Graffiti, parties and paranormal activity — according to some — may be the lasting legacy for a local building that has seen two world wars, an infectious-disease epidemic and the growth of what was the village of Deming.
The Holy Cross Sanitarium, located about three miles north of town, is now in its last days. Luna County has hired a Silver City-based wrecking company to tear down the facility, which formerly housed tuberculosis patients undergoing treatment and, prior to that, military training.
Frank Almanza, Luna County planning director, did not return phone calls requesting more information, but code enforcement officers on site told the Deming Headlight that the building was being torn down for safety reasons and code violations.
Originally built during World War I for military training, the facility was purchased in 1922 by the Holy Cross Hospital Association. According to documents at the Deming-Luna-Mimbres Museum archives, the nuns who operated the organization eventually invested $450,000 into what were 15 buildings across hundreds of acres to treat tuberculosis victims.
The nuns operated the hospital until 1938, when financial problems forced the facility closure. One year later, most of the grounds were destroyed by fire, leaving what remains today, a concrete building covered in graffiti.
Because of the varied history of the site and rumors of patient mistreatment, the site has often been the target of thrill-seekers and those seeking the truth behind ghosts and the supernatural.
“Was it actually haunted,” asked local Christian Gomez, 20, a self-proclaimed paranormal investigator. “We wanted to know for sure.”
Gomez said he and his associate, Kelly Lawrence, 20, have made about six trips to the site. They did not report any conclusive findings, but are still sad to see the building go.
“I don’t think they should shut it down,” he said. “It’s a piece of history. You can’t just knock it down — it’s history.”
During its tenure as a hospital, there were about 300 beds for patients. An advertisement featured in the Deming Headlight of the day touted the hospital’s location in a spot with great weather, clean air and 99-percent pure water. It also featured rates of $14 to $90 per week for various services.
Owen Gray, owner and operator of the wrecking company, estimates the job should take about a week and a half. He began Tuesday, June 29.
“Oh, nope,” he said on encountering any paranormal events. “They’re probably going to be happy to be resting in peace.”
He said the job should not be difficult, but “old buildings” can pose some problems because it is hard to tell how strong the concrete may be. He encountered a fight from the building on his first day of wrecking, when the pneumatic hammer on his machine broke as it attempted to penetrate the rebar-reinforced concrete.
Apparently, the Holy Cross Sanitarium, or possibly the spirits within, had not exhausted the will to stand.
Deming Headlight Newspaper – By Matt Robinson Headlight Staff