If you haven’t driven out to Madrid, NM, consider adding it to your tourism bucket list. Located outside of Santa Fe, near the mineral-rich Ortiz Mountains, Madrid offers you a fascinating trip into the history of coal mining, baseball, and art colonies.
Madrid originated as a coal mining town known as Coal Gulch. In the 1850’s the town began to grow in size and importance. This trend continued through the 1880’s with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad created a tremendous demand for coal, which fueled the expansion of the town to 2,500 people. During the 1920s, Madrid was even known for a Christmas light display with over 150,000 lights. The display was powered by coal generators that also supplied electricity to the entire town.
Like many company towns, the residents of Madrid relied on their employers to provide stores, amusement, schools, and hospitals. Employers even sponsored entertainment and social activities in order to prevent “idle hands from becoming workshops of the devil.” In 1919, the recently hired town superintendent, Oscar Huber, created a baseball team known as the Madrid Miners. Along with the team, he also oversaw the construction of the first lighted ballpark west of the Mississippi. At the time, the Miners consisted of Slavs, Poles, Native Americans, and other social groups who were drawn to the difficult world of coal mining.
Madrid quickly became a model for mining towns across the country, and just as the Miners brought a sense of community to her residents, another minor league team, Fuego helped to unite Santa Fe’s lovers of the “old ball game.” Baseball teams like the Madrid Miners popped up around country, and the sport grew into a popular pastime for laborers on their days off. At the time, it was often said that “all of Madrid could have been robbed during a Miners game because every town member was in attendance.” The Madrid Miners were instrumental to the development of baseball in our country, and the Joseph Huber Memorial Field can still be seen today.
After World War II, the demand for coal diminished, and by the late 1950s, Madrid became a “ghost town.” Still, the houses and cabins that were built during the boom still remain. In the 1960s, hippies and other members of the counterculture began to re-populate the town. Along with the new influx came new art studios, bars, galleries, and restaurants. Today, a 45-minute drive from the Inn on the Alameda brings you to the community of Madrid where you can shop, eat, drink and experience the architecture and community spirit that has revitalized this important historical gem.
Images via Madrid Miners’ Facebook page.