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The confluence of three rivers: the Spring, Hondo, and Pecos, has made the area now known as Roswell and Chaves County an important site throughout the history of human habitation in North America. The area was contained within the original homeland of the Mescalero Apaches and overlapped the hunting grounds of the Comanches.

The first documented European visitor was Don Antonio de Espejo who explored the Pecos Valley for Spain in 1583. The first attempt at European settlement in the area was made by Gaspar de Castano de Sosa who led an unauthorized colonial expedition from Mexico in 1590. He was arrested for his troubles, and the settlement failed to materialize.

The first historically documented settlement in the Roswell area is an 1867 mention by the United States Government Surveyor of a settlement of crude adobe shacks at "Rio Hondo." This is believed to be the present neighborhood known as Chihuahuita. At approximately the same time, the area became a campsite on the Goodnight-Loving Trail which opened in 1866. The trail brought Anglo ranchers from Texas to the area, including John Chisum, resulting in the establishment of the ranching industry in Southeastern New Mexico.

In 1870, Van Smith founded the small town of Rio Hondo which consisted of a general store, blacksmith shop, adobe corral, and Main Street. In 1873 when the first post office was established, the town was renamed Roswell in honor of Smith's father.

In 1890, the discovery of Artesian water in Roswell marked a change from ranching to agriculture as the main industry in Chaves County. This, along with the extension of the railroad to Roswell in the mid 1890's, began a population boom in the area which lasted until the effects of the Great Depression reached southeastern New Mexico. Most of the historic sites listed in this brochure date from this boom period.

With the railroad came numerous people from throughout the United States and Europe who brought with them new architectural tastes. Previously, most buildings were built by settlers, Hispanic and Anglo, who were largely unskilled in design, architecture, and construction. Using readily available local materials, they produced a style called Spanish, Pueblo, or most commonly New Mexico Vernacular.

The new settlers imported bricks, clapboards, and nails to create Queen Anne, Prairie, Bungalow, Victorian, Italianate, Tudor, and many other styles of homes. Consequently, the architecture of the Roswell Historic District mirrors the people who populated the region. Like the people, the styles are varied and frequently of mixed heritage. Most structures are a composite of various architectural styles reflecting the melding of indigenous, Hispanic, and Anglo cultures, both east and west, at the crossroads known as Roswell.

For more information on Roswell, Chaves County, and the Roswell Historic District, please consult Treasures of History: Historic Buildings in Chaves County, 1870-1935. The book is available for sale at the Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico at the corner of Second and Lea in Roswell, New Mexico. The address for the Society is:

Historical Society for Southeast New Mexico
200 N. Lea
Roswell, New Mexico 88201
(505) 622-8333

Significant Historic Architecture North of Second Street
Significant Historic Architecture South of Second Street
Other Significant Historic Architecture in Roswell
About This Site

Roswell Historic Preservation Week

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