A BULL AND AN OWL began meeting at the Knights of Pythias Hall more than 100 years ago. By then, silver strikes and the railroad had turned Socorro into a boomtown, and the fraternal society occupied the handsome red-brick building. Around 1916, the organization permitted painted advertisements for Bull Durham Tobacco and Owl Cigars on two sides of the building. Eventually, the Knights moved on. But the murals stayed, becoming something like a symbol of the city. Photographers, especially, loved how they faded into eerily appealing ghost signs. Around 2014, local artist Ken Hines persuaded Holm Bursum IV, president of First State Bank, the building’s owner, to let him restore the signs’ original look. He scoured historical photos of similar murals, then spent months scraping off deteriorated paint, brushing in the blank spots, and dealing with a few distractions. “I had to clean up four or five buckets of bricks that fell out of the Bull Durham sign,” he says. One day, an elderly resident stopped by and told Hines he wanted to shake his hand. Hines asked why. “For bringing that sign back to life,” the man said.
See it Yourself
The former Knights of Pythias Hall is at 106 Manzanares St., in Socorro. The murals are on both sides.