Adventures & Travel

Old Town Mesilla – Las Cruces, New Mexico

“…It’s downtown Old Mesilla,

Friday night La Posta,

with friends and margaritas…”    

                                                                             -Bri Bagwell “Las Cruces”

 

It had been a long day of driving through the big state of Texas, so when we pulled into the rv park in Las Cruces, it was nice to know we could relax for a day.

We got set up, and since it was supper time, decided to google a place to eat.  We found, of all places, a dog house :)!

Andele’s Dog House to be exact – located in Old Town Mesilla.  This place had gourmet hot dogs AND allowed dogs!  It was meant to be.  So, off we went to Mesilla!

As soon as we drove into Mesilla, I knew right away this was going to be what I wanted to do on our day “off” from driving.  Over dinner (I HAD to get the Chili Con Queso Dog by the way), we looked up Old Town Mesilla, and saw that there was both a lot of history here, as well as some really neat shops.  We grabbed a map, and sat down that night and wrote out the places we wanted to see.  It can be difficult to cram everything in when you only have a day, so we stayed within what would be walking distance for everything we wanted to see – this was after all, a day off from driving, right?

First up, was the local coffee shop just as you enter Old Town Mesilla.  We found parking in the visitors parking lot for the day, and walked over to the coffee shop.

Simply called “The Bean”, it was a cute little coffee shop that offered breakfast foods and coffees.  I ordered a Pecan Scone, because, Las Cruces has Pecan groves for miles!

I had no idea that there were so many Pecan groves in New Mexico!  It seemed only fitting, that I should eat something with pecans!

Inside, you will see paintings of the surrounding Organ Mountains, as well as beautiful stained glass windows.  It was a great way to kickstart our walking tour!

We headed down the street from there, passing by a lot of cute shops along the way.  Occasionally, we stepped in to some of the shops, if something caught our eye.  The shops here are owned locally (mostly), and a lot of them have local goods for sale (jewelry, paintings, beadwork, etc).

Merch De Mesilla. One of the many gift shops that sells all locally made items.

 

Tis the Season De Mesilla. In this shop, it is Christmas all year. If you visit Mesilla at Christmas however, you will find the plaza illuminated with over 2,000 “farolitos” – candles placed in sand and paper bags.

 

Tis the Season De Mesilla

 

Billy the Kid Gift Shop. This building was built when Mesilla was originally founded. It served as a store until after the Civil War, at which time it became the courthouse. This is the building that Billy was tried, convicted and sentenced to hang. When court was not in session, it doubled as a schoolhouse. Of course, school was cancelled any time there was a hanging, to shield the kids from seeing it.

 

Legacy Pecans. Mesilla is located in the worlds largest pecan producing county. Mesilla Valley has pecan trees that date all the way back to 1932. Pecan orchards line all of the highways through Dona Ana County.

 

Old Barrel Tea and Spice.

Heart of the Desert Pistachios. One of the original buildings that lined the Plaza. While common in other parts of North America in the 19th century, the building materials were hard to come by in Mesilla, being carried hundreds of miles by wagon.

 

Inside El Mariachi gift shop. One of the oldest brick buildings in New Mexico. The bricks were made from a local kiln in 1863. Bricks made in the territory were not readily available at this time, but the owner was wealthy and therefore able to afford them. Shortly thereafter, the owner, along with another, were both murdered here.

One of the historical landmarks that I wanted to see, was the Old Mesilla Jail.  Among the prisoners housed in this jail was, William Henry McCarty, alias William Bonney, better known as Billy the Kid.  In 1878, Billy was living in Lincoln County, when the war in Lincoln County erupted.  The sheriff was shot and killed, and Billy was accused of the murder.  He was accused of murder again, when he escaped from the Lincoln County Jail.  Billy later surrendered to Pat Garrett just outside of Fort Sumner.  Garrett brought Billy to Mesilla to stand trial (the building where the trial was held, is today, a gift shop for all things Billy the Kid).  It was here at this trial, that Billy the Kid was found guilty of murder and sentenced to hang back in Lincoln County.

While waiting to be brought back to Lincoln County, he was housed in the jail.   He managed to slip his handcuffs off, get ahold of a gun, and shoot one of the men guarding him.  From there he escaped, yet again.  He managed to elude capture for quite some time following his escape from the Mesilla jail.  Eventually, Pat Garret caught up to him and shot and killed him.  Billy was 22 years old at the time of his death.  The building that stands today, is actually a replica of the original jail.  It does however, have the original doors.  The jail and the museum were both closed unfortunately, due to the pandemic.

Mesilla Plaza

In the 1800’s the Mesilla plaza was formed by a perimeter of buildings as a means of defending the community.  The town of Mesilla was prone to attacks by the Apache Indian tribes.  In 1854, the Gadsden Purchase officially made Mesilla part of the US Territory.  The US Flag was raised over the Plaza, and the town was able to grow and prosper.  The plaza became (and still is) the point from which the town revolved.

The buildings that surround the plaza, and throughout town, were made of adobe bricks and sticks.  Any reconstruction, is still done the same way today.

Sitting on the edge of the plaza, is the Basilica of San Albino.  This church was built in 1906 and is one of the oldest churches in the region.  It is still in use today.

Every block in Mesilla is filled with history.  While the buildings today house a number of gift shops, candy shops, souvenirs, or restaurants, the original buildings and the history that surrounds them, still remain.  Many of the shop owners, are happy to take a few moments and talk about what their building once was.  Not all buildings were open unfortunately, but we still enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere of the town, the interesting architecture of the buildings, and the history that makes up Old Mesilla.

We could not leave Mesilla without enjoying one last meal here.  La Posta is the place (well, one of them, lets not forget how good the Dog House was), to enjoy a great meal!    The building that today houses a restaurant, was once a freight and passenger service.  It was built in the 1840’s, is the original building, and is the only station that remains standing on the Butterfield Trail.  In its day, it offered shelter to people such as Billy the Kid, Pancho Villa, Kit Carson and General (later, President) Ulysses S. Grant.  Today, it offers amazing food, great service and if you are lucky to time your visit right, a Mariachi Band!

Our day in Mesilla was just what we needed as we made our way West to the coast of California!  Next stop – Yuma!

2 Comments

  • Char

    We are going to Las Cruces for the first time this fall. We will definitely have to stop at the Dog House! Sophie insists.

    • Kathy

      Oh my gosh, YES! Try and set a couple of hours aside to check out Mesilla, it is a cute little town! There is a graveyard there, that I didn’t find out about until we had left….I’d love to go check that out!

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