Historic Preservation is Part of Successful Community Development

A recent article featured in the Albuquerque Journal, “Is history worth the cost of its preservation?“, details the issues that the town of Lordsburg faces as it examines whether or not to preserve its old high school that was built in 1916.

Citizens in Lordsburg have worked for 10 years to save their historic high school in spite of the local school district seeking to have it demolished.

New Mexico’s Cultural Properties Review Committee has unanimously decided that Lordsburg High School should be listed in the National Register of Historic Places. In a response to the news article, the Historic Preservation District issued the following press release:

Expressing her support of preserving New Mexico’s architectural heritage, the Foundation’s President Cara McCulloch sent the following letter to Lordsburg’s mayor and school superintendent. (View PDF of letter)

Hon. Arthur Clark Smith, Mayor and Mr. Randy Piper, Superintendent of Lordsburg Municipal Schools

Dear Sirs:

This letter is prompted by the recent Albuquerque Journal article about the uncertain status of your old high school building. I’m president of the New Mexico Architectural Foundation, and our leaders urge you to find a beneficial use for the building. It is clearly an important part of your community’s history, and its preservation would maintain and improve the physical character of your community as well as local residents’ sense of pride in Lordsburg. (When looking up the City of Lordsburg online, the building’s significance was evident in the “G” of the Greetings from Lordsburg New Mexico postcard featured on the city website.)

We emphasize here that preserving historic buildings is not just about the past. It is very much about the future, because preserving significant buildings provides space for new ventures and activities. This fact is proven again and again, nationwide, every year. Historic preservation is part of successful community development and often plays a part in economic development.

While we are not familiar with the work of J.O. Michaud, buildings designed by Henry C. Trost are some of the best of our region. While that isn’t the main reason to save buildings like yours, it certainly suggests that the building is well designed and has potential for productive reuse.

We appreciate that the school board may not be the appropriate entity to undertake such a project. We encourage you instead to transfer ownership to a group, public or private, who can make beneficial use of the building. Many such buildings throughout New Mexico have been successfully re-purposed–The Lee Bell Johnson Center in Truth or Consequences, for instance, and a brick schoolhouse in Dona Ana that now houses Kit Pack Corporation, a private-sector aviation vendor to the US Department of Defense.

We encourage you to work together and with community groups and such organizations as the New Mexico Main Street program and the Historic Preservation Division. Community leaders in Deming and Silver City could be helpful since they have found ways to preserve and reuse many buildings. Your State Representative, Dona Irwin, is the former Deming Main Street manager, so she is well prepared to advise you. Your community will be all the stronger for making the effort.

Cara McCulloch
President of the New Mexico Architectural Foundation





One response to “Historic Preservation is Part of Successful Community Development”

  1. Michael H. Gelman Avatar

    Whether this high school is transformed or turned into housing or becomes a mixed use venue where housing and retailing are combined -historic preservation blends with economic development because it creates jobs and generates revenue/income for a community. This concept cannot be stressed enough and needs to be continually put into practice. When this mindset is executed and action takes place-everybody benefits and everybody wins. There are no losers.

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