Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Ruins by the Rails: Ricardo, New Mexico

Ricardo, New Mexico is yet another of the many towns that came to life seemingly overnight as the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad (AT&SF RR) built the Belen Cut-off through the east-central part of the state. Located in De Baca County, a few miles south of Highway 60, the recorded history of Ricardo appears to be scant at best. The town’s name is thought to have been that of a railroad official, and Ricardo, right along the tracks, was an AT&SF RR section house and water station.

Ricardo had a post office, which operated from 1908-1956, after which point the mail went to Fort Sumner. There was also a school house, which I’ve been told was comparable in size to the First Presbyterian Church of Taiban. In the late-1950’s the school was purchased and hauled away so the lumber could be reused. A vintage photo of the train depot would seem to indicate that Ricardo at one point had the one and ONLY flower garden in De Baca County.

While none of what I’ve described still stands, one gem does persist—at least for now—and that is the Ricardo hotel. A wonderful two-story adobe structure, it’s true that it's surely near collapse.However, now a lone sentinel over this small part of the eastern plains, much of its old charm and majesty somehow remains. It’s not hard to imagine travelers newly arrived off the train making haste on a windy night or cold winter’s day to find some comfort in the hotel, or perhaps lounging on the porch of a fine spring morning, the wildflowers blooming way-off into the distance. If you’re quiet, beneath the prairie wind you can almost hear boots slowly climbing the shattered wooden stairs.

You don’t have to be quiet to hear cows though, a couple dozen of which may be quite excited to see you until they learn you have no food. Then they just seem vaguely hostile. I assume the concrete structure below was once used to water such cattle, but I’m not certain. Perhaps someone can provide some insight.

I should also mention that not only is Ricardo remote, it's on private ranchland. At one time I thought it might've been owned by the railroad, but that's not the case. So unless you have a reservation, the Ricardo hotel should remain guest-free, as it has for decades.

And that's all I know about the ghost town of Ricardo. I would love to hear more from anyone that might have something to tell, so please leave a comment if you do. For now, “The Place Names of New Mexico” has the most to say, and I picked up a bit more info from some knowledgeable viewers of the City of Dust Facebook page. I got the vintage photo from NM ghost town photographer Beata Certo, but no one knows the original source. Anyway, thanks, folks!

Next time I believe we’ll visit Contreras, down in Socorro County.


CoastConFan said...

You found a really obscure one this time. I’ve been up and down Hwy 60 many times and never even heard of this place. Then again De Baca County has a total population of around 2,000 including the metropolis of Fort Sumner, whose population is about 1,000 itself.

Piqued with interest as to which NM county had the least, with a little googling, I found that Harding County had even less, standing at 695 total with the county seat of Mosquero having 93 souls. There’s got to be some ghost towns there!

jmhouse said...

Oh yeah, CoastConFan, Ricardo is out there a bit. While it is south of Highway 60, and not far from Fort Sumner, really, you would never know it was there unless you were looking for it. And, heck, even then you might not find it. There is not exactly an abundance of signage to guide the way.

As for Harding County, your message is quite timely. There are indeed ghosts in them thar hills! In fact, no other part of New Mexico is demanding my attention more than Harding County. In particular, the towns along Highway 3 (such as Villanueva) and Highway 39 (around Roy and Mills, which are not far from Mosquero). I hope to be able to file a report from there soon.

Thanks for mentioning Harding County! I hope you're doing well! JM

Viacomclosedmedown on youtube said...

Heya John,
THought I would cut and paste a U.S. Ghostown trip connecting a shitload of them. FYI http://www.onlyinyourstate.com/usa/ultimate-ghost-town-roadtrip-usa/?utm_source=hao&utm_medium=hoapage&utm_campaign=oiys

jmhouse said...

Hey, that's cool, Viacomclosedmedown on youtube! I'd love to take that trip, although I bet I'd get so distracted I'd never finish. Actually, that doesn't really sound like a problem!

