry, stands in the center of the fort. In addition to a statue of a rifleman in action, which may or may not be Corporal Greaves, there is a plaque which reads, “On June 27, 1877 while on patrol in the Florida Mountains near Deming, New Mexico Corporal Greaves performed an act of heroism saving six soldiers and three Navajo scouts from attack by forty to fifty Chiricahua Apache. Corporal Greaves was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor on June 26, 1879.”

However, in 1886, following the capture of Geronimo, the Apache threat subsided. The 400-acre post remained active until 1900, and then Fort Bayard became an Army sanatorium and research center for tuberculosis, the climate of the area being quite salutary for TB sufferers. The hospital was briefly transferred to civilian control before a new one, the first built under the auspices of the Veterans Bureau, was constructed in 1922. Here, in a modern facility with a 1,250-patient capacity, victims of mustard and chlorine gas attacks in WWI used mirrors to reflect the plentiful desert sunshine "into" their lungs in the hope it would heal them. During WWII the fort even housed German prisoners of war. The hospital closed in 2010 with completion of the nearby (but off-property) Fort Bayard Medical Center. And then there were none.



To me, the most striking part of Fort Bayard, which is both a National Historic Landmark and National Historic District, is Officer's Row, a shady avenue comprised of several derelict officer's residences which, aside from one that's a museum, resemble abandoned mansions. They were built in the 1920's to replace the shoddy original officer's quarters. Numerous smaller homes for enlisted men can also be seen, as well as a historic theater and various intriguing outbuildings. The 145,000-square-foot hospital, now boarded-up, reportedly costs about $100,000 annually to maintain and is the first thing slated to be demolished. It may already be gone as of this writing, but I wouldn't bet on it. Even demolition was estimated to cost $4.3 million. (5/28/15 UPDATE: The hospital does indeed remain and there is no evidence of imminent demolition. Thanks, readers!)



Essentially, the state of New Mexico, which has owned the property since 1965, can hardly afford to tear anything down, let alone fix it up. Even the trees are dying from lack of caretaking. So Fort Bayard is on the market. Solicitations for expressions of interest from potential buyers, sort of fancy “For Sale” ads, have appeared in the Wall Street and Albuquerque Journals. How much might a nearly abandoned 19th century fort cost, you ask? Well, don’t reach for your checkbook just yet; there is no asking price, but NM General Services Secretary Ed Burckle is considering all serious proposals, of which there have been so few to date that you could count them on one hand. In fact, part of the reason the hospital is first in line for demolition is because it's thought the removal of the asbestos-filled building will make the fort more attractive to a future buyer who would then (hopefully) preserve the other structures.



There have been many worthy ideas for re-purposing Fort Bayard, with its lovely old buildings and beautiful, open grounds. These include a treatment center for veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder, a workforce development center, a business and industrial park, and a mixed housing development. Others have suggested that the fort be turned into a shelter for homeless vets, a private military academy, or a ghost-hunting destination. The latter might be one way to meet Corporal Greaves and his companions.

Currently, believe it or not, the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society offers guided tours of the old fort every Saturday throughout summer and twice monthly in winter, providing a bit of access and plenty of history. Unfortunately, despite the many people that love the place, not least among them the aforementioned preservation society, Fort Bayard proves that the Beatles were incorrect in at least this instance. It’s not just love the old fort needs, but money, and lots of it.



Information for this post came from The Place Names of New Mexico, as well as very informative articles from the Albuquerque Journal (“NM’s historic Fort Bayard up for sale”) and Silver City Sun-News (“A new day dawns for Fort bayard”). I’d also recommend paying a visit to the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society Facebook page. If you want to know (a lot) more of the fort's history, newmexicohistory.org will keep you busy for a couple hours.

Next time we’ll have a brief fictional interlude, the first since I posted The Monsoon over a year ago. This one is my ode to hitchhikers.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

It does not cost that much I know it was said by someone who doesn't care about the place a lot of us do but we don't have a say.

Shannon Wallace said...

Just wanted to drop by and thank you for your blog. It's really neat to read about these old towns that I never knew existed. This sounds like a place that we might be interested in buying...if we had the money and lifestyle that would allow it! What a neat, rich history this place holds! Thank you for sharing!

jmhouse said...

Thank you for the comment, Anonymous. It's true that one never knows if estimates of costs and whatnot are accurate or just conjured up as a means to an end. I added the word "reportedly" before mentioning the stated $100,000 annual cost of maintaining the hospital. I would actually be a bit surprised if the hospital was really torn down already. I'd put my money on it still standing, although I've been wrong before. Maybe someone can have a look and verify.

On the other hand, fixing up Fort Bayard itself would clearly be very expensive, much more expensive than the purchase price, which is why I'd guess the price to buy might be relatively low. Not that I'm trying to dissuade anyone from tackling the place, mind you! It really is lovely.

Thanks again! JM

jmhouse said...

I really appreciate that, Shannon Wallace! I'm glad you enjoy City of Dust.

I think Fort Bayard is a place a lot of people would like to buy, myself included, if only money and lifestyle were not an issue!

Anyway, thank you very much for stopping by. There are many more old, historic towns yet to come. The supply would seem to be endless.

Best, JM

Anonymous said...

the hospital is still standing..I tend to go for afternoon rides out their to see the deer and to reminisce when I would stay their with my aunt and uncle .

wcm said...

most of the asbestos was removed in the mid 1990s
far more money is waisted by state and federal government that the cost of rebuilding fort bayard would be a drop in the bucket

jmhouse said...

Thanks for the update, Anonymous! I figured the hospital was still standing. I'm glad the deer are still there, too.

Best, JM

Anonymous said...

