JEMEZ SPRINGS – The smell of fresh lilacs in bloom fill the air at the entrance of the Casa Blanca Lodging business right off of the main drag on New Mexico Highway 4 in the Village of Jemez Springs.
Its midday as local business owner and Village of Jemez Springs Mayor, Roger Sweet, opens a rustic turquoise door to a corridor that runs through the middle of the Casa Blanca Lodging and his adjoining business the Jemez Mountain Pottery and Sculpture Shop.
Sweet, who moved to the Village of Jemez Springs in 1980, prepares to give a guided tour of his business which runs down to the Jemez River for what could be well over the one hundredth time.
“I came to New Mexico in 1972 with an anthropologist documenting pueblo Indian dances as a filmmaker and just never left,” Sweet said. “When I came to Jemez Springs it felt like home…it just felt like the right place to be.”
Sweet said, he bought the property his two businesses reside on in 1980 and began the arduous process of remodeling and fixing up one of the Villages oldest and original buildings.
“Really, the cost to me on remodeling the structures on my property come down to time and energy,” he said. “Passion and love for doing something, that’s the cost… and if you see it in terms of money it will be a different product.”
According to Sweet, his property is still a work in progress, yet both of the structures at Casa Blanca have been substantially updated.
The property layout consists of a historic guest house, which is roughly about 800 square feet on the top of the property and a Garden Cottage that was converted from an old barn near the river.
Both structures host unique views of nature located on different parts of the 1.3 acre parcel, which by all accounts dates back to somewhere around the 1880s.
“The structures could be older than that given how many of the buildings out here started out with flat roofs and then went to pitch roofs,” Sweet said.
So far, Sweet said he has stayed steadily booked over the past few months, but there was a time when things began to look bleak for the Village of Jemez Springs.
“Citizens here were really paranoid like everybody else when COVID hit,” he said. “You realize with something like this that keeping things going is really about community.”
Sweet said the Village of Jemez Spring’s economics is based on Gross Receipt Tax (GRT), which dwindled during the height of the pandemic.
“We had a couple savior projects that helped us out during this time like the new $6 million bridge and a new $7 million forest facility which produces GRT,” he said. “Plus as a business person, I have to say that Sandoval County was very generous in targeting Jemez Springs by setting aside funds to help us out.”
Sweet said the state was also very supportive in its role to help small businesses stay alive.
“This whole thing has gone on longer than we all anticipated,” he said. “But here we are talking to each other without masks on, I would say that is progress.”
Sweet quickly turns his attention to the one of the oldest known structures in Jemez Springs which is owned and run by the Village, the Bath House.
“The Bath House is an interior space so we just got to a point where we just had to close it down,” he said.
Before the Bath House fully closed, Sweet said everyone was in compliance with state mandates, which meant taking temperatures, and social distancing guests.
“If you are only operating at a 25 percent capacity, you can’t sustain a business,” he said. “This is why we are looking at reopening the business in July, because the governor said we should be open as a state by then.”
Bath House Manager, Anna Lovato, said in her 20 years she never thought she would see the Bath House ever close.
“We have had so many people travel from around the world to visit us here, so yeah, completely closing down came as a shock,” she said. “It’s been hard not being at work even though I am a homebody (laughs).”
Lovato said she would put in 35 hours a week pre-pandemic on average, which gave her a sense of purpose.
“We are a world renowned tourist destination, so as you can imagine I would interact with our guests every day, which I love, without that I felt somewhat lost,” she said.
According to Lovato, the Bath House was originally built in 1876 and has been and still is a huge destination point for people in search of natural healing waters ever since.
“We are looking forward to reopening in July,” Lovato said. “I can hardly wait to see everyone come back to the Bath House and enjoy what people have been coming here for, for years.”
Sweet said this is the type of reopening that he and the other 250 Jemez Springs residents have been waiting for.
“We have a few businesses here that have felt the sting of COVID, but we try to keep everyone’s spirits up not just financially but also spiritually,” he said. “Reopening the Bath House is just one of the ways we can accomplish that goal.”
For more information on Casa Blanca Lodging got to:
For more information on the Jemez Springs Bath House go to: https://jemezspringsbathhouse.com/
Jemez Spring’s assets:
- Jemez Historic Site http://nmhistoricsites.org/jemez
- Eat the Indian Taco or Burger from Dave’s Burgers & More at Jemez Pueblo https://www.tripadvisor.com/Restaurant_Review-g47072-d7900585-Reviews-Dave_s_Burgers_More-Jemez_Pueblo_New_Mexico.html
- Visit the Walatowa Welcome Center, purchase some Native American art and explore the Museum of History & Culture Visit the Walatowa Welcome Center, purchase some Native American art and explore the Museum of History & Culture http://www.jemezpueblo.com/
- Hiking: Battleship Rock, Spence Springs, Soda Dam https://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g47073-d273940-Reviews-Battleship_Rock-Jemez_Springs_New_Mexico.html
- Jemez Hot Springs (formerly Giggling Springs) https://jemezhotsprings.com/