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New Mexico - Route 66

Park Lake Historic District, Santa Rosa

Park Lake Historic District is located in Santa Rosa in northeastern New Mexico on the Pecos River, where the Great Plains rise up to meet the Rockies. Santa Rosa is known for its numerous natural springs that are anomalies in the surrounding desert climate. The town was founded in 1865, and shortly after the turn of the century, the railroad connected it to El Paso, Chicago, and beyond. When Route 66 passed through Santa Rosa in 1930, the town filled with service stations, cafés, and motor courts to accommodate motorists traveling the Mother Road.

During the Great Depression, Park Lake was the site of a Federal Relief Emergency Administration project. Between 1934 and 1940, the Works Progress Administration (WPA) employed local men to construct a 25-acre municipal park focused on the lake. With its swimming pier, picnic ramada, and playing field, the park soon became the center of Santa Rosa’s outdoor recreation and welcomed Route 66 travelers who picnicked and swam in the natural spring-fed lake.

The park is designed in the typical WPA Rustic style that grew out of the Romantic and Picturesque traditions. During the social turbulence of the Great Depression, a national emphasis on egalitarian and democratic values emerged. The construction of local, regional, and national parks throughout the country was a manifestation of the desire to provide gathering places for communities to reaffirm social values and a common identity.

Park Lake Historic District is landscaped in a frontier pastoral style that accentuates the natural topography of the site. A series of terraces cut into the park’s sloping contours to create a recreational area. Other characteristic features of the style found at Park Lake include informal groves of shade trees creating a frontier pastoral feeling, a series of masonry canals that drain the area and carry water from the lake to El Rito Creek, and retaining walls built from locally quarried stone.

A revived interest in the town’s roots encouraged local citizens to restore the park to its original condition after it suffered from neglect. The Park Lake Historic District was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.


Park Lake Historic District is located at the junction of Will Rogers and Lake Drives in Santa Rosa, NM and is open to the public. For additional information, visit the city's website.

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