Courtesy of Wikipedia
Cloudcroft is a village in Otero County, New Mexico and is within the Lincoln National Forest. The population was 749 at the 2000 census. At 8,600 feet (2,600 m) above sea-level in an otherwise arid region, the mild summers make it a popular tourist attraction in West Texas and New Mexico. It was named by Fodors in 2002 as the Number 3 “Most Overlooked and Underrated Destination Spot.” Tourism remains the primary economic driver of the village.
In the 1890s the El Paso and Northeastern Railroad organized by the Eddy brothers, Charles Bishop Eddy and John Arthur Eddy, arrived in the newly founded town of Alamogordo with interests in continuing the rail line northward to the mining town of White Oaks and beyond. This required a steady supply of timber. The Eddy brothers sent a survey crew into the Sacramento Mountains to determine the feasibility of laying a railroad line up to the forest summit. In the fall of 1898, the crew reported that such a line was not only possible, but the area could attract visitors. The name of Cloudcroft – a pasture for the clouds – was suggested. Work on the line soon began.
By the end of 1898, the line had been extended as far as Toboggan Canyon, and construction was started on a pavilion at the summit, which would provide accommodations for the anticipated tourists, once the line was completed. It consisted of a dining room, kitchen, parlor, entertainment hall, and 40 tents, set on wooden platforms. In June of 1899, The Pavilion was formally opened by John Arthur Eddy. The first visitors rode the train as far as Toboggan and finished the trip by stagecoach. Subsequently, glowing reports in area newspapers made Cloudcroft a popular destination. An additional resort, The Lodge, was built in 1899 as a more upscale alternative to The Pavilion. The railroad line arrived in Cloudcroft proper in early 1900 and in June 1900 the train depot was finished, located about 250 feet (76 m) west of The Pavilion. The building was occupied in June 1900. Meeting the train became a daily festivity in the village. At this point, three trains a day arrived in Cloudcroft, hauling lumber, mail, and passengers.
In 1909, The Lodge burned down and was rebuilt at its present location in 1911. The Pavilion also burned down on two separate occasions in the 1920s, but was rebuilt each time to conform with the original plans.
The Lodge had several famous guests: Judy Garland, Gilbert Roland, Clark Gable, and Pancho Villa. In the 1930s the resort was managed by Conrad Hilton, who was born and raised in San Antonio, New Mexico. According to reports, Hilton was familiar with The Lodge and wanted to be closer to his family, while his own hotel chain slowly began its climb to prominence.
As automobiles grew in use, the train line began losing money. The last passenger train was in 1938, and the last freight train was in 1947. Since then, tourism in Cloudcroft has grown beyond The Lodge and Pavilion and into Burro Street near Highway 82 where many small shops and restaurants have sprung and summer street dances are hosted. The local population has not grown exceedingly in the past decades, sitting between 700-800 residents.