Alamogordo New Mexico's Tularosa Basin Historic Society Ambitious Efforts at Historic Preservation


Mural with a nod to history at Mia's Collectibles New York Avenue Alamogordo, New Mexico ( 2nd Life Media Inc)

Alamogordo is a small southern New Mexico city that has a complex history and an evolution as a city heavily reliant upon the military as its sense of place. The city itself was founded in 1898 as a railroad and timber town and was not always a "military town." While its relationship with the military is important to the economy there is so much more to Alamogordo than the military.

Alamogordo, New Mexico's history is so much richer, and so much more, than just a city that is near the convergence point of 3 military bases: Holloman, White Sands and 2/3rd of Ft Bliss which are in the host County of Otero County. 

The entity created to preserve and to tell that rich, diverse and important history, is the now robust, Tularosa Basin Historic Society. Tularosa Basin Historical Society is a volunteer organization created in 1964 to preserve the history of the Tularosa Basin.

The gem of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society is the main museum on White Sands Blvd in the historic New York Avenue Cultural Arts and History District. 

However, of recent years the reach of the society has expanded and encompasses, so much more than the single building at "the plaza." But since Alamogordo city center is the center of the beginning, let's begin there, and work are way around, the recent additions to their portfolio of historic preservation...

The Tularosa Basin Museum main building (known as the Plaza Building) was built in 1938 and is an excellent example of Pueblo Revival Architecture in Alamogordo, Otero County, New Mexico.

The area known as the Tularosa Basin is in south-central New Mexico and is situated between the picturesque Sacramento Mountains on the east and the vast White Sands National Park on the west. The town of Alamogordo was designed and laid out by the Eddy Brothers, Charles & John owners of the El Paso / Northeastern Railroad Company. The Plaza Building and its location in the town are of great significance to the history of Alamogordo.

The building stands at the corner of White Sands Boulevard (Hwy 54/70 - the originally named Pennsylvania Ave.) and 10th Street. This intersection was the original entrance to the historic downtown area of Alamogordo. To the west across White Sands Boulevard is the Alameda Park and the Alameda Park Zoo - the oldest in New Mexico; both the park and the zoo were included in the original 1898 plat. The original commercial building on that corner was demolished because it was unsafe and leaning toward the street.

The Plaza building is a single story "L" shaped structure. When the building was constructed in 1938, the Plaza Oil Company, a gas station and garage, was built in the open area in front of the "L". the gas station operated until 1960 when it was demolished. Both buildings were constructed with adobe blocks made on site. the structural vigas on both building are timbers from the nearby Sacramento Mountains. The Plaza Building was built on the site of a former wooden structure which housed the only bar in town (known as the Pullman Saloon). The architectural style is Pueblo Revival/New Mexico vernacular, much like the WPA projects in town. Howard Beacham built the plaza as a private enterprise and operated the Plaza Café until 1946. Before building the Plaza, Mr. Beacham was elected Otero County Sheriff in 1920 and led a strong campaign against bootleggers and alcohol smugglers.

The Museum contains displays of artifacts with provenance that reflect the historical significance of the Tularosa Basin from its prehistoric beginnings, stories of the Native American population, to the more modern testing of the atomic bomb, sports relics and early school integration, to a rare 47-star American flag,  details of ranching life, the military and local families of note. Lots of small-town artifacts and the interesting exhibit about the legendary Atari Tomb, a nearby landfill where approximately 792,000 Atari games, including an E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial game was dumped in the early 1980s and so much more.

The Tularosa Basin Historic society and museum by 1994 had been around for 30 years but was on the brink of financial disaster. Locals rallied around it to preserve its mission. And within the last 5 years it is on its most solid financial footing ever and has expanded its reach by leaps and bounds. Under the tireless leadership of a staff of volunteers led by staff leader, Debra Lewandoski and her husband, Joe who serves as project manager for most initiatives has expanded the footprint and the reach of the society to include multiple properties via partnerships with the city and the community.

Tularosa Basin Museum 10th and White Sands New York Avenue History and Cultural District ( 2nd Life Media)

A significant must-see property under the ownership and oversight of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society is the La Luz Pottery Factory.  

This former factory in La Luz, New Mexico includes the buildings of the factory, three houses, an adobe warehouse and kiln, a clay processing plant, and storerooms and more which were built circa 1929. The factory, founded by wealthy New England industrialist Rowland Hazard, made roof and floor tiles as well as pots until it closed down in 1942. Its pottery is high collectible and highly prized and valued. The cool addition is new kilns have been added and classes and tours are now offered.

A bit of history on the La Luz Pottery Factory.  Rowland Hazard came to the Alamogordo area wanting to get away from East Coast business pressures and escape the scorn of his blue-blooded Rhode Island family. After a visit he came back and in 1929 with a compulsion that, perhaps, replaced his martini glass and then he began buying land, and buildings, and more.

Its former owner gave the Tularosa Basin Historic Society its eight structures and 235 acres in 2012, on the condition that they preserve it. Time had not been kind to the compound, most especially the adobe buildings. The property’s most notable feature is a 20-foot-tall clay-tiled chimney that once blew off smoke from the downdraft kiln.

In its prime La Luz Pottery churned out anywhere from 80 to nearly 200 varieties of pottery a year: vases, serving dishes, ashtrays, garden pots, birdbaths, lamps, but most especially roof and floor tiles. A June 1931 firing alone produced nearly 16,000 roof tiles and 140 pottery items designed by the Rodriguez brothers which were partners from California. Glazes derived from copper, cobalt, iron, manganese, nickel, chrome, and uranium alchemized into murky purples, deep greens, rich blues, and a muted yellow. Finished pieces were sold in 44 states and seven countries. 

