Following months of preparation, the Village of Santa Clara and the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society are pleased to announce the grand opening of the Visitors' Center in the former National Guard Armory, located north of US Highway 180, across from the Village.

The formal opening will take place at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, March 22, and the Center will be open to the public from then until 1:30 p.m. The Visitors Center displays historic photographs and exhibits that trace the history of Fort Bayard from its founding in 1866 up to the present. By 1868, the Village of Santa Clara had sprung up a short distance to the south of the military post. The stories of the fort and the village have been intertwined ever since. The Visitors Center tells the Santa Clara story as well, and features historic photographs donated by the Village through the generosity of Dillon and Jimmy Stone.

The Visitors' Center will begin regular hours of operation on March 23 and will be staffed by volunteers from the Preservation Society and the Village. Regular hours will be Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Visitors will be able to learn about Fort Bayard and Santa Clara, plus other attractions in the area. Resources available at the Center will include information about Fort Bayard National Historic Landmark, including the museum operated on the grounds, and regularly scheduled tours. Information on the Village of Santa Clara Historic Walking Tour will also be available. Visitors may also watch video presentations about the fort and village, as well as frontier army life.

The Visitors' Center was made possible through the generosity of the Village of Santa Clara, the Fort Bayard Historic Preservation Society, and PNM. The Preservation Society received a $10,000 grant from PNM through its New Century of Service program, to provide equipment and signage for the facility. The Preservation Society is also especially indebted to Santa Clara Mayor Richard Bauch, Village Clerk Sheila Hudman, the Village Board of Trustees, and Dave Chandler, grant writer, for their support in making this project a reality.

A spokesman for the Preservation Society states: “The opening of this Visitors' Center is a major step in helping the public learn more about the vital role of Fort Bayard and the Village of Santa Clara in the history of New Mexico and the Southwest. It is our hope that this knowledge will encourage the preservation of Fort Bayard for generations to come.”

Anyone who is interested in helping with the Visitors' Center may contact Dr. Doug Dinwiddie at 575-388-4862, Rocky Hildebrand at 575-574-8779, or Cecilia Bell at 575-388-4477.

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