Old New Mexico Missions chronicle the history of the region. They tell about the history of the region in many ways. Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Light was built in Lamy New Mexico in 1926. Lamy, located about 15 miles southeast of Santa Fe was in an active area of New Mexico Territory when first established. Lamy was the closest main line train depot to Santa Fe.
For those wishing to leave or depart Santa Fe via train, and that meant the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, they had to pass through Lamy. While there was a spur line between the two towns, Lamy was the station on the AT & SF main line.
Essentially, Lamy lost population when railroad travel declined. To give you an idea of the railroad activity in and around Lamy before the decline, the town had a Fred Harvey dining room and hotel, the El Ortiz, adjacent and to the east of the train depot and Lamy had it’s own elementary school. When all of this came to a halt, Our Lady of Light lost parishioners when people left Lamy for jobs in Albuquerque or Santa Fe. Lamy is only one example of population decline due to lost railroad jobs. Texas has many examples of this along US Hwy 287 from Wichita Falls to Amarillo.
Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Light in Lamy was deconsecrated in 1994. Two reasons for this was that there just were not enough parishioners to send a priest for Mass. The other reason was that by the mid 1990’s, the church was structurally unsafe.
The abandoned chapel is historically important to New Mexico for a few reasons. First, the architecture is Mission Revival which makes the structure quite rare for a mission church in northern New Mexico. Another reason is that this structure was the only church in the Lamy community ever. The current structure replaced one on or near today’s site that was built around 1889 and with the same name, Mission Chapel of Our Lady of Light. One story is that the old structure was washed away during a flood.
Due to the historic significance of the structure, the old Mission Church has been placed on the State Register of Cultural Properties. Additionally, the settlement of Lamy New Mexico (once called Galisteo Junction) was named after Jean Baptiste Lamy, the first Archbishop of Santa Fe after the U.S. took control of New Mexico Territory. The old abandoned mission church serves as a connection with the historic Santa Fe Catholic diocese as well as the work of Archbishop Lamy and therefore is important to preserve and hopefully restore.
Historic foundations have become involved In an effort to restore the old mission. Having it place on the State cultural registry is a big step forward.
It’s been estimated by those involved that a full restoration of the church might cost around $300,000 to 500,000. The old church is owned today by the Our Lady of Light Historic Foundation. Thanks to volunteers, restoration work to date has involved a new roof and stabilizing the foundation. It appears that any restoration going forward will be dependent upon money raised by the foundation.
When visiting Lamy New Mexico you’ll notice that the Mission Revival architecture of the mission church is the same as the architecture of the train station. The razed El Ortiz Harvey House was also of the same design.
If your New Mexico vacation or road trip takes you to the south of Santa Fe, I would definitely recommend a stop at Lamy. Lamy is easily reached off of US Hwy 285. The town and the abandoned New Mexico mission church is just a half mile east of Hwy 285 and about six miles south of Interstate 25. It makes an easy side trip when visiting Santa Fe.
(Photos from author’s private collection)