5 Historical Sites in New Mexico
- New Mexico
New Mexico has a history that goes back thousands of years.
When you visit, you’ll be fascinated by stories of the region’s first human inhabitants as well as the people who call the state home today.
1. Chaco Culture National Historical Park
Perhaps the best place to start learning about New Mexico’s history is at Chaco Culture National Historical Park in the northwestern part of the state. This windswept landscape is home to the massive ruins of what was likely the seat of an empire.
Although the area has seen human activity dating back perhaps 15,000 years, it wasn’t until about 900 AD that Chaco Canyon became the center of a powerful cultural and economic system that spread throughout the region. But after just 300 years something went very wrong, and the infant state was abandoned.
2. Zuni Pueblo
Spanish troublemaker Francisco Vásquez de Coronado had dreams of gold. In 1540, he traveled north from Mexico with soldiers, cannons, and a few priests. When he arrived at Zuni, he found a powerful and widespread culture that had been around for 4,000 years.
The Zuni weren’t terribly interested in meeting demands for gold and women—especially from a band of rude, hairy foreigners. Coronado attacked; the Zuni were able to hold him off for a while, then pull the Spanish into a low-level on-and-off guerrilla war that lasted until nearly 1700.
3. Taos Plaza
Taos was founded as a Spanish outpost in 1540 near the site of Taos Pueblo, one of the oldest continually inhabited communities in all of North America. When American trade flourished between the Great Plains, the little town sitting at the base of the towering Sangre de Cristo Mountains became significant along the Santa Fe Trail.
While interested in the goods and ideas of the young American republic, the people of Taos weren’t so interested in being dominated by the new power. A revolt began in the winter of 1847, and the dark events that transpired still influence the community today.
4. St. James Hotel
Perhaps one of the most important buildings in Cimarron, New Mexico, is the St. James Hotel. Back in the day, the St. James was the center of action for northeastern New Mexico—and a troubled one at that. Owned by Henri Lambert, President Lincoln’s former chef, the hotel was well known for its violent brawls. The saying around town was, “Who was killed at Lambert’s last night?”
Wyatt and Morgan Earp, Buffalo Bill Cody, Clay Allison, and Annie Oakley were all frequent visitors to the St. James, and Jesse James regularly stayed in room 14. Over 20 bullet holes can still be seen in the dining room ceiling. Today the hotel is known both for its fun bar and frequent ghost sightings.
5. Los Alamos Historical Museum
At the height of World War II, the US government sought a secret location to begin development of the atomic bomb; they settled on the central of New Mexico. Los Alamos was established in 1942 as one of the focal points of the Manhattan Project.
Unfortunately, the local Native Americans, Anglo and Hispanic settlers already living there, were pushed out to make room for the secret town and the new research facilities.
To get more information about New Mexico, visit our state guide.