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Exploring a building’s demise


Back in the 1990s, when I drove a 1966 Mustang, it was fun tooling around in that nice-looking Ford. But if I was traveling more than 30 miles, I felt a lot better driving my 1978 Buick LeSabre. The newer vehicle was a lot more stable, safer and solid than the Mustang. The Buick even got better gas mileage.

The 1993 Ford F-150 I have today is also fun.

But its door panels have a tendency to fall off. It doesn’t have a beep to remind you the lights are on. And there are zero cup holders.

It’s cool to experience something old and nice.

Unfortunately, those cool old things don’t stay nice without a lot of pricey maintenance. And unless they remain functional and useful, they can easily become, well, useless.

The Henry Trost-designed former Las Cruces Country Club clubhouse, erected in 1929, saw its demise Tuesday, March 7.

The building quit being used more than a decade ago, when the Country Club decided to leave its mid-city golf course next to Apodaca Park, with its eyes toward what they thought at the time would be greener pastures: Red Hawk Golf Course. That didn’t quite materialize.

I’m no architectural expert, but I like Trost buildings. Henry and his brother, Gustavus, designed a ton of buildings in the Southwest. Check out henrytrost.org. Dozens of them as standing strong and doing great.

I’ve stayed in three wonderful, well-maintained Trost buildings in west Texas: the Holland Hotel in Alpine; the Paisano Hotel in Marfa; and Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn.  They are all cared for and well-used, although El Capitan was struggling mightily before Jeff Bezos brought Blue Origin to that region, and El Capitan became home to many of its employees.

There are some Trost buildings on the New Mexico State University campus, including Goddard Hall and the Honors building.

Everyone loves to look at these old, historic buildings, just as they love to look at old, antique cars.

But in both cases, few people have the commitment, financially and otherwise, to buy these relics, restore them and keep them in decent, functioning shape.

The Trosts’ Valverde Hotel in Socorro, New Mexico, is an example of another Trost building that could be in danger from misuse or lack of use.

While I say the country club building in Las Cruces met its end March 7, 2023, its demise actually came years earlier, when no one was able to step forward and rescue it.

And what about the big, beautiful trees in the area that died from lack of care? That’s a loss, too, isn’t it?

I had the idea of using the clubhouse as the headquarters for a miniature golf course. It could have been an homage to the departed golf course and something fun to do.

However, my daydream was a moot point because I don’t have the money, and nobody wants to play miniature golf anymore anyway.

Buildings are made for people, not for history.

If a structure can remain useful, safe and functional, and its owners or renters can afford the necessary maintenance and renovation, then let the building stand as long as it can. But in other cases, a building simply runs its course.

The French are spending years, and tons of money to restore the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. People view it as a sacred edifice almost 900 years old.

We wouldn’t expect the same investment for a non-descript beige metal building from 1985, regardless of the nature of the activity it housed.