Here in the Archives and Special Collections (ASC), you can find thousands of photographs of Las Cruces dating as far back as the 1880s. Looking through our photograph collections, you’ll find a visual record of the city’s evolution from a dusty horse-and-buggy town to the second largest city in the state of New Mexico. We have views of downtown Main Street through the generations, businesses around town, events like the Whole Enchilada Fiesta, construction and demolition of well-known landmarks, aerial views showing the city’s expansion, plus more. Here is a compilation of some of our collections that prominently feature Las Cruces:
The Branigan Memorial Library photograph collection contains nearly 400 images of Las Cruces and the surrounding area. Established in 1934, the first public library in Las Cruces began with funds left to the city by Alice Branigan in memory of her late husband, Captain Thomas Branigan. The original building was located on Main Street until 1979 when the current building located on the corner of Picacho and Main streets was built. The images in this collection can be found in our online database.
In April 1909, J.A. Horton opened his photography studio in Las Cruces on Main and Convent streets. In March 1919, shortly after the death of his son, Horton sold his studio and moved to Arizona. The business changed hands several times over the following years. In 1929, J.E. Ballard moved to Las Cruces and “inherited” Horton’s old films and plates. Ballard opened his own studio downtown and operated it until the mid-1950s. Sometime after 1954, the studio was acquired by Enrique Berroteran. The photographs in the collection, several thousand in number, cover the years 1929-1952 and include images of many businesses and locations around town, along with studio portraits of many residents. The collection is not yet available in our online database, but will be soon.
There are just over 10,000 photographs in this collection. James Flanagan was a U.S. Army veteran, Doña Ana County Sheriff’s deputy, Las Cruces Police chief, gun store owner, and photographer. During his time with the Doña Ana County Sheriff’s department he established a photography lab and photographed crime scenes and investigations. He also photographed local businesses and community events. Flanagan also collected early photos of Las Cruces and the region. His collection is a treasure trove of pictorial history. A portion of these photographs have been digitized and can be found in our online database. The finding aid includes a complete list of subjects.
The urban renewal movement that swept through the country after the second World War hit Las Cruces in 1968. Almost 200 buildings were leveled to create a covered pedestrian mall in hopes of competing with urban shopping centers and driving business to the downtown area. The project was a failure and caused irreparable damage to the once thriving city center. Photographs from the Las Cruces Urban Renewal Agency include areas and buildings before, during, and after demolition, people involved with the project, community meetings, and aerial views. The agency’s records are minimally processed and have not been digitized, but they are open to researchers.
David Sullenberger apprenticed with local photographers, Pat and Maurice Eby, and earned his Professional Photographers of America journeyman’s certificate, all before graduating high school. He built several businesses around commercial and architectural photography and taught at the high school, community college, and university levels. Mr. Sullenberger’s work has won numerous awards and has been published in Architectural Record, Progressive Architecture, and Better Homes and Gardens, among other publications. His photographs in ASC cover many local businesses and events, like the Whole Enchilada Fiesta. The collection has not been digitized, but is open to researchers.
With over one million images in our collections, Las Cruces is just one of many subjects we cover. Collections focus on New Mexico and the border region with subject matter including ranching, mining, agriculture, irrigation, New Mexico towns and landmarks, cultural heritage, social history and more. Images can be searched in our online database: https://archphotos.nmsu.edu and copies requested through our duplication request form: https://lib.nmsu.edu/archives/duplication.html.