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Carrizozo


By Bruce M. Dietrich

Carrizozo owes its stature as the county seat of Lincoln County to the failure of the neighboring community of White Oaks, a mining boomtown established in 1879, to secure a direct rail connection with the El Paso and Northeastern Railway system (EP&NE).[1] Because of its coal reserves and mining wealth, White Oaks became a target destination for five different railroad schemes. The competition to reach the town, however, was encumbered by battles for financing, acquisition of right-of-way, and the bureaucratic complexities of having to acquire both New Mexico and Texas incorporation papers. These challenges were further intensified by a long period of drought and the depression of 1893. Finally, in 1897 Charles Eddy’s El Paso & Northeastern organization beat out the exhausted competition. However, by that time Eddy’s interest in branching across the Tularosa Basin to the Pecos River Valley negated the importance of White Oaks and elevated Capitan with its nearby Salado Coal Fields to a position of strategic importance. As a result Carrizozo, which was situated at the mouth of the valley leading to Capitan, became a key link along the EP&NE line in 1899.

By 1907, when Carrizozo was platted, White Oaks population had dispersed and its mines had played out. Carrizozo, by contrast, was rapidly expanding and could boast of a railroad hotel, post office, bank, Baptist church.[2]  The town also had two drug stores; one a combined doctor’s office, apothecary and soda fountain established by Melvin G. Paden – formerly of White Oaks – and the other, the Rolland Bros. Drug Store, which was established by Arthur J. (Art) Rolland on Railroad Avenue in 1906.[3]

Rolland’s first business venture survived until 1923 when the economic pressure on the cattle industry in New Mexico as the result of a region-wide drought prompted numerous bank failures. In Carrizozo the banking collapse included the First National Bank of Carrizozo, where Rolland served as vice president and in which he had heavily invested. Rolland’s reputation was bolstered during this debacle by his ability to avoid personal bankruptcy and pay off his personal cattle debts. Eventually he and his wife, Sadie, were able to rent back the drug business they had been forced to sell. By 1924 he was able to finance the erection of a new building on a vacant lot on Alamogordo Street (now 12th Street) and relocate his business there. In 1927, he changed the name of the business to Rolland Drug Store, his brother having decided to focus his efforts on a similar venture in Alamogordo (figs. 12-1 and 12-2) .

Rolland selected local builder Frank English as contractor for the new building. English had developed a reputation for quality construction in the community and elsewhere in Lincoln County and was able to erect for Rolland a large building based upon a utilitarian commercial model that began to emerge in business districts across the county by 1910.[4]

Characterized by a pronounced indifference to regional or historic architectural styles, the utilitarian commercial building type de-emphasized the exterior ornamentation that had proliferated on commercial buildings in America following the Civil War while it continued to employ certain elements; particularly recessed entrances and large transoms, that were common to the era. The style took advantage of the functional and artistic potential of glass as a building material. Chicago architect Frank Lloyd Wright, among others, designed molded transparent tiles in patterns that magnified the transfer of exterior illumination to building interiors. A number of companies, including the American Luxfer Prism Co., were established to manufacture light screen components for distribution to new buildings projects nationwide (fig. 12-3).

Frank English’s contribution in Carrizozo to the utilitarian building approach that had gained popularity throughout America was to meld the readily available local building material, adobe, with commercially available architectural elements, such as the impressive American Luxfer Prism light screen he incorporated above Frank Rolland’s display windows. He also provided what would have otherwise been a nondescript edifice with a well-executed and adequately decorated red brick façade that projected an image of stability, modernity and business efficiency. Further accentuating the practicality of the store’s design, English suspended a façade-width canopy from the building to completely shelter the adjacent sidewalk and the store’s patrons from the elements.

Rolland’s business continued to prosper in the new building despite the economic contractions, beginning with the Great Depression, which challenged the community. Key railroad operations that had been carried out in Carrizozo were transferred to other locations as improvements in technology permitted regional consolidations.

As noted by David Myrick in New Mexico’s Railroads, “Carrizozo’s brick roundhouse, having ended its useful days by 1930, was sold for an ignominious $100.”[5]  Following World War II improved highway systems and the perfection of automobile travel as the defining characteristic of 20th century American culture further weakened the railroad as Carrizozo’s economic foundation. As had been the case with White Oaks in the preceding generation, population decline and financial contraction dimmed the prospects for the briefly vibrant economy of Carrizozo. Rolland’s business operation, perhaps as a result of the hard lessons learned during his financial troubles in the 1920s, managed to endure. The store remained an important gathering spot in the town as well as in the county for people of all ages. Art Rolland was known to offer jobs as soda jerks to children as young as ten years of age to assist their families through hard times.

