Lesser-known than nearby Dawson, Van Houten began in 1902 as the mining camp of Willow, New Mexico.  That same year the post office name was changed to Van Houten after the president of the coal company.  The post office was discontinued in 1952, and by 1954 the mining was stopped entirely.

Nearly all of the structures were demolished, but there is still plenty to see at the site of Van Houten.  The house foundations remain intact, laid out in careful grids, marking the neighborhoods where 1,500 people once lived.  One house remains standing.  Industrial foundations, at least one original mine entrance, and the mule barns are also visible.

Of the several mine entrances visible around the Van Houten area, this one remains intact, including the ironwork and stonework, and is still in use as a storage shed.

The mule barn:

The last house standing at Van Houten:

The remnants of a large building:

The building style is evident from debris and artifacts; this typical Van Houten house had a poured concrete basement with a main story made from hollow blocks.

Visible in satellite photos as neatly laid-out neighborhoods, most of the foundations are in very good condition.

The artifacts and domestic features in Van Houten provide important clues to the lifestyle of it’s inhabitants.

Van Houten is a rarity in New Mexico ghost towns; it is in excellent condition, is being carefully preserved as-is by the current owners, and is open to the public on a conditional basis.  The town site is located on the N.R.A. Whittington Center property and is accessible with permission, which generally involves checking in at the visitor center and signing a waiver at the security gate.  Some areas of the town are off-limits for visitor safety on account of the nearby shooting ranges.  The entire town site can be off-limits during certain times.

In addition to visiting the town of Van Houten, the Whittington Center is home to the Frank Brownell Museum of the Southwest, which is free and open to the public.  The ruts of the Santa Fe Trail are also visible on the property.


Comments

Van Houten, NM — 15 Comments

  1. My father, Elwood C Rork, was raised in Van Houten, with six siblings (2 others died very young). Two of the girls married Segottas, another Van Houren family. I have had a private tour of the area many years ago but am going to take my grandchildren since it now sounds possible. What an interesting life it was. Harsh, but the people I met from there when I was younger were exceptionally living and proud.

  2. According to the 1920 census, my Great Grandfather Mike Daley was the barber in Van Houten. I know that they did not stay very long. My Great Grandmother and children, were in Wisconsin by the early 1930’s.

  3. My Grand Father George Lionakis Grand Mother Christina 4 children Othan (Otto) Jane (my Mother) Uncle Mike (Manoli) and Aunt Sophie we’re raised there in the 30s. Kalimani Family was also raised there..

  4. My Great-Great Grandmother (Kansas Singletary Wilson), Great-Grandparents (Frank & Olivia Wells), and my maternal Grandmother (Myrtle Wells) were all from Van Houten. I grew up hearing many stories about it, and was blessed to get to attend a “town reunion” back in 1977 (I think). Love seeing the pictures. Would love to visit again.

    • I think we are related. My dad is Lloyd Randall, son of Elizabeth (Betty Wells) Randall. She was born at the camp in 1931. Your grandmother Myrtle was her Aunt along with Aunt Burt. Frank and Olivia were her Grandparents. My dad was just telling me about the town when I came across this message to my surprise. Crazy small world

  5. It’s a shame that there are not pictures of what it looked like when it was still standing. Wish I had a key to that gate

  6. Bob:I’m Tony Reales,Son and I stopped by store May 26,2019.We enjoyed the vist with you and your wife.We talked about Mine Towns.I enjoy the photos very much.I counld’t find the satellite photos of Kholer.Do you Have any. I’ll be in the Raton area July 27th 2019. Hope to have time to stop in and said hello.
    Be Safe:
    Tony

  7. I was born in Van Houton in 1039 to John (Johnich) Tomac. Any responces to this messasge would be appreciated,

    Edwin Tomac

    • Hello Edwin. I’m posting your message but with the email address removed so that it doesn’t get picked up by spammers. I’ll post any replies here.

  8. Just found out my Grandma was born in Van Houten, NM in 1927 and grew up there her name is Virginia Miera now Vigil.

  9. My dad Paul Lopez was born in Van Houten in 1905. His name was Polito Marez. But he changed to Paul Lopez. He had a sister by the name or Romelia.

    If anyone knows the Marez family especially Paul let me know.

    Ed Lopez
    Formerly of Vigil, COlorado

  10. My mother lived in van houton when she was growing up her name was Margaret Miera. My grandpa lost his life at the mine in 1950

  11. Paul,
    Your dad(Jimmy ) was my uncle and my dad’s brother (Jean). We left Van Houten in 1941.

    I was 11 years old when we left Van Hounten but I remember it very well.
    I hope this note finds you well.
    Jerry

  12. My great uncle Roelf Lantinga came to this area from the Netherlands in 1903. Jan Van Houten was his cousin. There must have been disappointment because he left with a couple other settlers and headed for southern Alberta….where another Dutch colony was setting up. As a family we are trying to gather as much information as we can about my great uncle Roelf Lantinga, as well as his cousin Jan Van Houten. I believe there was a Dutch colony (Christian Reformed Church) close to Maxwell at this time as well. I would appreciate whatever information anyone could send me. My personal email address is tjdetmers@hotmail.com. Thanks.

  13. My father was born and raised in the Van Houten mining camp. He was too young to ever work the mines, but his 2 older brothers did. Dad told me stories of his “Van Houten Days” and it all sounded like a rather bleak existence to me. Very interesting to see actual photos of Van Houten (even as a Ghost Town). It gives me some idea of what Dad was talking about, and yes, it all looks as bleak as Dad described (laugh). Thanks for the photos!

    Paul De Amicis
    San Jose, California

    Posted: October 2017

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