Springer, New Mexico

3

Springer is a very small town, surrounded by a lot of empty New Mexico space. The town itself feels somewhat like a ghost town, even though it still has an official population of more than a thousand folks. If you end up here, it’s probably because you’re driving to some other place on I-25 — but the town does provide an interesting stretch-your-legs opportunity.

My Visit

I certainly was not visiting Springer, New Mexico during its most busy time of the week.  I was driving through, on my way back to Colorado, around midday on a Sunday.  It’s no surprise that the place felt abandoned, but I suspect it’s not much different, on any other day of the week.

Springer’s downtown district is about a block away from the Interstate. You can take the business loop off I-25 to see everything.  As you drive through the big intersection, you’ll be crossing New Mexico Route 21, and you’ll pass the western end of US 412 — an odd U.S. highway that breaks the typical numbering scheme (it’s nowhere near the road that should be its ‘parent’ — US 12).

I parked near that intersection and started exploring.

The most interesting-looking store in town was closed for the day, which was no surprise, given that it was Sunday.  The signs promised “antiques” and “cowboy stuff”, and the junk was piled up in the windows.  It would have been fun to rummage through it all.

A short walk away, I found the R. H. Cowan Livery Stable…

… which apparently dates back to 1880.

Its old front door fit right in with the rest of the town.

The Brown Hotel and Cafe appears to still be in business, and may be your best choice for lunch or dinner in town.

Unfortunately, the Cactus Cafe across the street is no longer in business.  I’m pretty sure it was originally the Cactus Club, before the awkward paint job on the old ghost sign.

Just in case you’re interested in resurrecting the Cactus Cafe, good news — the building is for sale.  “Historic” is code for “very old and needs a lot of work.”

Many of Springer’s other downtown businesses are also closed…

… while the Cozy Motel takes ‘abandoned’ to a whole new level.  The overgrown neon sign is your first clue…

… and the debris built up on the roof is your second.

The motel’s courtyard looks post-apocalyptic.

Just a block away from Maxwell Avenue (Main Street), the Zia Theater stands along Colbert Avenue.  It’s now used as a church, but the marquee is still there — and it appears to be in surprisingly good shape, compared to everything else in town.

I continued to make a loop as I wandered down Colbert Avenue, and spotted the Springer Tribune Press — another venture which appears to have a lot of history, but is probably no longer in business.

In the cul-de-sac next to the Tribune Press building, I found this numbered circle painted on the pavement.  I have no idea what it’s for.

There’s also a car wash nearby.

No one was rushing to remove this downed tree from the roof of a two-story building, next to the car wash.

Back out on Maxwell Avenue, I found the town’s only signs of life — a small grocery store that appeared to still be in business.

I think this sums up the Springer experience.  This tumbleweed got lodged in my bumper, somewhere between Las Vegas and Springer.  I didn’t realize it was nearly permanently attached until I noticed it again, at a rest area up the road.

The Bottom Line

By the time you arrive at Springer, you’ll probably need to get out of the car and stretch your legs.  This near-ghost town provides a good opportunity to see a place that time has forgotten.

Location

Springer is located on Interstate 25, about an hour north of Las Vegas, New Mexico, and 30 minutes south of Raton. Taos is to the west, about 90 minutes away. You could also get to the Oklahoma panhandle in about 90 minutes, if you wanted to do that for some reason.

Drivelapse Video

Check out this time-lapse, dash-cam video of the drive from Las Vegas to Springer, New Mexico:…

… and Springer to Raton:

3 comments

  1. Carrie Griffis Hobbs 19 February, 2020 at 17:35 Reply

    You will happy to know that several things have changed since your post. We now have 3 places to eat. The Cactus Cafe building was bought by a very energetic young man from Santa Fe that loves history, antiques and preservation. He is remodeling the entire inside, with plans to possibly live in the upstairs and maybe open a business downstairs. The historic Brown hotel is now closed and up for sell. I bought the R.H. Cowan Livery Stable. I bought it lock, stock and barrel. It’s loaded with things from the Santa Fe train, the previous car repair garage and antiques. I don’t open for business, but I do lease items on a fairly regular basis to the movie companies for “Set Dressings”. The old Zia Theater, well…..I actually have the original ticket booth in The Livery Stable. The ticket machine is in there and there are still tickets in there. The grocery store is under new ownership and doing well. There is a hair salon next door that does evening appointments only, and there is a small florist in there as well. Next to that, we now have a pharmacy. WhooHoo!!
    The car wash is still open, and the tree is still on the building next to it ‍♀️‍♀️
    And…….one of the motels received a grant and was completely redone. Beside it, they build a new restaurant that is not quite completed and therefore not open yet.
    If, on another trip you would like to go inside of the Livery Stable, I’d be happy to take you. It was recently chosen for an episode of “The American Pickers”. On February 11th, 2020, we did a full 13 hour day in there with Mike, Danielle and the film crew. Frank wasn’t there due to recently having back surgery.
    You can also get a look at The Livery Stable on my group page on Facebook
    “The Livery Stable, A Time Capsule of Treasure”
    On the way out, I’m sure that you passed a small place called, Minnies Dairy Delight.
    It’s now Zayara’s Cafe…..still using the Dairy Delight sign temporarily. Be sure to stop in. Best green chili cheeseburger and Mexican food ……I promise.

    • Dave Polley 18 June, 2020 at 16:53 Reply

      It was nice to read the post by Carrie Griffis Hobbs above. I am glad some new life if being brought into the town. I had lived in Springer when I was young but have not visited since 1996. At that time Jerry and Patsy owned the Brown and The Livery as well as the Mills Mansion. They gave our family tours of all three places. The Livery was really neat. Like traveling back in time. Dr. Marrow’s wife owned the antique shop on the corner. Jerry and Patsy’s daughter-in-law Liz (Nathan’s wife) had a beauty shop in the same building. That location was where my Dad had a sporting goods business. The town was always full of friendly and welcoming people. I would very much like to return to the area to live when I retire in the near future. And, yes, Minnies was always a guaranteed good meal. It was an after-church tradition but good for anytime of the week!

  2. Katrinka Sullivan 15 August, 2020 at 00:30 Reply

    My parent’s Jerry and Patricia Smith owned the Livery Stable and The Brown at one time along with the Gambles building and the Mill’s Mansion. The circle with numbers on it is the cake walk during the County Fair.

Post a new comment

You might also enjoy this...

Tufa Formations at Mono Lake

US 395 drops down from the mountains to pass Mono Lake, near the town of Lee Vining.  If you’re headed southbound, this great viewpoint will ...