 The factory changed hands a few times and pumped out more roofing tiles. In 1955, it fired a final batch. The kiln went cold. But the desire to obtain those pieces of the past continued to smoulder in the memories of locals and under Joe and Debra Lewandoski leadership it is alive again.

The Tularosa Basin Museum of History offers pottery classes twice a week at the La Luz Pottery Factory, on Wednesdays and Saturdays from 1 PM to 5 PM. The first Wednesday and Saturday of each month is dedicated to first time students; however, returning students are welcome to attend those classes as well. The classes are free, though donations are welcome. Please contact the museum for additional information.

The Tularosa Basin Historic Society has taken on two other ambitious projects for 2023 and with openings slated for 2024. 

La Luz Pottery Factor managed by the Tularosa basin Historic Society a must see ( 2nd Life Media)

Alamogordo Railroad History Park:

Across the street from "the plaza" the main museum building one sees a huge railroad water tower dating back to the early 1900's. The Historic Society was tasked via a grant received from Union Pacific to preserve the tower and tell the history of the railroad. As a result, a new park is evolving on city property next to the Alameda Park Zoo which will tell the story of the railroad and its significance to Alamogordo. The park is evolving with story boards, photos and outdoor railroad relics that will tell the story of what Alamogordo looked like as a railroad town of yesteryear. This project is an outdoor walking park that can be visited quickly but is of importance to the city of Alamogordo's founding years. Across the street from that newly evolving park is also Founder Square which hosts the busts of the city fathers and murals and story boards that pay tribute to the founding years and compliment the corner of 10th and White Sands Blvd which is all about history.

Historic Water Town Alamogordo New Mexico new park under development to tell the history of Alamogordo and the railroads (

The Dudley Community Center:

The Tularosa Basin Historic Society's most ambitious and what some say is its most important project to date is the preservation and reimagination of the "Dudley School."  This building predates most of the existing buildings in Alamogordo with the original construction from 1901 and an expansion in 1914. The building fell into disrepair and was near being condemned.

Converting the Dudley School: one of the oldest structures in Alamogordo, New Mexico; into a "community center" is a task a community of volunteers is taking on under the leadership of the Tularosa Basin Historic Society and the city of Alamogordo.

This project has been championed by the Tularosa Basin Historic Society among the nonprofit sector, and by District 5 Alamogordo City Commissioner, Sharon McDonald representing the government partnership.

McDonald was a student at Dudley, also known as the "Maryland School" decades ago, during the transitional years from segregation. The Dudley School rehabilitation has a special meaning to her and as a shining light of community pride in the once proud Chihuahuita neighborhood nearby. Her vision is that the Dudley rehabilitation “will inspire community pride and future investment into reestablishing the dignity and pride of this historically important neighborhood.”

The Dudley Community Center rehabilitation is the first major historic preservation event in the historically Hispanic and African American “old town” portion of Alamogordo near the Chihuahuita side of 10th Street.

The Tularosa Basin Museum is taking special care in the reinvention and the restoration of this historic structure and in its mission. The building which has a history from segregation is a building being devoted to becoming a community center with a playground, a community garden across the street and more. 

What is most striking about this project, is the care that is being taken to tell the stories exclusively of those from this unique neighborhood, those that attended the school and the diversity represented. 

The Tularosa Basin Historic Society is taking great care and extending invitations to the Hispanic, and African American families, of the neighborhood and of the basin, and former students at the school, to tell their stories and to ensure those stories are preserved and enshrined into the archives of the museum. 

The Dudley Community Center will also be a living breathing museum and with story boards, oral histories, archives for research and more. Whereas the "Plaza Museum" devotes a lot of attention to the founding days of Alamogordo and the railroad, timber industry and ranchers that made up the area. This community center and museum speaks to and is dedicated to Hispanic Culture and African American Culture as it related to Alamogordo and the Tularosa Basin.

The Tularosa Basin Historic Society has kicked off an effort seeking those stories, seeking family photos, relics and histories of Hispanic families and African American families of the basin to enshrine into the story boards, archives and the fabric of displays to be showcased. Outreach began last year with the Hispanic community and outreach kicked off with an informational meeting during Black History Month 2024 at Corinth Church in the neighborhood hosted by the church, City Commissioners, Sharon McDonald, and Warren Robinson, and in partnership with the NAACP. 

The Tularosa Historic Society wants to garner and secure as many oral histories and written histories of those diverse communities as possible to participate and share your family history or to learn more call 575-434-4438.

From dilapidation to a community center and museum celebrating the diversity of Alamogordo ( 2nd Life Media)
A place of pride and diversity renewal and hope. The Dudley Community Center Alamogordo New Mexico ( 2nd Life Media Inc)

The Tularosa Historic society also partners with private businesses for display and historic preservation. If you happen to visit the city center of New York Avenue, be sure to also step into the Roadrunner Galleria at 928 New York Avenue and see the display of the safes and the tellers cage metal dating back to 1904 that is showcased. Several of the artifacts and photos are on loan from the historic society and are showcased. Also check out the once a month walking tour hosted by that tells of the history, art and ghost of the area. For information on that tour call 575-520-2785.

Historic Safes showcased as part of the ghost and history tour at 928 New York Avenue Alamogordo (

The Tularosa Basin Historic Society is a very active organization on a roll of historic preservation and serving a diverse community of the Alamogordo area. 

To learn more, visit the website at Tularosa Basin Historical Society - Alamogordo Museum of History | Tularosa Basin Historical Society ( or better yet come on downtown Alamogordo, walk the shops, visit the museum and parks and see history come alive!

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