Historicity

In 2004, county commissioner Rick Simpson opened the series of historical ordinance revision meetings, snockering everyone involved by asking, “Everyone here is committed to historicity, right?” Of course, everyone living in an historical zone would be likely to have at least some passing, even pressing, interest in history. It is the one thing that brings people to such a place.

But it is a misleading question because Zone B is not really an historical district. That is, in Zone B, there are only 3 or perhaps 4 intact houses that might come from the Territorial period (the time period the ordinance purports to preserve although anything over 50 years old is also deceptively called a “landmark” so as to help along the illusion of historicity.) In addition, there are several places of disintegrating rubble heaps that may or may not come from that time period.

Of these very few historical houses that remain, as well as of the rubble heaps, no one of historical significance ever lived in any of those places – not even all that significant to local history! In fact, it is very debatable if anyone even truly knows who lived in most of these “historical” sites during the Territorial period! And though the historical ordinance lists out the properties of Zone A, no such documentation is provided regarding Zone B. Why? Because no documentation or verification of the historicity of Zone B exists (except for the tiny pittance already mentioned.)

In contrast, in both of the historical districts of Lincoln, there are approximately 200 properties (Note: we are in the process of making a more accurate count) that have houses built on them.

So how can a mere handful of sites within the district account for a 10 square mile historical district? The answer is not certain. But it is interesting to note that many people seem to believe that their property is worth more simply because it is in an historical district. If this is truly the motive, then Zone B is nothing more than a scheme by a few landowners to use the laws of the land to raise the value of their property. Whether or not being in an historical zone truly raises the value of properties or not is debatable – the mere fact that a property is in such a zone makes it entirely worthless to people who know that such places breed tyranny and oppression and who know to avoid such places like the plague that they are. But to people who don’t recognize the political oppression that attends adhering to the architectural standards, it might seem more valuable. Perhaps a survey of Lincoln County realtors should be conducted to see whether there is any real difference or not.

Whatever the original motive behind the historical ordinance, the sad truth is that Zone B is not so much an historical district as it is a political district. That is, there are virtually no properties that are entitled to the legal protections given to historical preservation and it certainly seems that many people live in Lincoln at least in part because manufactured housing (and their attendant human “trash”) are prohibited. In Zone B, there are only properties that have been approved by the untrained, biased volunteer boards and then it is called “historical.” Anyone who is in favor with the board is generally treated better and their project generally faces less stringent scrutiny and those not in favor tend to be treated with condescension and outright oppression. But to anyone familiar with the few pictures and houses that survive from the Territorial period, it is obvious that accurate history is not what has been preserved. Truly objective and unbiased historical standards are simply not practiced or applied to Zone B. Historically, Lincoln was never a collection of mansions!

Current board chairman L.M. Smith’s house (which seems to seek to compete with Santa Fe’s Palace of the Governors and more resembles a Virginia colonial style house with a stucco exterior) and his Pennsylvania Dutch barn (which was reportedly supposed to be concealed by vegetation he allegedly neglected to water) have no visible connection whatsoever with the Lincoln Territorial period. A previous board chairman, Reginald Richey, built a Swiss chalet that is completely inconsistent with the buildings built in the Territorial period in Lincoln. Within the district are Santa Fe styled stucco mansions too large to have ever been built in the Territorial period. There is a modern straw bale breeze way design, a Hollywood “western” log house, two Missouri homestead houses, a German barn (because someone had one in the district once) and several “old” (50+ years) “landmark” type houses that post-date the Territorial period and which have been significantly modernized. This list does not include any of the non-historical, pre-existing houses and buildings that were “grandfathered” in. The only truly historically valid buildings in Zone B are in total ruins and don’t offer much appeal to tourists or even most history buffs.

And no one mentions nor recognizes as historically valid the long-since torn down railroad’s buildings (even though the railroad was as integral a part of Lincoln’s history as were the Hispanic homesteads and the greed-inspired Lincoln County war). Almost completely lost and forgotten are the tiny adobe huts of the homesteaders – today one driving through would think that Territorial period Lincoln was populated by rich mansion builders rather than dirt-poor homesteaders, ranchers and farmers! Historical revision has run rampant in Zone B!

This haphazard non-adherence to the standards of the Territorial period has resulted only in historical fiction and historical revision but not historical preservation. Nonetheless Zone B is still forced to endure and adhere to the Board’s petty, erratic, schizophrenic and oppressive “interpretations” of the ordinance. The list of the board’s victims and their losses is still growing.

This is not how or what America is supposed to be. Life in Zone B more resembles Dr. Zhivago, Boris Pasternak’s fictionalized treatment of Communist Soviet Russia, than it resembles anything that one finds in historical America. Zone B simply does not have the historicity to protect. Thus “historicity” in Lincoln, New Mexico is really just another false religion propagated by its followers that inevitably has its growing list of victims of misguided fanaticism and abuse. It really is like living in or next door to a cult!

Realistically, the very existence of the board over either Zone A or B is no longer necessary. All the genuinely historical buildings of Lincoln are either now owned by the state or protected under the national historic register. If the historicals would recognize the reality about Zone B and simply allow other entities to attend to Zone A, the board could simply be dissolved and no more homeowners would need to become their victims. But so long as power-mongers and control freaks are allowed to hold the position of board member or chairman so as to exercise improper power over their neighbors, Lincoln will remain a Soviet and Nazi styled nightmare.

Historically, the historical party of Lincoln is much more interested in their own “Western” nostalgia and fantasy and the Billy the Kid legend rather than the historical facts and there really isn’t much reason to expect beneficial change. Don’t be fooled.