Montezuma, New Mexico

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Partial page from Harpers's Weekly, 1890, describing Las Vegas Hot Springs (now Montezuma, NM). Upper image is "Mountain View near the Springs". First inset is "Taking a Mud Bath". Third image is "The Montezuma", and the top of "View in the Cañon" appears to the lower left.

Montezuma is an unincorporated community in San Miguel County, New Mexico, United States. It is located about five miles northwest of the city of Las Vegas, New Mexico.

The town was best known for many years for its natural hot springs,[1] and was in fact called "Los Ojos Calientes".[2] or "Las Vegas Hot Springs" until the late 19th century.

The town consists of ranches, a post office, and the United World College-USA.


Prehistorically, Native Americans valued the hot springs and regarded them therapeutically.[3] According to The Montezuma (New Mexico) Story, the site was initially commercialized in 1840, when a man named McDonald petitioned the Mexican government for the land, and was granted it on the condition he became a Mexican citizen. He then set up a house by the hot springs and charged for admission to the springs.[2] In 1846, after the territory of New Mexico was conquered by the U.S. Army and taken from Mexico, a military hospital was established near the hot springs.[3] This was converted into a hotel in 1862, and replaced by a stone building in 1879.[3] This was originally called the "Hot Springs Hotel"[4] and is now called "the old stone hotel". Jesse James is among the visitors who stayed there.[2] This building remains extant and is used as an administration building by the United World College- USA.

In 1881 and 1882, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built the first of three large hotels on the site, running a new small-gage railroad to the site[4] and renaming the city "Montezuma". Their hotel burned down, as did a much grander stone replacement. The final replacement, constructed in 1886, remains, and has been designated a "national treasure."

The railway company published books about the community in 1898 and 1900; the 1900 text notes that "The Montezuma Hotel is a handsome four-story structure in the chateau style, built of grayish red sandstone and slate. It stands on the north side of the Gallinas where the cañon widens to a small amphitheater, about one hundred feet above the river bed, and commanding attractive views of the pine-clad slopes of the surrounding hills, and a splendid vista through the cañon mouth across the plains and mesas to the dark forest ridge, thirty miles away on the southwestern horizon. The floor of the amphitheater is occupied by a pretty lawn of several acres, with firm turf, primeval pines, seats, flower-beds, and tennis and croquet grounds, while the steep slope up to the hotel is tastily parked with winding drives and walks"[5] Rates at the time were $2.50 to $4.00 by the day, and $52 – $80 by the month, with discounts available under various circumstances.[6] The book particularly recommended the hotel for those suffering from tuberculosis. The 1898 book was even more forceful in its recommendations, calling it "the most desirable resort in the world for those who are afflicted with any form of lung or throat disease."[7] The text goes on to suggest that Northern New Mexico would be palliative for all sick people except for those with "advanced stage" heart disease, who would suffer from the altitude. "Even imaginary ailments give way before forces so potent for good."[7]

The hotel was closed in 1903 and soon thereafter, floods swept away the bath house.[2] The Achison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad company held the property for several years, then transferred it to the Y.M.C.A. for $1, and the Y.M.C.A. in turn sold it to the Baptist church for use as a college. This institution was maintained from 1923 until 1932, after which the Baptist church allowed a variety of entrepreneurial efforts to be launched in the building, but all without success. The property was sold to the Catholic church and from 1937 until 1972 served as a training site for Mexican priests.[2]


The community lies along the Gallinas river, in the Sangre de Cristo mountains. It is only a few miles from Hermit's Peak.


  1. ^ Bejnar, W., and Bejnar, K. C. (1979) "Structural geology related to the Montezuma Hot Springs, Montezuma, New Mexico" New Mexico Geology 2(2): pp. 21-24
  2. ^ a b c d e The Montezuma (New Mexico) Story, F. Stanley, 1963
  3. ^ a b c "The Las Vegas Hot Springs," Clarence Pullen, Harpers Weekly, June 28, 1890, p.499 [1]
  4. ^ a b "The Montezuma Hotel at Las Vegas Hot Springs, New Mexico, Louise Harris Ivers, Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, 1974
  5. ^ Las Vegas Hot Springs, New Mexico, W. H. Carruth, Issued by Passenger Department, Santa Fe Route, December 1900, p. 28+
  6. ^ Las Vegas Hot Springs, New Mexico, W. H. Carruth, Issued by Passenger Department, Santa Fe Route, December 1900, p. 54
  7. ^ a b Las Vegas Hot Springs and Vicinity, C. A. Higgins, Issued by the Passenger Department, Santa Fe Route, February 1898

Coordinates: 35°39′08″N 105°16′35″W / 35.65222°N 105.27639°W / 35.65222; -105.27639