A BLUEGRASS TRIO JAMS in the shade of a refurbished adobe home, its textured walls painted white and roof trimmed with a dusty turquoise. Notes from the stand-up bass, guitar, and mandolin provide atmosphere at the grand opening of the newly relocated and renamed Kingston Ghost Town Museum. The institution tells the story of the Sierra County silver mining town that went bust in 1893 but has continued drawing pioneering spirits in the more than 130 years since.

Front porch pickin’ seems a daily activity on the eastern side of the Black Range, where music and a sense of nearly forgotten history fill the air. Kingston Ghost Town Museum director Barb Lovell won’t let the community’s past—or the buildings and artifacts that remain—slip away. She and her husband, Ray Reid, a builder, bought a house here in 2007. Then, in conjunction with New Mexico’s centennial in 2012, Lovell raised $9,000 to restore the former Kingston schoolhouse and turn it into a museum. “We’ve been growing ever since,” she says.

At the Kingston Ghost Town Museum's grand opening, a bluegrass trio played under a refurbished adobe home, celebrating the enduring spirit of the historic silver mining town. Photograph courtesy of Jennifer C. Olson.

Because the schoolhouse also doubled as the Kingston Spit & Whittle Club headquarters, Lovell seized the chance to buy a separate building for a dedicated museum space in 2022. The house she purchased had a fitting history: It was home to New Mexico Territorial Governor George Curry when he wrote his autobiography in the 1940s. She tasked Reid and friend Steve Kruenegel with renovations. Eighteen months later, Lovell welcomed the first visitors to the Kingston Ghost Town Museum, where exhibitions detail how the 1882 tent city quickly grew to one of New Mexico’s most populous towns. While Kingston’s 22 saloons, 14 grocery stores, five hotels, two schools, church, and opera house were destroyed by a fire in 1890, the museum displays relics that were spared, alongside articles that illustrate life in this valley since.

In the museum’s front room, the Victorio Hotel’s very first register is laid open to a page with a phony celebrity signature. “Grover Cleveland and Mark Twain never visited Kingston,” Lovell asserts, pointing at the president’s signature. “This is some kind of prank.”

But it was no joke when President Cleveland repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act a few years later, knocking the bottom out of the silver market and effectively changing Kingston from “New Mexico’s largest town” to ghost town.

Other objects of note include an ore cart, mining claims sealed in Prince Albert tobacco tins, and the request for a legal deed to the property the museum now inhabits.

Eighteen months after renovations, Barb Lovell opened the Kingston Ghost Town Museum, featuring exhibits on its evolution from a tent city and relics from the 1890 fire that shaped its history. Photograph courtesy of Jennifer C. Olson.

A display case recognizes Joseph Whitham, a West Virginia man who settled here with his family and whose three children remained in Sierra County after he left in 1895. Using diaries Whitham kept between 1852 and 1892, Lovell pieced together much of Kingston’s early history. “I’m very good at working connections,” says the lifelong historian and current Historical Society of New Mexico board member of her track record of procuring key artifacts.

Lovell has an eye on the future as well. She plans to expand the museum by opening a restaurant in the two-story back building, bringing the Mountain Pride stagecoach back from the Lincoln Historic Site, and offering an outbuilding as a working blacksmith shop. “All the lots in Kingston are 25 feet wide,” she says, gesturing toward the space that her mind is already filling with possibilities. “This one is 50.”   

Read more: A former museum guard reflects on his journey through New Mexico art history.


Saturdays 10:30 a.m.–4 p.m.; Sundays noon–4 p.m.; 28 Kingston Main Street, Kingston