As time passes, old buildings crumble whether on their own or with the help of bulldozers, landscapes change, and community populations ebb and flow. Change is inevitable. As the Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “There is nothing permanent except change.” The fact that this quote still rings true today, some 2,500 plus years after he said it, further proves its accuracy. With significant change in any community comes expected stories of nostalgia, but from time to time those historical events, figures and even buildings are “remembered” far differently than the facts reveal. I rounded up some of the best stories of old pertaining to our little corner of the world and met up with Nancy Dunn, a local historian and manager of the Artesia Historical Museum & Art Center, to help differentiate between the legends and myths and the cold, hard facts!
By definition, a legend is presumed to have some basis in historical fact, and typically mentions real people and/or events. Historical fact morphs into a legend when the truth becomes exaggerated to the point that real people or events have taken on a romanticized, often times larger than life quality (think Billy the Kid and other historical, romanticized individuals). A myth, on the other hand, is not based in fact, but rather is a sort of symbolic form of storytelling that is often used to explain difficult concepts (think ghosts, hauntings, etc.). And facts, well, facts are facts!
Q: Did the money for a Hope-to-Artesia railroad line go down with the Titanic in 1912?
A: No, it didn’t, although a popular and persistent legend says it did. What really happened is that this project died ca. 1911/1912 due to its European investors pulling out their funds—tensions that later led to WWI were already causing financial instability in Europe. Locals were unable to raise the necessary money themselves, so without the European investments, the project died. One of these European investors later went down on the “Lusitania” in 1915, and a Hope old-timer got mixed up when he was interviewed in 1938—he was the cause of the legend!
Q: Is there, or was there at one time, a tunnel that extended from the old hospital (later known as Johnston Manor), to a doctor’s house across the street?
A: NO! Although many still insist that there was/is! But not only was NO evidence uncovered during the current demolition and construction on the hospital’s site, there are NO tunnel plans in the original building plans, and the houses in the neighborhood that belonged to doctors were not built until years after the hospital construction! It is VERY unlikely a tunnel would have been constructed that long after the hospital was built and, again, there was NO evidence of it when the hospital’s site was excavated as part of the current construction!
Q: Was there ever a tunnel that went from Bullock’s Feed Store (currently the location of IHOP) to the original Artesia Hotel?
A: No again! There was a basement that extended the length of the building, but definitely NO tunnel. Again, NO evidence was uncovered when the Bullock’s building was demolished and the site excavated.
Q: Was there ever a thriving area of apple orchards in Hope?
A: Yes! Hope was a thriving farm community for years, until the Peñasco River’s flow diverted underground in the early 1920s (due to riverbed collapse upstream). A record-breaking killing freeze in the early 1930s finished off the orchards for good. This one is fact!
Q: Is the old Atoka School haunted?
A: Not that we know of, although several locals claim it is and have contacted the producers of some ghost-hunter/haunted house TV shows in hopes of bringing them to town. For now, it’s presumably just a myth!
Q: Was the old Artesia Hotel (the one that was demolished in 1976) ever a brothel?
A: Don’t think so—the Artesia Hotel (later called the Hotel Artesia after new owners took over in the late 1940s) was built in 1929 as a “classy” hotel for oil & gas executives to stay. The Hotel prided itself on its state-of-the-art amenities, and remained Artesia’s fanciest hotel until it started to show its age in the 1960s. This one would more than likely fall under the category of rumor!
Q: What about the old Hardwick/Folkner Hotel on Main St?
A: The answer to that question is not known but it could be likely! Some rip-roaring stories have been told about that place! We will play it safe and leave that one in the “legend” category for now!