New Mexico History, Museums March 10, 2017
Step Back In Time With This Fascinating Pioneer Village In New Mexico
Even people who know that New Mexico has a pioneer village might walk past this attraction, mistaking the museum for little more than a storefront. However, the old city hall building is actually the entrance to a village that contains 12 historic structures.
These buildings have either been relocated or reconstructed to replicate pioneer life in the early 20th century. As you wander by a blacksmith’s shop or the town jail, the passage of years seems to rewind, until you can almost picture life in pioneer days.
You’ll find this historic attraction in the northwestern New Mexican town of Aztec.
Located in San Juan County, the town has been inhabited since around 1100 A.D. In fact, Aztec is most famous for the large complex that the Ancestral Puebloan people built here.
The Aztec Museum and Pioneer Village focuses on reviving more recent local history.
Stroll through this mock town and step inside the one-room schoolhouse. Slide into one of the desks to get a feel for what it must have been like to study in this environment.
Experience a snippet of pioneer home life when you explore the log cabin.
Other buildings include a general store and a chapel that is still used for weddings. And let’s not forget the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad train caboose.
The exhibits incorporate an impressive amount of detail and artifacts. The historic barbershop is particularly fun.
Probably the most unusual thing you’ll see at the museum is the Pecos West Cyclorama.
Visualize a circle with an eighteen-foot diameter. Now picture it filled with more than 100 hand carved items that, together, form a scene from the American West. Finally, imagine this huge art piece slowly spinning around, accompanied by a soundtrack of cowboy music.
The ornate behemoth was the brainchild of a craftsman called Valenty Zaharek. It’s definitely worth a look.
The exhibits go beyond pioneer life. A display in one room concentrates on Native American arts and crafts, while another is devoted to old telephones.
As part of the oil and gas exhibit, you’ll encounter a model of the nuclear fracking device used in Project Gasbuggy.
That’s right, during the 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission decided to investigate peacetime uses for nuclear explosions. In an attempt to access oil and gas underground, a 29-kiloton nuclear explosion was detonated underground, 60 miles from Aztec (actual site pictured).
Sure, it resulted in more oil and gas but the program was cancelled in 1975 due to its environmental impact and because nuclear fracking wasn’t cost effective! Just, wow.
If you’d like to visit New Mexico’s own pioneer village, check out the
museum’s website, then head to 125 N Main Avenue in Aztec.
Have you been to this fascinating place?
Throughout Aztec, you’ll spy a number of historic buildings. Download the town’s walking tour
If you’d like to view
more historic places in New Mexico, check out our past article for inspiration.
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