Saving Saguache: Life takes root in an old town

Saving Saguache: Life takes root in an old town

Ar 140519987
Ar 140519987
Mondays are busy days for Dean Coombs, owner and publisher of The Saguache Crescent. He lays out his weekly, four-page newspaper using a hot-lead typesetting machine. As the operator of one of the last newspapers in the country designed and printed with handset lead type, Coombs has been featured on the “CBS Sunday Morning” program, in the Los Angeles Times and by Al Jazeera.
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Because The Saguache Crescent uses century-old newspaper technology, ads and typefaces set in lead type are kept and recycled. They line a wall at the back of the newspaper building where the publisher can find them and insert them in page layouts before running his vintage printing press. The newspaper is printed in black and white and carries no photos.
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The building The Saguache Crescent operates in was erected in 1874. In an increasingly digital age, Dean Coombs, owner and publisher of The Saguache Crescent, continues to publish 430 weekly copies of the 135-year-old broadsheet. He does no reporting; locals bring him news.
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The interior of The Saguache Crescent represents over a century of clutter, although owner and publisher Dean Coombs can probably find any file he searches for. His family bought the newspaper in 1917.
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Johnnie O’Neil’s “Bon Ton Saloon” was in this building with its stunning stained glass. Later, it became a grocery store and then American Legion Garcia Post No. 110, complete with bar, card room, punch boards, slot machines and bowling alley. In 1993, two Taos. N.M., artists, Doug Pederson and Kelsey Hauck, converted it into their residence and art studio for fine ceramics.
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This magnificent two-story home with bay windows and window seats, a pebble dash second-story exterior, and leaded glass cannot be sold outside of the Hazard family and the current owner does no upkeep. The house sits empty most of the year and needs maintenance. A second Hazard family home, built in 1913, was a gift to the Saguache County Museum and represents the affluent lifestyle and furnishings of wealthy Saguache families from the 1920s and 1930s.
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In Saguache, everything is in easy walking distance. The small town survives because buildings serve multiple purposes. This modest red brick building on 4th Street has been, according to Cecil Fraser Hall and his historic walking tour pamphlet, “a saloon, a barber shop, the post office, a novelty store, a second hand store, the Pilgrim Holiness Church, a dress shop, a beauty shop” and several different coffee shops through the years.
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Marge Hoglin and Lindy McDaniel, standing with Mayor Tony Sandoval at the Saguache Welcome Center and organic food store, are helping to spark a small-town revival. Across the street, the Saguache Hotel badly needs restoration. It has been for sale for more than a decade. The ceilings have collapsed in the building, but McDaniel says brightly, “The beds are still made.”
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