Picture an entirely voluntary community.
It’s rare to hear there’s a whole town for sale but that’s what’s happening at Fort Wingate, about 15 miles East of Gallup.
Over the years, Fort Wingate has seen people come and go. The Bear Springs Plaza there is now completely empty. This comes as the town has been put up for sale with a price tag of $11 million.
What comes with it? Eighteen acres of real estate, including a convenience store, gas station and café.
But inside the café is empty, yet full of welcoming characters like birds, a rabbit, a coin-operated elephant, even a koi pond and waterfall.
On the walls are traces of history at every glance.
The old military base of Fort Wingate is across the street from the town, it is not part of the sale, it is abandoned and locked up.
The New Mexico state historian Rob Martinez said “There were actually two Fort Wingates.”
The original Fort Wingate was near San Rafael, New Mexico.
Martinez said “The significance in the 1860s is that this is where Kit Carson and the U.S. military are headquartered and they round up Navajo people to March them on ‘The Long Walk.’”
This was a 300-mile walk from Fort Wingate to Bosque Redondo near Fort Sumner.
Nine thousand Navajo men, women and children were forced to walk and kept there for three years before being returned, this time to a new Fort Wingate near Gallup where the people were processed.
For years it served as a military base and eventually became an Indian Boarding School.
“It was a terrible experiment, a disaster really attempting to assimilate the Navajo people, force them to become culturally American,” Martinez said.
The town has been in the owner’s family since the 1940s. He grew up here and now maintains most of the town on his own.
The owner did not want to do an on-camera interview but did give KOAT a tour of the café. He did not want to be on camera but did give me a tour.
Fort Wingate has 27 homes that are 100% occupied. Many of the people who live there have been there for decades.
The owner said he wants to sell to someone that will allow these people to stay. Everything inside the café including historical items is part of the sale.
Martinez said “I would hope that we remember the legacy of Fort Wingate. The long walk. Kit Carson and the U.S. military forcing Navajo people into a horrendous situation and the military purposes Fort Wingate served throughout the decades.”