Old Dowlin Mill


The Old Dowlin Mill is Ruidoso’s oldest building and the Village of Ruidoso was actually called "Dowlin's Mill" in its early days. The mill was built in 1868 by Captain Paul Dowlin and his brother, Will. Captain Paul served at Fort Stanton during the Civil War and established the mill after leaving the Army.

From 1868 to the turn of the 20th Century, the Old Mill was a grist mill, saw mill, bean thrasher, blacksmith shop, and general store. Legend has it that the Mill was also where locals went to buy their moonshine. 

Like any legendary structure in the American West, the Old Mill has a colorful past. Billy the Kid, who was a family friend of both the Dowlin and Lesnet families, would often , dances and suppers at the Mill. Annie Lesnet was said to have actually hidden Billy in a flour barrel from pursuing lawmen. Other visiting legends of the day included Pat Garrett, "Black Jack" Pershing, Geronimo and future General Douglas MacArthur.

For many years the Old Mill was in a state of disrepair until Carmon and Leona Mae Phillips renovated the collapsing structure. Together they virtually saved a historic New Mexico landmark, which they opened as a gift shop in 1950.

Today, the iconic large-scale water wheel that greets visitors is one of the only remaining operable water wheels in the Southwest and still turns the massive stones used to grind wheat. The gift shop is used as an art gallery to display pieces from local artists, with a small stage for plays and other musical performances.

Clements and others interested in preserving the integrity of the historic building together formed a nonprofit organization, aptly named The Old Mill Preservation Corporation. Due in large part to Clements’ tireless efforts over the past year, the building was recently added to the State of New Mexico’s state registry for historic places.

Clements said the group hopes to raise enough funds to eventually construct a parking lot and to install public restrooms.

Donations to the maintenance and upkeep, as well as renovations and additions to the building, are tax deductible and can be sent to The Old Mill Preservation Corp, 313 Spring Road, Ruidoso, NM 88345