Nearly 40 members of the New Mexico Architectural Foundation visited Truth or Consequences on Saturday, Oct. 25 to learn more about the community and historic architecture of the town.
Each year the Architectural Foundation hosts a daylong tour with the purpose of increasing public understanding and appreciation of the state’s diverse architecture. This was the 27th tour (view listing of past tours).
The Foundation’s tours have always been about bringing together people interested in our built environment – both non-architects and architects enjoy a day’s worth of New Mexico specific works,” said John Briscoe, the Foundation’s chief tour planner and a retired Albuquerque-based architect.
The tour began at the Lee Belle Johnson Center where historian and 6th generation town resident Sherry Fletcher provided an introduction to the history of the city and historic photos were on display.
Tita Berger, Ph.D. candidate in American Studies at UNM and Tor C area resident, then led the group with Fletcher on a walking tour through downtown to highlight key buildings and the historic bathhouses. Berger, who is writing her dissertation on the community of T or C, was instrumental in the planning the details of the tour.
In order to admire the architecture in a small town, you have to scale your eye,” said Berger. “That’s when you start to notice the beauty of our buildings.”
Briscoe added, “Tor C is a great example of a community valuing their historic buildings and using them to shape a unique sense of community, one that is sustainable and cohesive for future generations.”
Sierra County is home to more than a dozen buildings and projects that were constructed during the “New Deal” years (1933-1943) through the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and related programs. Some say that President Roosevelt’s New Deal programs enabled architects, artists, and artisans to create twentieth-century masterworks.
In Truth or Consequences, these WPA projects include:
- Lee Belle Johnson Center originally constructed in 1935 as the Hot Springs City Hall and library
- U.S. Post Office built in 1939 and featuring “The Indian Bear Dance” mural by awarding-winning WPA artist Boris Dutsch
- Sierra County Courthouse built in 1939 and featuring the Territorial Rival architectural style that is popular throughout New Mexico
- New Mexico State Veterans Home, originally the Carrie Tingley Hospital for Crippled Children, constructed in 1937 using Territorial Revival style architecture and features one of the two remaining WPA fountains in its courtyard
In addition to the WPA sites, tour participants also visited the Elephant Butte Dam Site. Many of the amenities at the site were constructed by the New Deal’s Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) preceding WWII. Of architectural significance at the site are the stone columns and walls that make up the pergola and beautifully frame the lake views, the fifteen tourist cabins, and the boathouse.
Truth or Consequences also features unique and colorful “vernacular architecture” of interest to the tour participants. Vernacular architecture is based on local needs and construction materials and reflects local traditions.
“We have a number of flagstone structures here in town that were built in the 1940s and 1950s,” noted Fletcher. “People gathered the flagstone from the area and used it to build their homes.”
Other examples of vernacular architecture in T or C are the numerous bathhouses, many which are constructed using adobe and other local materials.
I got a whole new perspective of T or C, said tour participant Kathleen Ingley. “It was a great day filled with lots of interesting sights and fascinating stories.”
Learn more about our TOUR SPONSORS who helped make this event possible.