January 31, 2020
For several years running I would take a January trip down to West Texas to escape the bitter cold and snow of Colorado. The little town of Marfa is one of the places I would end up. In January, Marfa is warm and small and quiet, and the stunning ranchland views of the surrounding chocolate-colored mountains provide the respite needed after the hectic holidays of December.
Marfa, Texas was founded in the 1880s as a railroad water stop in the deserts of Trans-Pecos Texas in between Midland and El Paso. Over the years it also served as a cattle stop, a trail stop, and a World War II army airfield training base, training thousands of pilots including television legend Rod Serling of Twilight Zone fame. Marfa is the county seat of Presidio County, Texas but never grew beyond 4,000 souls. Its population is half that today, but subsists on ranching and drawing tourists and artists to its quiet streets.
At the very center of town, the three-story Second-Empire style Presidio County Courthouse can be seen from almost anywhere in Marfa. Built in 1886 of local materials, the courthouse features French-style mansard roofs and a central dome topped by a statue of Lady Justice. The grand old building has been placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
I was able to walk into the courthouse and climb the central tower for some photos of the surrounding town and landscape. Marfa sits in the midst of deserts surrounded by distant mountains:
Marfa is a popular stop for tourists in January. Tourists need good accomodations, and the second-most impressive structure in Marfa provides just what is needed.
The Hotel Paisano is just a block from the courthouse. Bring your red sportscar and park it out front, then enjoy a beverage in the courtyard. This is January, and the sunshine is warm but not hot.
This is an old-style hotel, built in the 1930s, so the hotel lobby and streetscape include gift shops.
Here are a few sights around town. Imagine lazily strolling past them without a jacket and while holding an iced tea:
Information about the Hotel Paisano can be found here. It’s not particularly cheap, but you get what you pay for I suppose.
Finally, here’s a sign that tells a story, a story to bring you back squarely to where Marfa rightly belongs — in Texas:
Who knows if the story is actually true, but just talk to some folks around town and you’ll probably hear 10 more stories just like it.
All photos taken by the author. Photos taken Friday January 13, 2012.
A list of all photo posts from the American County Seats series in TimManBlog can be found here.