Rubble was all that was left of one of the most famous trading posts in the nation—a must stop on Route 66 “where real Indians trade.” A fire in 2001 had reduced it to nothing.
Then the Santo Domingo Pueblo joined forces with the State of New Mexico to breathe new life into the trading post.
Today, a time traveler to Domingo, New Mexico, would take a second look. The restored trading post looks almost identical to how it appeared in the 1940s and 50s.
The spot has hosted a trading post since the 1880s, but the building that’s just been rebuilt was originally constructed in 1922. It operated as a trading post until 1995. The mercantile company got its start through Nathan Bibo, but for years, the Santo Domingo post was operated by the Seligman family, longtime New Mexican merchants who owned businesses in a number of railroad towns. Fred Thompson took over in 1946 until his death in 1995.
One “Trader Fred” ad noted this trade haven as “…one of the oldest, most interesting and largest authentic trading posts still trading with the Indians in the old West.”
Today, the pueblo owns and operates the trading post. “Since the tribe is now running the trading post themselves, we are reclaiming our past and celebrating the present by making the trading post a centerpiece of economic development and pride in the community,” Santo Domingo Gov. Daniel Coriz says.
The complex is comprised of three buildings, but only the first—the two-story Mission Revival-style main building—is reopened as a retail store for the tribe’s jewelry, pottery and crafts.
Governor Coriz says the tribe hopes to renovate the “warehouse” next door into a grocery store and community center.
The post holds many memories for tribal elders, Gov. Coriz says. They remember walking the “squeaky” hardwood floors, smelling traditional foods for sale and watching kids ride the coin-operated horse.
A restoration grant request came in 2008, resulting in funding from the Economic Development Administration, says Pilar Cannizzaro, of the New Mexico Historic Preservation Division. The agency awarded two grants worth almost $2 million to rebuild the post and restore the murals that decorated the front of the building.
The agency recognized the potential of restoring the post, both for the residents and for tourism. Several times a day, New Mexico Rail Runner Express—a local tourist railroad that travels throughout the state—stops near the post.
Governor Coriz believes the post will be a major job generator for the pueblo, which now farms 100 acres—chili, native melons, corn, squash, cabbage, pumpkins. He thanks Sen. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico for their support of the project, and for giving back New Mexico—and the West—one of its treasures.
Arizona’s Journalist of the Year, Jana Bommersbach has won an Emmy and two Lifetime Achievement Awards. She also cowrote and appeared on the Emmy-winning Outrageous Arizona and has written two true crime books, a children’s book and the historical novel Cattle Kate.