Museum opens 'Focus on Farmington' exhibition

The new exhibit showcases about two dozen photsographs that range from the late 19th century to the 1920s and 1930s

Mike Easterling

FARMINGTON — Even though it has presented an eclectic lineup of exhibitions in recent months — ranging from high-fashion outfits made from recycled materials to stuffed wolves and falcons to vintage, psychedelic rock 'n' roll posters — the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park is also devoted to preserving, and promoting, the area's past.

Several generations of Navajo Nation residents are featured in this 1890 image from the "Focus on Farmington" exhibition at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park.

"One of the things we are always trying to do is get more Farmington history on display," Jeffrey Richardson, the museum’s curator, said last week as the institution opened its latest show, "Focus on Farmington," a collection of historic photographs that document the history of the city and the surrounding regions.

"Focus on Farmington" includes approximately two dozen images from the museum's permanent collection, and the photos reflect a time period that covers the late 19th century to the 1920s and 1930s.

Richardson said the photographs include landscapes, people and buildings, and the subject matter takes an inclusive approach.

"As a regional museum, some of these go beyond the city limits," he said, explaining that photographs from the Navajo Nation and other locations in San Juan County are featured.

Mrs. Fannie Paxton stands in front of her Farmington business, the Grand Union Tea Co., in 1907.

The collection is not a new one, but Richardson said it has been several years since any of the photos were displayed. The most striking thing about them, he believes, is that they illustrate how the underpinnings of the local economy have changed.

"I think today many people might not realize the significance of the livestock and agricultural dominance of the local economy then," he said. "Today, it's about oil and gas, but there once was a time when it was based on agriculture — hence the name Farmington."

Many of the photos illustrate the wide variety of crops produced here a century ago, Richardson said, another element of the area's past that few residents may be aware of.

One thing that hasn't changed is much of the area's architecture. A number of Farmington's more familiar structures have been around for a long time, as the exhibition illustrates.

The interior of the Hunter Mercantile building is seen in this 1920 photo. The space is now home to the Dusty Attic.

"When people are driving around town, they might not realize how old some of these buildings are," Richardson said.

The museum is staging a scavenger hunt in conjunction with "Focus on Farmington." Participants are encouraged to stop by the museum to pick up a card that features photos and descriptions of nine historic buildings. They are then asked to locate all nine structures and document their visit by taking a photograph.

Afterward, they should return to the museum and drop off a print or display a digital image of each building to a museum staffer, who will complete a check list on their behalf. Those who visit all of the structures will be entered into a raffle for a gift basket valued at $140 that includes books and other historic materials.

The Farmington Drug Store is pictured at 101 E. Main St. in 1915. The building is now home to the Three Rivers Brewery.

The list includes a handful of buildings from the 1800s — the Hippenmeyer House (constructed in 1895), the Hubbard-Chambers House (1898) and the Arrington House (1887). Some of the structures have changed very little over the decades, Richardson said, citing the interior of the Hunter Mercantile building at 111 W. Main St. as an example. That space is now occupied by the Dusty Attic gallery.

"If you set foot in there today, you can see a lot of early history," he said.

Mike Easterling is the A&E editor of The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4610.

The Farmington public school on Wall Street is pictured in 1902.

If you go

What: "Focus on Farmington" exhibition of historic photographs

When: Remains on display through March 25

Where: Atrium at the Farmington Museum at Gateway Park, 3041 E. Main St.

Admission: Free

For more information: Call 505-599-1174 or visit

The First National Bank at 101 W. Main St. is pictured in 1905.