AlamogordoTownNews.com History of 928 New York Avenue and the historic Shopping District

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Present Day Roadrunner Emporium originally the First National Bank of Alamogordo built in 1900 (AlamogordoTownNews.com)

History of 928 New York Avenue and the historic New York Avenue Shopping District of Alamogordo New Mexico…

The City of Alamogordo was founded in 1898, when the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad, headed by Charles Eddy, extended the railway to the town. Charles influenced the design of the community, which included large wide thoroughfares and tree-lined irrigation canals. Charles Eddy's brother, John Eddy, named the new city Alamogordo after a grove of fat cottonwoods he remembered from the Pecos River area. When Alamogordo was laid out in 1898, the east-west streets were given numerical designations, while north-south streets were named after states, thus the main street commercial zone of New York Avenue. The present-day White Sands Boulevard was then called Pennsylvania Avenue.

First National Bank Building 1900 of Alamogordo & Roadrunner Emporium 2021

New York Avenue was developed via the original First National Bank of Alamogordo chartered in 1900, at the corner of 10th
Street and New York as an anchor to downtown. This 1900’s building still showcases the original vaults and is a showplace of art, culture and history as Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and More -928 New York Avenue.

The history of that anchor building begins with the 4 safes that still exist today and were brought in as the center anchor to the building. The premier art deco safe has been restored and is a photo stop for tourist from around the world and locals alike. The art deco safe was handcrafted in Cleveland Ohio of stainless steel and shipped via rail at a cost of $36,000 in 1900. $36,000 in 1900 has a relative inflated worth of $1,209,878.62 as of today.

Upon arrival in 1900 the decorative art deco styled safe was hoisted and ultimately delivered to its present location, as a center showcase section to the building at 928 New York Avenue, presently Roadrunner Emporium. It was the showcase safe and the only one of the 4 in the building, with an automated timer, thus the wealthiest of Alamogordo, and gold was stored in this very special vault. The timing mechanism was assembled in 1898 and is still in operating condition today.

It is said that even Billy the Kid, with his escapades locally and in Lincoln could not have blown through the steel doors of this safe, and as such it survived countless tests over the years of its integrity, yet surviving to this day, as a masterpiece of fine craftsmanship and as a work of art. It is showcased as the centerpiece of the gallery space of Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and More as a piece of historical significance to the founding of the region.

The bank struggled during the depression and was overextended, ultimately it lost its charter in the late 1920s. The First National Bank of Alamogordo that exists today, is not affiliated and is of different charter than this original bank on the historic New York Avenue.

The Mason’s rented the upstairs portion of the bank when it was operated as a bank in the 1920’s at a rate of $30.00 a month and it operated as their lodge. When the bank defaulted then the Masons purchased the building and maintained it as their lodge. The building was modified, and the top floor was removed as unstable by the Masons.

The original skeleton of the external building, internal brickwork, arched windows, grand archways, safes, and original hardwood floors are showcased and preserved to this day, much as they were in their heyday.

The present operators of Roadrunner Emporium have made it a point to showcase the history of the building and showcase sale items in a mercantile format with showcases from 1915 that have been restored and accent the entrance to the business.

During the decades to follow the Masonic lodge was moved and the building became Florsheim Shoes, parts of it were a fine tailored men’s store. In the 1970’s and 80’s a women’s store called “Squash Blossom” catered to women from as far away as Houston Texas who would drive and be fitted for high end fashions and modern styling.

As the malls moved in the building fell into some disrepair and was several other businesses over the years including a gym and a thrift store.

928 New York Avenue A Building of Strong Heritage Standing Proud Today…

Now the building again stands proud. As Roadrunner Emporium it is a showcase of history and a center of the entrepreneurial spirit as an incubator for over 50 small business partners with a focus on arts, collectibles, and culture. The business stands proud as the anchor store for the Alamogordo Main Street Area known as the historically significant, New York Avenue.

Roadrunner Emporium Fine Arts Gallery, Antiques and More is operated under curators, Chris Edwards & Rene Sepulveda under the ownership of 2nd
Life Media Inc.

New York Avenue, Alamogordo New Mexico

New York Avenue itself a once thriving bustling main street area has had a history of transition. It was once the center of commerce of Southern New Mexico. Initially Alamogordo’s main industry was timbering for railroad ties. The railroad founders were also eager to create a major town that would persist after the railroad was completed; they formed the Alamogordo Improvement Company to develop the area, making Alamogordo an early example of a planned community. The Alamogordo Improvement Company owned all the land, platted the streets, built the first houses and commercial buildings, donated land for a college, and placed a restrictive covenant on each deed prohibiting the manufacture, distribution, or sale of intoxicating liquor.

As such New York Avenue was the main commercial zone across from the train depot on what was then Pennsylvania Avenue, (now White Sands Blvd).

New York Avenue was known for banking, the grand hotels, tasty restaurants, and shopping via mercantile stores that serviced those traveling by rail and the mill workers and lumber workers that made the Alamogordo area their home. New York Avenue was the center of commerce for Otero County and Southern, New Mexico.

New York Avenue was a beautiful expanse of a wide city street at the time lush with cottonwood trees growing via the canals that have been filled for sewers in modern times. With that modernization of the city streets and sidewalks came the demise of the natural water supply and the demise of the lush cottonwoods that were once abundant throughout Alamogordo.

