June 16, 2016

The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House in Pinos Altos, New Mexico

Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House

photo by: Tom Blackwell/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0

The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House originally opened in the 1860s.

Don’t be fooled by its exterior: The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House in Pinos Altos, New Mexico, is very much open for business. Sure, the facade looks like it hasn’t been touched in decades—like maybe if the wind blew hard enough, it might fall down. But walk inside, and you’ll step back in time to an Old West saloon, with a full-service bar, a formal dining room, and live entertainment.

This mountain-top bar, situated more than 7,000 feet above sea level, first opened in the 1860s. Gold had been discovered in the area, bringing prospectors from all over. The town of Pinos Altos (Spanish for “tall pines”) grew from there. Though abandoned for a time during the early 1900s, today the small town has a population of about 198. Visitors come from far and wide to explore its main street, with its 19th-century buildings that, taken together, look like an old Western movie set. And at the center of it all is The Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House.

The bar has seen some changes in the last 150-plus years. But one thing has remained constant: It’s a welcoming gathering spot for anyone in search of a cold drink or a bite to eat.

Today there are three different elements to the recently-renovated space. There’s the saloon, which features a thick oak bar, brick walls, a wood-beamed ceiling, and regular live music and open mic nights. Then there are the slightly more upscale sit-down dining areas. The food is the creation of executive chef and owner Thomas Bock.

And, of course, there’s the opera house, a performance venue in the vein of a frontier theater with a stage, box seats, and a full bar. The opera house frequently hosts live performances and other events. Throughout the entire space, you’ll find old paintings, historic photographs, funky mannequins, animal heads, and other artifacts.

Buckhorn Saloon & Opera House

photo by: Aquistbe/Flickr/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The opera house hosts live performances and special events.

Before you head the Buckhorn's way, up the winding roads of the Gila National Forest, up to where the air gets a little thinner and the trees get a little thicker, here’s what you need to know:

Location: 32 Main St., Pinos Altos, N.M. 88061

Hours: Monday-Saturday, open at 3 p.m.

You’re Having: Prime rib and a glass of wine.

Best Yelp Review: “Buckhorn, you are so comfortable on a cold winter night. Your fireplace blazing, your beef is oh-so-good. The perfect cross between an old-style saloon, dive bar, and upscale restaurant. You have the best service and food in the Silver City area. I left stuffed and warm and completely satisfied. As a history fiend, I love this old building and the paintings on the wall. I am so glad you exist.” – Amanda S.

Lauren Walser served as the Los Angeles-based field editor of Preservation magazine. She enjoys writing and thinking about art, architecture, and public space, and hopes to one day restore her very own Arts and Crafts-style bungalow.

Each year, America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places sheds light on important examples of our nation’s heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage.

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