The Montezuma Castle near Las Vegas, New Mexico ranks among the undisputed architectural gems of the state. Built in the 1880s as arguably the most opulent and fashionable resort west of the Mississippi, the Montezuma hosted US presidents and titans of industry as well as European and Japanese nobility and the outlaw Jesse James. Patrons enjoyed the first bowling alley in the West, the first electric lighting in New Mexico, celebrated hot springs and spas, and exquisite cuisine, including fresh fish and sea turtles hauled by rail from the West Coast and Mexico. In spite of its illustrious past, the Montezuma stood empty for much of the last century -- the structure vandalised and falling into ruin. Chances for its resurrection looked dim until 1997 when the National Trust for Historic Preservation designated the former hotel as one of America's eleven Most Endangered Historic Places. It was the first property west of the Mississippi to gain that attention, and a committed preservation effort followed.
Here is the story of the castle's heritage, its architectural grandeur and its rebirth as an educational complex serving the diverse, global population of students attending the United World College of the American West, founded by Armand Hammer with help from Prince Charles.
Jon Bowman, Editor