Hospitality House hidden treasure

While visiting our parents — Billy and Myrna Menges — in Tucumcari for Thanksgiving, my husband Stanley and I were introduced to a hidden treasure: The Hospitality House.

QCS Photo: Thomas Garcia

In the back of the Hospitality House is a studio where residents gather and practice playing Bluegrass music. Marie Latham, left, enjoys the music as Mike Latham, Robby Simpson, Carol Simpson and Bobby Truelock practice.

The history of The Hospitality House, at 307 E. High St., isn't common knowledge among outsiders. But learning the history of the home is as easy as dropping in for a visit with its caretakers.

Quay County natives Fern George, 84, and Betty Bason, 79, of Tucumcari — more commonly known as the Thomas sisters — have been caring for The Hospitality House for the past several years. Their knowledge of the property is shared with anyone who wants to know.

"We think it was the first house in the area," said Bason, "when the town moved from Liberty. We think they built it in 1900 and we know they used rock from (Tucumcari) Mountain. The house was complete by 1907 because there's a picture of it in the museum."

According to the sisters, the first owner of the house was John Russell, followed by a family with the last name of Goudin.

"I think the man was a banker," Bason said. "He donated land to the Presbyterian Church next door with the condition that the church be built out of the same material as the house. The original church was beautiful, but it was torn down and replaced with the A-framed church standing there now."

The family that owned the home after the Goudins was named Keater, followed by a physician, a Dr. Thaxtan, who built a greenroom onto the southwest corner of the house.

"I think he saw and kept patients in the house," Bason said.

By the early 1940s, the house was said to have been rented by the Snider family before being purchased by Osa and Opal Smith.

"She was a writer," Bason said. "And the Smiths turned the greenhouse into a dress shop."

From there the property was purchased by the Thomas family in 1997.

"We turned the dress shop into an antique shop and opened a bed and breakfast when we took it over," Bason said. "The Quarles (family) took it over from us and did a lot of work to it. There were drop ceilings, which they took out and redid the ceilings, restored the original hardwood floors and painted a lot of the inside."

The Quarles painted several of the doors, walls and ceilings in the mural style they are known for and converted the old antique shop into an art studio and added an art gallery to the main floor.

"They turned it back to us a few years ago and we started The Hospitality House for the people of the area," Bason said.

And these days the studio is being used as a practice room for the local Blue Grass group, the Eastern New Mexico Blue Grass Association.

Bason puts on a fresh pot of coffee every morning for whoever happens to stop by for a cup. She also makes breakfasts and lunches and the sisters hold an open invitation to everyone and anyone.

The first floor of the building is full of dining tables and chairs.

Visitors are greeted by the sisters' offer of home-cooked food.

Bason, George and Fern's husband Dusty George are the constants of the house. They spend most mornings and afternoons visiting with their guests and promoting their dinner theaters.

"We've been doing Mystery Dinner Theater for about two years, usually a couple a times a month," said Fern George. "I write the stories and do the theater part and Betty does the cookin'. We have them on Saturday nights and we try to arrange them when there's nothing else going on in the community."

The hostesses at The Hospitality House don't charge for anything they do. The meals, coffee and use of the house for meetings are free of charge.

The sisters rely on volunteers and donations to keep the property afloat.

"The bills to keep this house going are expensive," said Fern George, "so we put a lot into it personally."

As visitors of the house, my husband and I found a few of the friendliest characters in the county among a sea of mismatched coffee cups. The property is a rustic piece of historic Tucumcari mixed with knowledgeable hostesses who are as warm and friendly as the coffee they serve.

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