“Socorro is tiny!” Tech students often say. “We’ve seen all there is to see here!” But our tiny town is home to many hidden gems, if only we take the time to look. One such place is the Hammel Museum, a fascinating trove of local history and culture.
Located just east of Bodega Burger Co. at 500 6th Street, the Hammel Museum is an unassuming stone building from the outside; however, venture inside and you are greeted with a spread of artifacts and items well worth poring over.
The building was originally a brewery, until the 18th Amendment in 1919 forced it to become an ice house and soda bottling plant instead. Cases of Grapette bottles stacked high remain as a testament to this legacy. The rise of home refrigerators eventually did in the business in the late 1950’s, after which the building was turned over to the SCHS and became a museum.
Equipment from the brewing and bottling days has been preserved and can be seen alongside old photographs and maps, a printing press, a photographic contact printer, and a “spike remover,” among many other interesting items. Venture upstairs and there is an extensive model train exhibit, full of adorable scenes from the southwestern countryside. New art is constantly being crafted by local volunteers, who invite anyone interested to join them.
The museum is run by volunteers, mainly members of the Socorro County Historical Society (SCHS), who are glad to answer any questions that may arise or just to chat. One such member, Honorable [Kentucky Colonel] Peggy Hardman, Ph.D., or “Doc H” as she is known, was happy to share some knowledge about what the SCHS is currently up to.
The SCHS holds two major events each year: an annual meeting and Oktoberfest. Their annual meeting is in mid April. Oktoberfest is in, of course, October; last year it coincided with Socorrofest and the VLA and Trinity Site tours. Held on the community picnic ground just behind the museum, it is a lovely time involving food, music, and vendors. It is a fundraiser to allow vital renovations to the building, such rebuilding when a wall collapsed in 2008 and now to redo the front windows.
Currently, the Hammel is only open on the first Saturday of the month from about 9 AM to noon. The one and only reason for this is a lack of volunteers! As Doc H explained, “we need some younger people” to help with both general upkeep and the annual events. This is a fantastic opportunity for Tech clubs to get volunteer hours. And, as the Petro club can attest, the picnic area out back is a great location for events.
For now, mark the first Saturday on your calendar, and go check out this intriguing venue! Much more information on the museum, events, and Socorro history in general can be found on the SCHS website: http://socorro-history.org.