In 1894 the town of Portales was founded and named after a nearby campsite where spring waters gushed from a series of caves that the early Spanish travelers thought resembled portales, or “porches,” of a hacienda style house.
The railroad came in 1898, and in 1900 Washington Ellsworth Lindsey helped to create Roosevelt County. The city was formally established in 1909 and Lindsey became its first mayor, and later a Governor of New Mexico.
Farming and ranching developed, and Portales became known as one of the primary producers of Valencia peanuts in the world. In 1934, Eastern New Mexico Normal School (not University) was founded, becoming the city’s main economic force.
The Post Office was completed in 1937 and is a Classical Revival-style building built by the WPA. The building houses a mural by Theodore Van Soelen titled “Buffalo Range.”
The Administration Building at Eastern New Mexico University is also a WPA building. A WPA mural by Lloyd Moylan titled “The 12th Chapter of Ecclesiastes” covers the walls, floor to ceiling, around the staircase from the first to second floor. Other WPA buildings on the ENMU campus include Lea and Quay Halls – both dormitories. Golden Library, on the campus, houses several WPA works of art.
The Roosevelt County Museum is a WPA building and it houses several pieces of WPA art. The art deco-style Roosevelt County Courthouse is also a WPA building constructed in1938.