The Old Dowlin Mill, Ruidoso’s oldest building, is one of those landmarks that visitors to Ruidoso remember long after leaving. The iconic large-scale water wheel that greets visitors is one of the only remaining operable water wheels in the Southwest and today still turns the massive stones used to grind wheat.
The building itself also speaks to its native heritage with its adobe and rock walls, wood floors and tin roof. In fact, in its earlier days it served as the perfect backdrop for dinner parties and dances, with such notable guests as the infamous outlaw William Bonney, or “Billy the Kid.” Billy, who was well-liked by the Dowlin and Lesnet families, was even said to have escaped capture at the mill when the young Annie Lesnet helped hide him in a flour barrel, thanks to his small stature, as the posse approached.
Delana Phillips Clements is the building’s current owner. Clements’ parents, Carmon and Leona Mae Phillips, purchased the building in the late 1940s after it had fallen into disrepair and was disintegrating into ruin. After putting forth exhaustive efforts to restore the old structure, the Phillips breathed new life into the building in the form of a gift and souvenir shop.
The gift shop is now used as an art gallery to display pieces from local artists, and we even built a stage on the east end where we have plays and other musical performances.
During the summer months, an on-site well now provides the water that turns the mill, water that is used and recycled.
Clements and others interested in preserving the integrity of the historic building together formed a nonprofit organization, aptly named The Old Mill Preservation Corporation. Due in large part to Clements’ tireless efforts over the past year, the building was recently added to the State of New Mexico’s state registry for historic places.
Clements said the group hopes to raise enough funds to eventually construct a parking lot and to install public restrooms.
Donations to the maintenance and upkeep, as well as renovations and additions to the building, are tax deductible and can be sent to The Old Mill Preservation Corp, 313 Spring Road, Ruidoso, NM 88345.