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Experiments with adaptative urbanism in West Texas ghosttown

A century ago, Terlingua, Texas was a bustling mining town (by 1922 it was supplying the nation with 40% of its quicksilver needs for gunpowder), but in the 1940s the mine closed and the place emptied out. For decades, it was a ghost town and then in the 1980’s it was bought by one owner with dreams of restoring its original glory.

Mimi Webb Miller has spent most of her adult life living in tiny towns in West Texas and just across the border in Mexico. She knew the town’s owner and 20 years ago, he told her she could build her home on one of the ruins. “There was just one room. It wasn’t even a room it was a doorway and a box sitting on some rocks. So the rocks were left, the adobe was all gone. So I started building in ‘96 and very quickly had a home.”

After she had a home, she decided to keep rebuilding and soon had turned five more ruins into a guesthouse and coffee shop. She says there were no rules for building when she got her start in town, but more recently, the county has stepped in with one request. “I think they’re starting to say no new outhouses. I’m not sure if that’s exactly how it’s worded… you know we have more people so you do have to have more rules.” The population of Terlingua at the 2010 census was 58.