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Book documents Las Cruces' historic architectural styles

A new book by two graduate students in New Mexico State University's Public History Program documents the evolving architectural history of Las Cruces.

Postcard of Main Street, Las Cruces, ca. 1949.

"Historic Architectural Styles Las Cruces, N.M.: Celebrating 150 Years" began as a seminar project in the fall of 1998 for NMSU's Public History Program.

"It started out as a pamphlet that kept getting bigger," said Sandra L. Marshall, who co-authored the book with John R. Versluis. "The idea was that if people wanted to restore their homes they could see past (architectural) styles."

The book covers more than a dozen architectural styles from early Spanish Colonial to Gothic Revival to Mission and Colonial Revival.

Using historical photographs from the Rio Grande Historical Collection, which is part of NMSU's library system, the authors divided the story of architectural styles in Las Cruces into four broad time periods and prefaced each period with a brief historical narrative.

"This book will help people see Las Cruces as it used to be," said Jon Hunner, director of the Public History Program. "Books like this help communities rediscover their roots."

With help from the Dona Ana County Historical Society, the Las Cruces 150th Celebration Committee and donors to the Public History Program, 1,000 copies of the book were published recently.

Sales of the book will help support the Public History Program and NMSU's Southwest and Border Cultures Institute. The Public History Program deals with the preservation of history, such as folklore and oral history, from a local perspective.

"These types of programs are good for the students, good for the community and good for the university because it involves the university with the communities we live in," Hunner said.

Hunner also recently co-authored, with other graduate students in the Public History Program, "Santa Fe: An Historical Walking Tour." The book documents the evolution of Santa Fe's architectural styles over the past 150 years and how in the early part of the 20th century, city officials adopted the Spanish Pueblo Revival style to preserve the city as a tourist destination.

"The book allows you to look at Santa Fe and see how it has re-created itself," said Darren Court, one of the book's co-authors. "The book really shows how it (Santa Fe) has maintained the architectural characteristics of the Southwest."

The other co-authors are Shirley Lail, Pedro Dominguez and Lucinda Silva.

Using about 180 photos from various archives, including the Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe and the Rio Grande Historical Society, the book serves as a walking tour guide for people who want to know Santa Fe through its buildings.

Copies of "Historic Architectural Styles Las Cruces, N.M.: Celebrating 150 Years" and "Santa Fe: An Historical Walking Tour" can be purchased for $10 and $18.99 respectively. Both books are available at local book stores or through NMSU's Public History Program, History Department, MSC 3H, P.O. Box 30001, Las Cruces, NM 88003. For more information contact Jon Hunner at (505) 646-2490 or by e-mail at jhunner@nmsu.edu.

Photo is available at
For a print, call (505) 646-3221.
CUTLINE: Postcard of Main Street, Las Cruces, ca. 1949.

Ivan Chavez
Nov. 30, 2000