Thanks for the link. Hope you're doing well! JM

Unknown said...

My Dad is from Yeso and he has a world of knowledge about Debaca county's old places. he drove cattle to just about all of the railroad points at one time or another. I'll see if I can get some more background and pass it along.

Viacomclosedmedown on youtube said...

Here's another shorter route right in Nevada: http://www.atlasobscura.com/articles/atlas-obscuras-great-nevada-road-trip?utm_medium=am
Yeah, doing O.K.--hopefully the extreme record buying is starting to decline at the blog but still got 12 boxes or so to rip and listen to for the first time--been converting 20 vinyl per week since 2008 at the blog! I gotta get a life eh? Keep up the good work. Ta Ta

jmhouse said...

Pat Wright, I would *love* to hear anything about DeBaca County that your father has to share. Not only is Ricardo in DeBaca County, but two more of my favorite (semi-)ghost towns, YESO and TAIBAN!

Thanks very much for your comment, and please feel free to send anything you might learn our way! JM

jmhouse said...

Thanks, Viacomclosedmedown on youtube! That's a cool link. I was just talking the other day about exploring Nevada. In fact, I even have a book on US Highway 50, "The Loneliest Highway in America." Talk about an enticing road trip! I do indeed need to get to Nevada ASAP, and as I may end up job-hunting (again) within the next 12 months, I might just have some time.

Hey, you won't find me discouraging anyone from extreme record buying! I've overrun all my shelves and boxes and now records are spilling all over the floor. Keep up the good work yourself! JM

Daniel said...

After reading about dusty cities i must say that you have to read Top 10 dangerous cities

jmhouse said...

Daniel, I have only been to one of those cities (Cape Town), but I really want to take a walking tour of Juarez. Seriously!

Thanks for the link! JM

Unknown said...

My great grandmother is from Ricardo, so I thought I’d let you know that there was no hotel, the building you show as the hotel is actually a two two story home that was built and owned by the Michaels family. They had seven children that lived upstairs. It was also one of the first homes in the area to have indoor plumbing. The toilet was underneath the stairs adjoining the kitchen and parents bedroom.

jmhouse said...

Thank you for your message, Katherine Hicks. That is very interesting info indeed and it would make some sense for the building to be a home, although I've never seen a mention that didn't call it a "hotel." Still, errors do get propagated and propagated again. Ahem.

Have you ever seen it documented elsewhere as a house? Even in private photos? I'd love to have a paper source for future references.

Thanks again! JM

Unknown said...

I grew up on the ranch that now encompasses ricardo.there are many different graveyards that are scattered throughout the area after small pox passed through the area. The two story home is in shambles but as a kid I remember pictures and various other items that were left behind.The old general store has since collapsed but the foundation is still there and many other interesting sights including another house about a mile to the west of the old town. The post office is now part of the ranch home that my grandfather built onto in the 50's next to the barn and tack sheds which used to be a shipping and livery depot from what I was told. Much of those structures are still standing originals with the old air hangar that was built early 1900's. It was quite the place to grow up as a kid and learning the history behind it has been fascinating.

jmhouse said...

Thank you very much for that comment, Unknown! It brings up many questions. First, do you know anything about that two-story house? Who might've lived there or when it was built? I'd first heard it referred to as the Ricardo Hotel, but I think that it's now clear that it was not a hotel. Also, where was the general store? Perhaps next to the house? There is what appears to be a foundation nearby. I would've really loved to get some photographs of the store before it collapsed. Heck, I'd just like to *see* a photograph of it. Finally, are you saying that your grandfather lived in the post office after building on an addition? That's really great! I'd love to see a photo of that, too. Oh...and an old airplane hangar is also out there somewhere?!

Anyway, thanks again for leaving your recollections. It's hard to get much information on Ricardo and I don't come across many (any?) firsthand memories as vivid and detailed as yours! Best, JM