Mountainair: Discover and Savor

Like almost all towns in New Mexico, Mountainair started out as a railroad town, but it soon became famous as the Pinto Bean Capital of the US being the largest grower and processor of this food stable. A drought ended the harvest, but the resilient little town morphed into a ranching community. More recently, artists found the town a congenial home and are transforming its walls into canvases. All these threads have come together to make Mountainair a fascinating little town to visit.

The train depot may be closed to visitors but this historic site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, saw many a train pull through. Nearby are the old buildings that were once pinto processing plants.

The Cibola Arts Gallery is a co-op showcasing the jewelry, paintings, sculpture and more from over a dozen artists who make Mountainair their home. They’ve also spread out into the community creating public murals and mosaics. One striking example depicts its past as a railroad town. It’s a long wall anchored at one end with the Santa Fe Railroad train and at the other end with scenes from the town.

Every prosperous town needed a hotel, and in 1923, the Shaffer Hotel opened in Mountainair. That was the era of Art Deco with its rich colors, bold geometric shapes, and artistic embellishments, but in the southwest a related style, Pueblo Deco was whipping through the southwest. Albuquerque is home to one of the finest examples – the Kimo Theatre – but there is another building in Pueblo Deco style in Mountainair. The restaurant of the Shaffer Hotel is a must-see for anyone interested in the design elements.

Mountainair is still a ranching community, and everyone needs a hardware store. Gustin’s is not only a hardware store, it is also the final resting place for a collection of mounted animals. One of the family was a taxidermist and the animals can be found throughout the store. The zebra was donated, after death, by the Albuquerque Zoo.

For a final stop, head one mile out of town to Rancho Bonito. Once owned by Shaffer and his family, it is now closed, but it remains a great photo-op example of American Folk Art. The building is also listed on the National Register of Historical Places.

Mountainair is centrally located for anyone visiting Salinas Pueblo Mission National Monument (and you should visit that fascinating trio of sites).

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