June 27, 2014
When we drove the Turquoise Trail Scenic Byway, I regretted not stopping in Madrid (a thriving town of artists and shops.) As it wasn’t far from our campsite, we headed out to Madrid to check out the town.
At its peak, the town produced 250,000 tons of coal a year and boasted a population exceeding Albuquerque. Oscar Huber, who worked for the coal company, became superintendent in 1918 and later gained controlling interest, after the original owner George Caseman was killed in a drilling accident in 1936. Under Huber, Madrid residents enjoyed a hospital, paved streets and unlimited electricity in their homes. The Mineshaft Tavern which burned to the ground on Christmas Day 1944, was rebuilt. The pine and oak bar is still known as the “longest bar in the state.” Huber also built the first illuminated baseball park west of the Mississippi. The lights were turned on in 1922 putting Madrid in the history books. The stadium was home to the Madrid Miners, a farm team for the Brooklyn Dodgers and the Dodgers even played a game in the park to a packed house in 1934. The baseball park, still in operation is about to receive a substantial upgrading.
Madrid is probably best known for its annual Christmas lighting display, which began in the 1920s. New Mexican families from many miles away made the long trek to see the elaborate displays of lights and nativity scenes. Since the electric plant was owned by the town’s coal company, Madrid had the luxury of unlimited electricity for the displays. Trans America Airways—later known as TWA—diverted nighttime flights over Madrid to allow passengers to see the spectacle.
When the coal market collapsed, so did Madrid’s infrastructure. Eventually the final town’s residents moved away and Madrid became a ghost town. In 1954 the Wall Street Journal listed the entire town for sale for $250,000. By the 1960’s and 70’s an array of artists, crafts people and renegades rediscovered Madrid. Eventually the town’s abandoned Victorian homes and clapboard storefronts were sold and new populations began to form in the town.
I really enjoyed checking out the buildings and shops and we had a good lunch at the No Pity Cafe…