Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico — a living history

Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico.
Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico.

The Historical Center for Southeast New Mexico, 200 North Lea Street, Roswell, New Mexico was constructed in 1910 and listed in the National Register of Historical Places.  This stately home, once the residence of James Phelps White, houses the Museum. The yellow-brick home, with its gently sweeping rooflines and large porches, is an excellent example of the prairie-style house developed by Frank Lloyd Wright. It is a reminder of turn-of-the-century life in Southeastern New Mexico.

Victorian furniture and Battenberg lace highlight the decor of the parlor. Oak-beamed ceilings and stained glass windows give the dining room warmth and charm. The kitchen has been painstakingly recreated as an early 1900s kitchen, including vintage appliances like a wood and gas-burning cookstove, ice box and pie safe. Hundreds of utensils of the day and an authentically stocked pantry complete the realism. One can almost smell the freshly baked bread or the odor of cider from recently picked apples.

The second floor gallery has ever-changing exhibits featuring subjects as varied as the History of American Fashions and a display of "little adult" toys.

The third floor houses the archives of the Historical Society, an abundance of invaluable rare books, photos, and business and family records of early Southeastern New Mexico. Plans are underway to build an annex to house these treasures of our past as soon as the funds can be obtained.

A gift shop, in the room to the left of the entrance, opens October 17. It will have children’s books and books about the Southwest, as well as stationery and small items.

"We are starting small," said Lea Fraser, great-granddaughter of Joseph Callaway Lea, one of Roswell’s early pioneers. She is the person in charge of volunteers at the Museum. "A group from Martin, Tennessee, will be coming for a special tour, as well as first and second graders who will make apple juice. Usually, fifth graders are the ones who make apple juice. However, the teacher of the younger ones requested permission to do it, as they are studying apples."

Admission is free, and the Museum is open daily from one to four p.m. with volunteers on duty. Although some work many more hours, volunteers are only asked to contribute three hours a month. For those who love history and the past, like to meet people and would like to play a major part in the success of the Museum, volunteering is the way to do it.

The Historical Society maintains the Museum to promote the discovery, collection, exhibition and preservation of archeological, historical and cultural materials relating to Southeastern New Mexico.

About Phyllis Eileen Banks