Pinos Altos Norton General Store

The George Norton Store (circa 1870) in this photo was built on the site of what was a two-storied log structure known as the Occidental Hotel in Pinos Altos, N...
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The George Norton Store (circa 1870) in this photo was built on the site of what was a two-storied log structure known as the Occidental Hotel in Pinos Altos, New Mexico. The inviting front doors are most colorful and help add a Spanish accent to this very old plain adobe building. The Norton store, has recently served as the Pinos Altos Post Office and Ice Cream Parlor (at the time of this photo Feb. 2016 the building was vacant).

Most of the 300 residents of this mountain hamlet will say that far from being an appendage to Silver City, Pinos Altos is a distinctive community in its own right. Looking down on the larger city from an altitude of 7,040 feet, it is ten degrees cooler in the summer and ten degrees brisker in the winter.

Furthermore, Pinos Altos is the oldest Anglo settlement in the southwestern corner of New Mexico dating from 1860 when gold was discovered there.

Part of Pinos Altos' history is recorded in the cemetery. Here, shaded by twisted alligator junipers and upstart pinons, lie the first miners, killed by Apaches, or felled by disease and accident.

Tongues of mining waste lap down the sides of surrounding mountains, marking old mines such as the Golden Giant, the Hardscrabblel, the Hazard, and the Kept Woman. The names reflect the hopes, humor, and cynicism of the miners. Estimates of the value of gold taken from the district range as high as $810,000,000. No one knows how much unremarked gold has been mined.

In 1900, over a thousand people lived in the mining district. (Despite town plats and surveys and a post office dating from 1867, Pinos Altos has never been incorporated as a town or village.) In those years, Pinos Altos boasted schools, boarding houses, stores and stamping mills.

This large population and the mills demanded fuel. All the trees were cut for miles around, denuding the mountains and drying up the streams.

After the rich claims were mined, Pinos Altos fell into somnolence for many decades. It awoke to find huge cottonwoods along the streams and the hills again green with ponderosas, the tall pines for which Pinos Altos is named.

Now, the old mining district is a quiet tourist attraction. Main Street looks much as it did in old photographs. As one German tourist said, "It's like walking into a western movie."

The Buckhorn Saloon houses what some call the best restaurant in three counties. The adobe George Norton store, built in the 1870s, has recently served as the Pinos Altos Post Office and Ice Cream Parlor (at the time of this photo is was vacant). The Pinos Altos Opera House, where melodramas are staged, and the three-quarter-scale version of the Santa Rita Del Cobre Fort are of more recent vintage. The Log Cabin Curio Shop and Museum occupies an early school building. The Hearst Methodist Church and the Catholic Church are in excellent condition.

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7 Comments | Report
valeriemurchie-stolpe February 26, 2016
What wonderful colors and textures.
Flosno February 26, 2016
What history lies behind these doors.....thanks for that amazing "story line" to bring this image to life
JDLifeshots March 01, 2016
Great find and capture!
gerigivenstaylor March 27, 2016
I love the colors. Thanks for sharing.
kathleenweetman Platinum
kathleenweetman May 25, 2016
Again such a wonderful image full of texture and colour and I enjoyed the great history you described......Voted .k
estercastillo08 June 01, 2016
Very nice colors and textures voted
SteBil30 Platinum
SteBil30 June 04, 2017
Hi Ernesto, this is a beautiful image. Please consider joining my challenge. viewbug.com/challenge/doors-photo-challenge-by-stebil30
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