During the depression the First National Bank defaulted, and business was hit hard in the vibrant commercial zone. Several government buildings in Alamogordo were constructed by the Works Progress Administration, a government program created in 1935 in response to the Great Depression. These include the Otero County Administration Building at 1101 New York Avenue, a Pueblo style building originally constructed as the main U.S. Post Office in 1938. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The main entrance portico features frescoes by Peter Hurd completed in 1942. The Post Office moved out in 1961, and the building was used by a succession of Federal agencies and was known as the Federal Building. The last Federal agency to occupy it was the United States Forest Service who used it as the headquarters of the Lincoln National Forest until October 2008, when that agency moved to a newly constructed building. Ownership of the building was transferred to Otero County government and many government offices were moved from the Courthouse to the new Administration Building in February 2009 to present.

New York Avenue from the 50s through the early 80s was a vibrant shopping district. At one time the street was the center of commerce hosting many small businesses and anchored with Woolworth, then Sears and ultimately JC Penny came onto New York Avenue. This was the last JC Penney in New Mexico to locate in a downtown. Future JC Penny’s and large retail stores migrated to the urban shopping malls and that transition put a strain on most downtown city centers and most especially New York Avenue.

Many of the buildings along New York Avenue fell into disrepair, were vacant and most businesses left the downtown city center. Derelicts and a lack of political leadership allowed the street to falter, and a once proud street became an area of blight.

From Blight to a Restart: The Flickinger Center…

Ultimately several small businesses took a leap of faith and decided to reinvest in the area and charter a new course. The Flicking Center as an anchor point. The nonprofit Alamogordo Civic Auditorium, Inc. was created in 1983 to provide a facility for the performing arts in Alamogordo and Otero County. In 1988 Alamogordo resident Margaret Flickinger bought the Sierra Theater, a 1950s-style movie theater, and donated it to the organization.  The theater and the organization were renamed Flickinger Center for the Performing Arts. The inaugural performance at the theater was in December 1988 by the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra. The inaugural season started in October 1992.

The building at 1110 New York Avenue has undergone two major renovations. In 1990–1991 the Flickinger Center organization ran a capital campaign that raised $1 million, until then the largest fund-raising campaign ever held in Alamogordo. The movie theater was converted into a live theater by creating a 40-foot (12 m) by 32-foot (9.8 m) stage and adding an orchestra pit, dressing rooms, a wardrobe and orchestra room, and additional lighting. A second round of renovation was performed in 2007, after securing capital outlay grants of $1 million from the State of New Mexico. This renovation provided additional restrooms, a new sound booth, a handicapped-seating area, and an ADA-compliant ramp. At the end of the second renovation the theater had given up 90 seats and seated 590 but was a building of cultural significance to Alamogordo and to the New York Avenue business district and a cornerstone to its revitalization plan.

New York Avenue, Alamogordo’s Main Street

New York Avenue has other businesses that invested into the downtown area, Mia’s Collectibles 823 New York Avenue, Victoria 913 at 913 New York Avenue, Marquardt Eye Associates 903 New York Avenue, Mission Billiards 1003 New York Avenue, and Roadrunner Emporium 928 New York Avenue just to name a few of many businesses expanding, growing, and committing to New York Avenue.

The Future Looks Bright for Alamogordo’s Main Street – New York Avenue

Alamogordo’s Main Street association organized and then joined the New Mexico Main Street initiative. Via the Downtown Alamogordo Metropolitan Redevelopment Area (MRA) Plan which provides the necessary framework and vision for the redevelopment of Downtown Alamogordo. The Downtown MRA Plan was developed through a community engagement process that was initiated in March 2018

The Downtown Alamogordo MRA Plan identified specific redevelopment projects, public sector investments, and support actions to help achieve the community's vision. It provides a powerful planning tool for establishing future public/private partnerships and communicates the types of uses and redevelopment that are appropriate for Downtown Alamogordo. The Downtown MRA Plan has been developed to be consistent with and further the City of Alamogordo's 2018 Comprehensive Plan.

The Downtown Vision is supplemented by the following goals:

Goal 1: Create a destination for both residents and visitors that offers a diverse mix of small, locally owned retail businesses, sit down restaurants and cafes, and cultural events and attractions.

Goal 2: Encourage the restoration and preservation of Downtown buildings through redevelopment and adaptive reuse.

Goal 3: Improve the New York Avenue/10th Street intersection so that it is safe for drivers and pedestrians and encourages lower traffic speeds on 10th Street.

Goal 4: Enhance the pedestrian realm of Downtown through a coordinated program of street light fixtures, accessible sidewalks, benches, wayfinding signage, and public art.

Goal 5: Continue to host all-ages, community events that feature local musicians, artists, and craftspeople on New York Avenue and the new plaza along 10th Street.

Goal 6: Work with the City Commission and Planning and Zoning on allowing mixed use zoning within the commercial areas of Downtown through revisions to the City's Zoning Ordinance.

Goal 7: Encourage new residential development on the edges of the Downtown core.

Goal 8: Engage with and attract Alamogordo youth to Downtown through a multi-media marketing effort online and in schools.

As such New York Avenue in 2021 is thriving with investment and small business leaders committed to a rehabilitation and a revitalization of this historically significant street. Anchored by Flickinger Center, the Roadrunner Emporium and a commitment to progress and a reflection of history by Victoria 913, Mia’s Collectibles, and others, the future is brighter every day for this historic zone to once again be a district of arts, culture, and splendor.

Come on down and explore New York Avenue on the rebound…

Now show your appreciation for history, culture, the arts and come on down to New York Avenue and shop, play, dine, walk, listen to music, explore some artwork and crafts, find that special antique or collectible and learn the history from 1898 to today alive and well on Alamogordo’s New York Avenue.

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