Historic Buildings of Columbus


The El Paso Southwestern Railroad Depot was constructed in 1902. Neighboring structures, including the pump house, the Customs House, and the Section House were also built in 1902. The railroad used the depot until 1959 when it was abandoned by the railroad. The building then became a meeting place for the local boy scouts troop and then a library and newspaper office. The most significant event associated with the depot occurred on March 9, 1916 when Pancho Villa's army across the border on horseback before dawn and attacked Columbus. Between 400 and 500 Villistas participated in the attack and took the sleepy town by surprise. The attack lasted from 4:15 A.M. to 6:00 A.M. In response to the raid, the Punitive Expedition led by General John Pershing embarked from Columbus to seek and capture Pancho Villa after he retreated to Mexico. Many of the soldiers arrived at Columbus by railroad, stopping at the depot before going to Camp Furlong. Supplies for the expedition also came by railroad to Columbus and Camp Furlong.


The Customs House was a standing building during the Pancho Villa Raid and the Punitive Expedition against his forces. It was built in 1902 to regulate trade coming across the border from Palomas, Mexico, several miles to the south. In 1901, it was a sub port of the customs house in El Paso, Texas. The building is an example of Prairie School architecture.  The building is wood frame with flush board sides and flush joints. The roof is hipped with wooden shingles and has an unusual angle to it. Its also has a pointed metal finial on the top.  It is currently in use as the Museum and Visitors Center of Pancho Villa State Park and was remodeled using historical preservation standards by the state in 1985.



The Headquarters Building is located in the northeast portion of the Pancho Villa State Park. The date of construction is unknown but it is in pictures taken at the time of the Punitive Expedition against Pancho Villa (1916-1917). This adobe structure is approximately 21 feet long by 13 feet wide. It is a one story rectangular building with a tin gabled roof. The entrance, which is located on the north side, is a single door with a soffit and lentil seal. There are four main windows, two each on both the east and west sides. There are two windows on the south wall; one for ventilation and one wood framed window. The interior of the building consists of cement floor, a plank wood ceiling, and plaster walls. . Some reconstruction has been done on the north and east sides using cement. The headquarters building is currently awaiting renovation by the New Mexico State Parks Department. It is presently fenced and covered by a free standing corrugated metal roof for protection as part of the Pancho Villa State Park exhibits.


Camp Furlong and Columbus became the supply base of this operation and bore witness to the birth of the motorization of the U.S. Army as the American horse soldiers were replaced by trucks and airplanes. Located in the northern portion of the Pancho Villa State Park in Luna County, New Mexico, not far from the intersection of New Mexico State Highways 11 and 9, Camp Furlong Recreational Hall is a single framed rectangular weatherboard building with a tin gabled roof. Over the years, the Recreation Hall has seen several different uses, but has maintained its historical integrity and continues to be an essential part of the Columbus' community. Pictures from the time of the Punitive Expedition show this structure. During the 1930s the building served as the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) barracks. The U.S. Immigration Office later used the building until 1956. At the time of the original 1975 survey for the National Register of Historical Places, the building stood abandoned and rapidly deteriorating. Through a series of renovations in the 1980s, the Camp Furlong Recreation Hall is currently in good condition and functioning as a meeting hall for the town.


The Army's Judge Advocate's Office and Jail was part of Camp Furlong during the Army's presence in Columbus. It was used to try and incarcerate military personnel accused of crimes and misdemeanors. The Judge Advocate's Office and Jail is a small, one-story adobe building located in the Pancho Villa State Park, about one-quarter mile south/southwest of the intersection of State Highways 11 & 9. It served the U. S. Army after the 1916 raid by Pancho Villa and during the ensuing Punitive Expedition to Mexico under John Pershing.  The office has a flat, weatherboard roof, a cement foundation, adobe-brick walls, and a cement stucco over the adobe. There is an opening for only one door and it is located on the west side. Also, there is an opening for one window, located on the east side of the office, and it still contains the jail bars. It is in remarkable total condition considering it was left abandoned by the army when the troops pulled out. In an effort to protect the structure, the state has surrounded it with a chain-link fence, and a tin carport-like roof above the building.


Broadway Avenue, the street in front of the Hoover Hotel, was the site of some of the fiercest fighting during the 1916 Pancho Villa Raid. In the street outside the hotel, American troops set up a Bent-Mercier machine gun to fight the Villistas. Another machine gun was set up south of the hotel on East Boundary Street. Thus, the intersection of Broadway and East Boundary was deadly and both Villistas and U.S. citizens were killed at the site. Columbus citizens also took refuge in the Hoover Hotel, because it was relatively bullet-proof and fire-proof with its adobe walls. It is unclear if any bullet holes ever existed in the exterior walls, since it has been stuccoed. The Hoover Hotel is a stuccoed adobe two-story Mission/Spanish Colonial Revival Building. It is obvious that much work has been done to the building in recent months. The roof has also been changed from a hipped roof back to its original style of a flat style.


The main building of the Columbus Elementary/Middle School was where many women and children went to hide after Pancho Villa's 1916 raid. The school building is two stories tall in a plain functional southwestern vernacular. It is laid out in a cross shape, and made of grey bricks in a stretcher pattern. It has 1/1 double hung windows with segmental arches and lug sills, and double doors in the front entrance on the south side. For the most part, the only changes to the building were done to modernize it for continued use as a school. It has modern doors with reinforced glass. Metal grills cover the windows for security. The second floor windows on the east and west sides have been bricked up. Also, the school district has added air conditioning, a second floor fire escape on the north side, boilers in the basement, modern lighting and electrical outlets, and certain A. D. A. requirements, such as a wheelchair ramp. The overall condition of the building is excellent with only some minor peeling of paint and cracking of bricks.


Following Pancho Villa's raid of Columbus, New Mexico and the Punitive Expedition, the population of the town exploded. Columbus boomed in response to the activity of the local Army base and the El Paso and Southwestern Railroad. By 1920, a need existed for the local county jail. Most of the problems arose from Prohibition. During those "dry years," many soldiers spent the night sobering up in the jail house after a visit across the boarder to Palomas, Mexico, three miles to the south of Columbus.  The building is in fair condition. Its dimensions measure 19'8" by 26', and an 8' by 19'8" wooden porch covers the front of the building. It is an one story rectangular shaped building with tan concrete stucco walls and faces west. The front of the building contains two sealed windows and a door. Currently the building is abandoned. It needs work, paint, and patching the stucco walls however its historical accuracy remains intact


At the time of the Raid, the walls facing Hwy 11 were struck by bullets as the Villistas retreated to Palomas. There are several bullet holes still in the walls which are said to be from the guns of the raiders as they left town. This is difficult to verify. Pictures of the house taken shortly after the Raid show this house as the meeting place for the local militia unit. Currently the Rodriquez House is in ruins. The roof and partial wall has collapsed into the structure and it has sustained a great deal of physical damage and graffiti. The bullet hole rumored to have been created during the running gun battle as the Villistas exited Columbus is still visible in the western wall of the house. The current owner shows no interest in restoring this building, and Columbus is likely to lose one of its historic buildings to disrepair.

History of Columbus

Return to Public History Web Page