On The Mother Road to Cuervo, New Mexico: A return trip
In my first post about the Route 66 ghost town of Cuervo, New Mexico, I republished my photos that were recovered from a visit in 2005. On May 28, 2022 I was able to make it back to one of my favorite ghost towns of all time.
A quick history of Cuervo, New Mexico
If this is your first time hearing about Cuervo, here’s the condensed version of its whereabouts and history.
Cuervo, New Mexico is located on 134 miles east of Albuquerque. Though it was once on historic Route 66, Cuervo is now bisected by I-40 and, as with many of these small towns, I-40 was a pretty big nail in the coffin.
Cuervo was officially founded in 1901 and its post office operated from 1902 until 2011 serving the zip code of 88417. According to the all knowing Wikipedia, records indicate that a settlement existed in the same area prior to 1901. The town began as a supply center for ranches in the area and by 1926, it had become a stop for travelers on The Mother Road. A 1940 census recorded a population of 128 but that number grew to over 300 over the next decade.
And then one day everyone left. So many of the abandoned structures are still full of furniture and personal belongings. It looks like everyone left together on a three hour cruise and the ship sank.
Today, there are still a few inhabited houses in Cuervo and the hills absolutely have eyes so remember to be on your best behavior. Once, while visiting Cuervo for a portrait session, a local with a rifle confronted us in the street. He got a lot nicer once we explained to him that we were not vandals and also not “with the oil company” as he suspected. I don’t know why you would see four people with all kinds of camera gear and think to yourself “they’re with the oil company.” But hey, what do I know?
There is a functional gas station in Cuervo but it’s on the opposite side from the highway from all the good stuff. Honestly though, if you’re in need of a gas station and especially a restaurant, you’d be better off to keep driving to either Santa Rosa or Tucumcari depending on the direction of travel.
Goings on around town
For a town with no people, there’s a lot going on here. For one thing, the old school house appears to be undergoing some renovations. On this outing, we also visited the Route 66 ghost town of Newkirk, New Mexico. Newkirk is a little farther down the highway than Cuervo so we went there first. When we passed Cuervo, there were work trucks parked in front of the school house. Thankfully the trucks had left by the time we made it back.
As you can see, the doors and windows are mostly boarded up. I could’ve squeezed through that gap in the door and got in if I really wanted to but it wouldn’t have been worth while. The inside is piled high with all kinds of construction materials which would’ve mucked up any photos I wanted to take. Aside from that, squeezing through the door may have triggered an alarm or a call to the police. I can’t really believe that all the stuff is just sitting there unprotected, which means it probably is protected.
The school house now has a shiny new metal roof. In my original post about Cuervo, there is a photo showing the sad remains of a shingle roof on this building. There are also photos of the interior and it pretty much still looks the same except for the dry wall and bags of concrete piled up all over the place.
A little research reveals a likely reason for the construction. According to Route66news.com, an 80 year old woman named Flora Page bought the building from the Santa Rosa School Board in 2012. She graduated from the 8th grade in the now abandoned Cuervo school and said that she had plans to renovate the space into a gallery.
I can tell you that now, ten years later, the school is still not a gallery but it is currently in better shape than it had been on my previous visit.
Crime scene at Cuervo, New Mexico
I have a lot more questions than answers about this video. On the one hand, I’m glad to see that John Mulhouse, author of the City Of Dust blog got some awesome free exposure on KRQE News 13 though I do wish it had been for a less gruesome reason.
And here’s where the questions start. First, I’m a little stumped about which building this is. I’ve been to Cuervo several times and never realized there was more than one church. Maybe I had seen this building from the other side and thought it was a house?
Secondly, while what was found was certainly disturbing, and I’m not saying that it wasn’t a crime scene, but I don’t know that it actually constitutes evidence of a crime as everyone seems to suggest. It is certainly gross vandalism but it takes more than panties, porn and graffiti to definitively say that a more serious crime had been committed. So far as I know, there was no blood spatter in the room, no victims have come forward, no bodies have been found, no arrests have been made. I’m just sayin’, maybe we shouldn’t all jump to conclusions. On the other hand, and I’ve said this before, do not go exploring these kinds of places alone! Cuervo is remote, desolate, cell service is sketchy and there is no one to hear you scream. Remember kids, always use the buddy system.
This news clip is from October 31, 2014. I did not see any evidence that the activity was continuing during my trip to Cuervo on May 28, 2022.
Map of Cuervo, New Mexico
The Route 66 ghost town of Cuervo, New Mexico has three main streets. There’s Cross Rd., Aguila St. (which turns into Beck St.) and Bond St. Most of the good stuff is on Cross Rd but a few good abandoned houses can be found down Aguila St. and Bond St.
As always, take only photos and leave only footprints.
The little house with many boards
This is one of my favorite houses in Cuervo. It can also be seen as the opening image of my previous post. Back in 2005, there were more shingles left on the roof and the old blue mobile home that was once behind it has since been moved away. I love the bead board interior. While all the porches in Cuervo are in serious danger of collapsing, this one is in better shape than most of the others.
The Train Car
The original builders of these old New Mexico towns had mastered the art of the tiny house long before it was trendy. In fact, at the time they would’ve just called it “a normal house”.
The Haunted House
I went in to a lot of abandoned houses in Cuervo but this is the only one that really made me uneasy.
I entered through the back of the back door which opens into the living room. The atmosphere seemed calm as I looked around and took a few photos but when I crossed the room and stood in the door way between the living room and the kitchen things started to get a little more interesting. It’s hard to describe but, if you’ve ever experienced it, you’ll know exactly what I mean. I’m standing in the doorway getting some pictures of the kitchen and I know for sure that there is someone standing behind me staring holes in the back of my head. I even turned around to look because I thought Johnpaul had come in behind me. He had not.
I even said out loud, “Don’t worry, I’m just gonna take a few photos and then I’ll be on my way”. That didn’t work at all. I didn’t think about it at the time but it’s pretty likely that the spirit in the house doesn’t speak English. It’s also likely that it doesn’t care what I have to say and just wants me to leave. In any case, the presence intensified to the point that I lost my cool and scadaddled on outta there.
This building is next door to the Cuervo Church on Cross Rd. and contains all kinds of interesting things. Why would the people just leave and not take any of this stuff with them? I guess U-Haul wasn’t a thing back in the day.
As you can see in the photos below, there is a broken Olympic television – indicating that the revolution will not be televised, a desk and an old cigarette machine. In the next room are several salon chairs. In 2005, there was a perfectly pink salon chair that still had the hair dryer hood attached.
The Cuervo Church
The Cuervo Church, located on Cross Road, is locked up tight and fronted with No Trespassing signs. I don’t think this is the church that is referenced in the news video at the beginning of this post.
With abandoned towns comes abandoned trees. They are often fruit trees that are not able to survive the extreme hot and dry New Mexico desert without the assistance of someone to water them. The trees tell their own story about what life here was like when they were alive and thriving.
This covered porch was so rickety that I wouldn’t even walk on it. The top part is barely attached to the house and only sort of supported by a couple of 2×4’s that are not exactly attached to anything at the bottom.
The Hawkins Building
I have no idea what this building was but I absolutely love the metal siding. It looks like it might have been a store or maybe it was the post office. I call it the Hawkins Building because written in the top left corner of front exterior is the word, “Hawkins”.
The writing is faded and really difficult to read now but check out the photo below from 2005.
Driving directions to Cuervo, New Mexico
The Route 66 ghost town of Cuervo, New Mexico is located off I-40, 134 miles east of Albuquerque.
This post was originally published to the old Dry Heat Blog on June 30, 2022.