Alamogordo — city of the "fat cottonwood"

A father watches while his son rolls down a sand dune at White Sands National Monument. Photo by Carla DeMarco.
White Sands National Monument

Alamogordo had its official beginning in June, 1898, when the El Paso and Northwestern Railroad, owned by Charles B. Eddy, reached the town. Mr. Eddy was very influential in the founding of Alamogordo. He planned a community with large wide thoroughfares and irrigation ditches lined with trees. The name of this community was derived from those trees. They were large cottonwoods and "Alamo Gordo" in Spanish translates to "fat cottonwood."

A large park, called Alameda, was to be located along the railroad tracks in the center of town. That park today houses New Mexico’s oldest zoo as well as a toy train depot. Almost a century old, the depot houses hundreds of model and toy trains. There is also a toy train ride of 2.2 miles around the park.

Historian Dr. David Townsend highlights an interesting feature of Eddy’s town. He was a prohibitionist and wanted no liquor in his model community. It seems his attorney, William A. Hawkins, advised him that totally prohibiting liquor was doomed to failure. Mr. Hawkins wrote an ordinance known as Block 50 Ordinance, the only block where liquor could be made and/or sold. Since Mr. Eddy sold all the lots, each deed had a provision that prohibited liquor on any lot. If there was, the lot reverted to Mr. Eddy. Needless to say, homeowners were wary about tippling in their homes. The ordinance stayed on the books until 1984.

Located at the crossroads of U.S. Highways 70, 82 and 54, Alamogordo, population 32,000, is the Otero County Seat. At 4,350 feet with an average annual temperature of 75, national surveys have rated it as one of the 50 healthiest places to live in the U.S.A.

The area between Washington and Oregon Avenues is Alamogordo’s green belt with most of the city’s public parks located between First and 18th Streets. Roundtree Park is outstanding because of its Kids Kingdom, a unique and exciting playground built by the community. Holloman Air Force Base, eight miles south, fuels the economy. It is home to the 49th Fighter Squadron. White Sands National Monument, fifteen miles south, is one of the world’s natural wonders with its 300 square miles of glistening white sand dunes, so tourism is an added economic factor. The The Space Center and the Clyde W. Tombaugh Omnimax Theater are additional tourist attractions.

Nineteen miles east on U.S. Highway 82 at 9000 feet, and through several life zones, is Cloudcroft. Other nearby attractions are the Mescalero-Apache Reservation and the Inn of the Mountain Gods, Ski Apache, Ruidoso Downs, Museum of the Horse, historic town of Lincoln, Capitan, home of Smokey the Bear, and Sacramento Peak Observatory at Sunspot.

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PhyllisEileenBanks - who has written 76 posts on

Phyllis Eileen Banks Phyllis Eileen Banks is both writer and artist. Her articles are currently appearing in Southern New Mexico Magazine and FYI, and she has written for New Mexico Magazine, Ranger Rick, Concern, Anchorage Daily News and other periodicals. In addition, with Cynthia Smith, she authored the Anchorage Fun Book. Much of her experience has been as editor. Most recently, she has served as the editor of the Roswell Fine Arts League/New Mexico Miniature Arts Society. Her other editorial experience includes The Alaska Presbyterian, The Alaska Heart, newsletter of the Alaska HeartAssociation and the book COCAHNIA (Consultation on Church and Human Need in Alaska). "I have invisible antennae that 'vibrate' when something doesn't seem right. Of course editing someone else's work is much easier than editing one's own," she says. People stories, historical pieces and travel writing are her favorites. She and her husband, Hal, moved to New Mexico from Alaska. "New Mexico has some of the same mystique of Alaska - wide open spaces, different cultures, so the transition was easy," says Eileen.

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2 Comments For This Post

  1. sarah heaton Says:

    This lady inspires me greatly, her book ‘Roaming Southern New Mexico’ is factual and informative while capturing the hidden magical idiosyncrasies of this unique state.
    p.s. I’m English - does a state need a capital S? Thank you.

  2. burchd Says:

    Editorial style guides do vary, but I’d say so: “Capitalize geographical regions of the country… Capitalize points of the compass when they designate geographical parts of a country, region or city.” This is also a title of a book, so I’d think title capitalization rules, i.e. capitalize major words, would apply.

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