Many years ago my grandfather was a surgeon there . That is where my dad,who was in the Army there, met my Mother. Dr. Washburn was my grandfather's name.

jmhouse said...

Anonymous, I'm really surprised at the number of people that have family ties to Fort Bayard. Either family members were stationed there, or worked in the hospital, or were even patients. One person told me they had a family member who worked at the hospital and then contracted tuberculosis and became a patient, too. Several people have contacted me to say that they spent part of their childhood there. Someone could write a book on Fort Bayard, I think.

Thanks for sharing your family history! JM

Alejandro Del Llano said...

I lived in the little cottages there for many years growing up. It was the most amazing place to live and there was always something to see and do. You can see lots of deer, elk, and even an occasional mountain lion. It is full of "secret" places were we all knew were there be no one else seemed to have a clue. My favorite place was the larger waterfall (there are two of them). It is extremely dangerous when the water is running but great fun when it is not. I know it sound ironic. I had lots of good friends there. I hope they do something awesome with it. I would buy it if I won the lottery or something and I know exactly what to do with it.

Anonymous said...

How much are they asking?

jmhouse said...

Those are great recollections, Alejandro Del Llano! I can imagine how much fun it was to roam around that area as a kid. I'm jealous. Keep playing the lottery! (But not TOO much, of course.)

Many thanks for your comment. JM

jmhouse said...

Anonymous, there is no true asking price for Fort Bayard. Solicitations for expressions of interest from potential buyers have been made without exactly a flood of subsequent interest. NM General Services Secretary Ed Burckle is said to be considering any and all serious proposals though.

My guess is that the sale price could be very low indeed if the buyer agrees to certain stipulations regarding clean-up and historic preservation. JM

Bobbie Grimes said...

As of May 28, 2015 it is standing.

Melissa Kline said...

I Go Jogging There Everyday And It would Break My Heart To See It Torn Down. Fort Bayard Is So Beautiful And Peaceful

jmhouse said...

Melissa Kline, it *would* be heartbreaking to see Fort Bayard torn down, but since the hospital is still standing--as both you and Bobbie Grimes can confirm!--I'd say there's no imminent danger of wholesale demolition. The biggest threat at the moment continues to be neglect and the uncontrolled weathering of all those historic buildings.

Thanks for your comments! JM

Anonymous said...

Ft. Bayard would make a fantastic reintegration, training and housing center for returning New Mexico veterans. In addition to receiving medical and counseling services, veterans could repair, restore and maintain the property with the assistance of plumbers, electricians, carpenters, etc. During the process they could learn a trade that will benefit them in civilian life. Veterans could be housed for a designated period of time upon discharge from service. In exchange, they would be required to learn a skill or one of several trades that would be necessary to restore, repair and maintain the Fort. After the buildings and grounds have been repaired and restored the Fort could be re-purposed as an event center, conferences, seminars, weddings, scouting, family reunions., etc. The sky is the limit!

Jim Culp said...

I wonder what the actual cost to purchase the property would be? My step-father (a World War II veteran) is buried there.

jmhouse said...

Those are all great ideas, Anonymous! If only there was someone sympathetic to the cause that was in such a position that they could begin to make those things happen. Heck, maybe someone like that will read this post and decide to do something!

Jim Culp, I have a suspicion that the cost *might* be something like $1. I'm speculating, of course. However, the real cost of buying the fort would come in the form of maintenance and rehabilitation, which would likely (hopefully!) follow as a condition of such a sale.

Thanks for your comments! JM

Anonymous said...

We have two organizations which have been doing their best to save Old Fort Bayard. You mentioned the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society, but the at least 8-year-old group, Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition, a 501c3, has been working with the Historic Preservation Society to get something positive to happen at the fort. As in many situations like this, all this is needed is MONEY, along with the will to fix it up. Plenty of groups around here would love to be able to rent and fix up one of the homes, but, so far, the state doesn't seem interested in letting a grass roots group do anything positive.

jmhouse said...

Thanks for your comment, Anonymous. I didn't come across any mention of the Fort Bayard Restoration and Development Coalition in my hunting around on-line, but I'm very happy to hear about it. I do see the Facebook page now. I sure hope something positive begins to happen eventually, and I certainly understand the forces you're up against.

Very best of luck! JM

Ranelle Gose said...

jmhouse, I regret to tell you the hospital is being demolished. I haven't been there for at least a month,but I helped empty the hospital of desks,fixtures, chairs and a lot of other stuff. Last I saw the plumbing was pulled and actual demolition is in progress. It's heart breaking. I do hope and pray that some how the rest will be saved and restored but it's not looking good for Fort Bayard. I have memories from most of my life there. As a child we went to picnics there. In high school I worked with YARC and a lot of our people lived at the hospital. Later I rode horses there and have always taken friends visiting from out of town to see the beauty, serenity and deer. Walking the halls of such an awesome facility was majestic and heart breaking knowing it was nearing is end. I think it would be an awesome place for veterans that are homeless and those with PTSD. It's such a peaceful place. Sorry to be a bearer of sad news.

Ranelle Gose said...

jmhouse, the hospital is being demolished and is in final stages of that demolition. 😢

jmhouse said...

That is very sad news, Ranelle Gose. I wish I could've taken some interior shots of the hospital, but it sounds like it's too late now. Do you know if there are plans to demolish any other buildings or is it just the hospital...at least for now? I had suspected it might be coming down sometime soon. In fact, I thought they could easily have started demolition last year.

Anyway, you're right, Fort Bayard is indeed a peaceful place, and with those grounds it seems like it could be put to such good use.

Well, thanks for the update, somber as it may be. We won't shoot the messenger! JM