Newkirk, New Mexico
Ghost town explorers and Route 66 aficionados alike will want to place Newkirk, New Mexico at the top of their list of places to visit in the Land of Enchantment.
Map of Newkirk, New Mexico
Newkirk is located 143 miles east of Albuquerque off I-40. It is about 9 miles east of another iconic Route 66 ghost town, Cuervo, New Mexico.
A Route 66 ghost town on both sides of the highway
It’s unusual that I find a ghost town with so many structures that it warrants two blog posts but Newkirk turned out to have a treasure trove of hidden surprises. Many years ago I stopped in this town but apparently I missed most of it. I remember this Philips 66 gas station and convenience store called the Vista Mini Mart, the abandoned ranch across the street and the abandoned church by the Route 66 Gas Station on the other side of the highway. I had no idea there was a proverbial ghost town alley just around the corner!
If you’re wondering how long the Vista Mini Mart & Gas Station has been closed, just ask yourself when the last time that regular unleaded was $1.99. Maybe around 20-ish years ago? The Mini Mart is probably the most recently abandoned place in Newkirk. Just read the rest of the post. You’ll see what I mean.
Parajito Road in Newkirk, New Mexico
As it turns out, there are two distinct parts of town in Newkirk. There is Pajarito Rd. south of the highway and then there is the historic Route 66 district on the north side of I-40. Part 1 of my Newkirk blog posts will feature the abandoned places on Pajarito Rd.
Newkirk is located approximately 143 miles west of Albuquerque on Historic Route 66. Of course to drive there now, it would be a better to take I-40. You’ll know when you get there because this gas station can be seen from the interstate.
Newkirk is a census designated place in Guadalupe County. Newkirk has no local government but it does apparently have a post office serving the zip code of 88431. I didn’t actually see a post office but I also didn’t go inside of the functional gas station. Maybe it’s in there?
According to TheRoute-66.com, the town was originally settled around 1901 when the railroad set up shop. At that time, the town was called Conant, named for the first settler James P. Conant. This name was short lived though and when a new settler came to town from Newkirk, Oklahoma, the town of Conant was renamed Newkirk. I’m a little surprised they didn’t call it “New Newkirk” although I supposed that would’ve been unintentionally comical in its redundancy.
The post office opened in 1910 and Route 66 was aligned through Newkirk in 1926 bringing additional traffic and revenue from motorist who were hungry and out of gas. I didn’t see anything that looked like a hotel so travelers probably had to push on to Santa Rosa if they wanted a place to stay for the night.
Vista Mini Mart
The Vista Mini Mart on Pajarito Rd. in Newkirk, New Mexico has obviously seen better days. Heavily graffitied and exposed to the elements, the inside of this place is dank and disgusting. Because holes in the roof allowed water to get in, the insulation has all collapsed out of the ceiling and is now on the floor. As you can see, this has not been much of a deterrent for keeping people out. It worked on me though. I didn’t go in, just stood in the doorway. Additionally, there is another room off to the right that you can’t really see inside of without wading through all the shiz on the floor to get over to it. Word to the wise, that’s a potentially dangerous situation because you can’t see who or what is in there.
As previously mentioned, the inside of this place is super gross but I wanted to point out the heart shaped graffiti on the left. I found these sad Valentines on the walls of almost every building in town. To whoever did that, c’mon, buck up, they’re just not that into you. Someone did a mighty fine job on angry Homer Simpson though.
The ghosts outnumber the living
It seems that whenever I refer to any place as being a ghost town, someone is sure to pop up and argue that it’s not a real ghost town because there’s one guy living in a suspicious van a quarter mile down the road. Naysayers be nayin’, you know?
For the record, according to wikipedia, a census conducted in 2010 reported a population of seven. That’s right, seven, as in three less than ten. And to be fair, I did see a couple houses that looked like they may have been inhabited behind the functional Route 66 Gas Station on the north side of the highway. That being said, anytime the ghosts start to outnumber the living, I think the term “ghost town” is not inappropriate.
This abandoned house sits at the back of the parking lot behind the Vista Mini Mart. There’s a big fence around it though so you can’t get too close but, as I’ve said many times, shooting over the fence is not trespassing.
Agustin Maes House
This abandoned adobe house is at the far end of town. As you can see, it’s well past its prime and still furnished. This house was pretty swanky back in the day.
I did a Google search for Agustin Maes and, while I didn’t find much, I did find a listing on FindAGrave.com for a woman who may have been Agustin’s daughter. Her name is Christina Maes and the listing says she was born in Tucumcari in 1978 and that her parent’s are Agustin and Dora Maes. Christina passed away on November 5, 2020 and is buried in the Newkirk Cemetery. Was this her parents house?
What really struck me about this house was the furniture along with the wall paper and linoleum. I mean, get a load of that couch, right? And check out the fancy wall paper. If you look carefully over by the red chair, the pattern in the linoleum is visible. It can also be seen in the photo with the name in the door frame.
The kitchen had different fancy wallpaper and even has stairs that lead up to a loft.
I got the impression that this building may have been something more formal than a private residence.
This beautiful old ranch house/barn and its iconic windmill are across the street from the Vista Mini Mart on Pajarito Rd. It is behind a barbed wire fence and I definitely had the impression that the hills have eyes so to speak and that trying to climb through the fence was not a good idea.
I always say that I think it’s extremely important to be respectful when visiting places like this. Not only because it’s the right thing to do but because there is almost always someone watching and the last thing you want is for the state police to show up and find you on the wrong side of the fence. Just for the record though, shooting over the fence is not tresspassing.
Remember kids, take only photos and leave only footprints.
Want to see more of Newkirk? Be sure to check out On The Mother Road To Newkirk, New Mexico Part 2.
These photos were shot on May 28, 2022 and originally published to the old Dry Heat Blog in June of 2022.