Walking Tour Conjures Up Images of the Past

FLASHBACK: Courtesy of the Patagonia Regional Times – Written by Leslie Ware – February 6, 2014

Pentimento (noun): visible trace of earlier painting beneath a layer or layers of paint on a canvas.

Anyone following German Quiroga on a walking tour of Patagonia on January 18 would have seen the town as it is today, but the fun was in imagining it as it used to be.

The Railroad Depot. The land where we met to begin our walk was once home to the Hohokam, followed by the Tohono O’odham; Spanish missionaries; Apaches; and finally homesteaders like Rollin Rice Richardson, who named the town “Rollin” after himself, though it was “Patagonia” that stuck. The depot building looks much like it did in 1900. But picture it in its original site, 45 feet closer to Naugle Ave. In the mid-1960s, after the railroad was abandoned (cattle were now trucked, not sent by train, and the area’s silver and lead mines were closing), the highway department straightened a kink in Highway 82. That meant moving the depot to its current location.

The gas station. Imagine the earlier occupant of this space—The Wagon Wheel Saloon. To move the bar to its current location, workers put it on a dolly and rolled it down the highway.

Pilates Patagonia. It’s easy to see the pentimento here, on the wooden sign: “Patagonia Lumber Co.” A spur from the main rails led to the building, easing transport of lumber.

Patagonia Arts building. It once was Anne Stradling’s Museum of the Horse (now in Ruidoso, NM), with a blacksmith shop in back.

La Mision de San Miguel. This structure, built in 1915, was recently a bar and music venue, but before that it was the raucous Big Steer bar. And before that? A laundromat.

Red Mountain Foods. It was once the site of Judge Alexander Henderson’s mercantile store.

Two doors away from Red Mountain Foods. Imagine a woodframe opera house. Thought to be a fire hazard, it was razed in the mid-1960s.

Tree at the corner of Smelter and Fourth. Picture a miscreant chained to this tree, which served as the town jail until 1938, when the Works Progress Administration built a more conventional jail. Perhaps the chained man was inebriated, German Quiroga said: “His buddies could still come visit and bring him liquor, but he couldn’t move away.” Now picture another jail tree on McKeown, next to the Long Realty office (the stump was stored at the Lopez Pool Hall) and a jail cave in School Canyon not far from the Pony Tail Hair Salon.

Cady Hall. Before it began life as the Patagonia Library in 1957 (courtesy of the Patagonia Women’s Club, which earned a cheer from Quiroga’s tour group), it served as a hotel, restaurant, and roller skating rink.

309 Duquesne Ave. This building has had at least two prior lives, as the Patagonia Union High School, from 1926 to 1948, and until 1983, as Dr. Delmar Mock’s clinic. Doc Mock had lots of business delivering babies, including tour guide Quiroga, who notes that the doctor drove to his destinations in a station wagon on which he’d earned permission to put red lights.

Razors. Yes, razors. Our last pentimento involves imagining those long-ago railroad tracks that led to town. The rails were sold to the Gillette Company to use in making blades for shaving.