It was at this time that Rolland’s reputation for personal integrity and perseverance caught the attention of 36-year-old Collier’s magazine writer, Quentin Reynolds. Reynolds article in the September 10, 1938 issue titled “People of the Southwest” focused on Rolland’s struggle to maintain his reputation and reclaim his position in the community following his near bankruptcy in 1923. The young writer’s journalistic skills had caught the attention of Collier’s editors in 1932 following an article he wrote in Germany for Hearst’s International News Service that examined Joseph Goebbels and the Nazi induced anti-Semitic hysteria sweeping through Germany. In addition to his feature on Carrizozo and Rolland, Reynolds completed 382 articles for the weekly magazine including examinations of Cuban dictator, Col. Fulgencio Batista and an expose of a massacre of Haitian immigrants by soldiers of Rafael Trujillo, then the dictator of the Dominican Republic. Reynolds was in Paris on assignment during its fall to the Nazis in 1940 and witnessed the Battle of Britain upon his evacuation to England. The articles he produced from these experiences were crafted into a book, The Wounded Don’t Cry, which once again gave him the opportunity to focus on Rolland and Carrizozo.[6] He wrote:

Bugs Baer once said, “All the towns outside New York are Bridgeport.” I used to agree with Bugs that once you left New York, you were strictly on the horse and buggy circuit. But of late years I’ve had to modify that. Since then I’ve discovered New Orleans, San Francisco and a little place called Carrizozo, New Mexico, where I want to go when I die. I want to go there and gang around the drug store and sneak behind the prescription counter with Art Rolland and have a nip of what he calls Old Granddaddy then type out his prescriptions for him. If I could have New York, New Orleans, San Francisco and Carrizozo, I’d be willing to let the Indians have the rest of America.”

Reynolds became a highly popular overseas correspondent for American audiences and his subsequent publications included Only the Stars are Neutral (1942), Rehearsal for Conflict (1943), Leave it to the People (1949), The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk (1953), They Fought for the Sky (1957), and With Fire and Sword (1963).

Reynolds never achieved the wish expressed for Carrizozo, dying instead at Travis Air Force Base in California in 1968. He had been preceded eighteen years earlier by Art Rolland, who had maintained his Carrizozo business until 1950.[7] Following Rolland’s death the business was purchased by Fred Eakers who ran it as Eaker’s Pharmacy until it was sold to Jack McGee and ultimately Hal Simms. Both men continued to operate pharmacies in the building. The drug store operation, however, finally ceased in the 1970s.

As a good example of the utilitarian commercial building type developed nationally during the early decades of the 20th century and its adaptation to the architectural traditions of New Mexico, Rolland’s Drug Store is noteworthy. This fact, together with its literary immortalization and that of its owner, Art Rolland, in the writings of renowned American foreign correspondent and author, Quentin Reynolds, earns the building a secure place on the New Mexico State Register of Cultural Properties. It is an outstanding example of the ability of the state and its citizens and, as in this case some of its most humble places, to capture outside attention and the national spotlight.


Sources Used:

Carrizozo Outlook News, various issues, 1907 – 1977.
Haley, Jack. Yearbook of Lincoln County, New Mexico, 1913.
Harmond, Richard. "Reynolds, Quentin"; http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-03471.html; American National Biography Online October 2002 Update. Access Date: Wed Jun 25 12:12:41 MDT 2003.
Julyan, Robert. The Place Names of New Mexico. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, revised edition, 1998.
Myrick, David F. New Mexico’s Railroads – A Historical Survey. Univ. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, revised edition, 1990.
Office of the Assessor, Carrizozo, Lincoln County, New Mexico. Uniform Property Record-Residential, No. 222275.
Office of the County Clerk, Carrizozo, Lincoln County, NM. Warranty Deed Book; A-6:344, A-4:121, A-22:541 and Deed Record Book Y:150.
Peninsulators. “Prisms”; http.://www.peninsulators.org/Prisms/Patent/index/html; Access Date: Wed Jun 25 1:01:00 MDT 2003.
Reynolds, Quentin J. “Carrizozo Tales: People of the Southwest,” Collier’s Magazine, 10 Sep. 1938. The Wounded Don’t Cry. E.P. Dutton, New York, 1941. Wilson, Chris, et. al. “University Neighborhoods History Handbook,” Historic Preservation Division Grant deliverable 35.84.8316.11, and University Heights Assoc. and Silver Hills Neighborhood Assoc., 1986. To Come – Reference for 1950 Esquire magazine article.

Interviews:

Bruce M. Dietrich with Dennis Dunmum, 10 March 2003, Carrizozo, NM
            with Dave La Fave, 2 February 2003, Carrizozo, NM
            with Johnson Sterns, 31 January, 3 February and 8 February 2003, Carrizozo, NM
            with Neva Rae Ventura, 28 January 2003, Carrizozo, NM
            with Frank Walker, 16 February 2003, Carrizozo, NM

 



[1] Martha Weigle, ed. New Mexicans in Cameo and Camera – New Deal Documentation of 20th Century Lives. Univ. of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, 1985: 128-129.

[2] Dorothy Guck. “Carrizozo, Where the Highways Meet,” New Mexico Magazine, Mar. 1969.

[3] Yvonne Lonelli. “Step Back into Yesteryear at Carrizozo Landmark,” New Mexico Magazine, Jan. 1993.

[4] Chris Wilson, et. al. "University Neighborhoods History Handbook." University Heights Assoc. and Historic Preservation Division/Office of Cultural Affairs, 1986: 22.

[5] David F. Myrick. New Mexico’s Railroads – A Historical Survey. University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque, revised edition, 1990:98.

[6] Richard Harmond. "Reynolds, Quentin"; http://www.anb.org/articles/16/16-03471.html; American National Biography Online October 2002 Update. Access Date: Wed Jun 25 12:12:41 MDT 2003.

[7] It has been suggested by the owners of the property than another article about the drugstore was featured in issue of Esquire magazine in the 1950s. To date, however, a literature search has not located such an article.

 

Latitude: 3338
Longitude: 10552