No plans proposed for Portales’ tallest building

Freedom New Mexico: Eric Butler

By Eric Butler: Freedom New Mexico

It’s well known the tallest building in Clovis, Hotel Clovis, was once used as sleeping quarters for many but is now unoccupied.

The same is true for the tallest building in Portales.

Unlike the Hotel Clovis, however, no plans have been drawn up to revive the seven-story Lincoln Hall dormitory at Eastern New Mexico University.

“When we constructed San Juan Village (residence hall), it opened in the fall of 2007, we closed Lincoln Hall,” said Scott Smart, ENMU’s vice president for business affairs. “It’s very old. They’ve got the restrooms down the hall. Students these days don’t like to share living quarters and bathrooms.”

Lincoln Hall and its near twin, six-story Bernalillo Hall next door, were built in 1965 as part of a wave of on-campus construction.

Bernalillo Hall is still being used, but Lincoln Hall was closed down because it didn’t withstand its occupants nearly as well.

The reason was simple, according to Smart: Lincoln was used to house young men on campus while Bernalillo was for women.

“Lincoln has much more wear and tear,” Smart said.

When ENMU began looking at how much it would cost to renovate Lincoln into a dorm hall meeting the liking of today’s college students, administrators discovered it would be cheaper just to build a new residence facility. That’s when San Juan Village, built at a cost of $14 million, came to exist two years ago.

Aside from whatever sentimental value Lincoln Hall may have accrued over the past four decades, Smart said little other incentives are present to reopen the structure.

Smart said it “doesn’t have any architectural significance” and its future may be similar to another former dorm hall on campus.

“We have a second vacant student housing building. That’s DeBaca Hall and it’s being used as a storage facility,” Smart said. “The roof on DeBaca is failing though and, probably sooner than later, we’ll have to get that stuff out of there. Lincoln Hall perhaps might be turned into storage at that point.”

Keith Wattenberger came to Portales to play football at Eastern in 1983. At that juncture, football players were housed at Lincoln Hall and he recalls how the elevator would fail on frequent occasions and he’d have to trudge to his living quarters on the sixth floor.

Wattenberger is one of the few to go inside the structure, littered with bird feathers and droppings near the front entrance, these days.

As the City of Portales’ supervisor of communications, Wattenberger makes sure a repeater used for police radio calls is working correctly on the roof of Lincoln Hall.

That’ll be gone soon too, though. The city has made plans to move the repeater to one of the television towers used for KNME.

“I’ve got a lot of good memories about that dormitory,” Wattenberger said. “It’s kind of a shame to see it not be used anymore. I can actually remember when those trees that are lined around the dorm were planted back in 1984.

“Unfortunately, like they say, it’s really hard to get kids to come and commit,” he added. “You’ve got to have some inticement and Lincoln really wasn’t it anymore.”