Built in 1878, using a portion of a building erected by settlers in the 1850s, the young Englishman John H. Tunstall expanded it to established a mercantile business; intending to compete with the L. G. Murphy Company up the street. The building housed a bank and law office for his associates John Chisum and Alexander McSween, as well as living quarters for himself.
It is a single story structure of plastered adobe with a wooden porch running the length of the south façade. The wooden shutters are two layers thick, with a sheet of metal between the layers. The original building was flat roofed. The pitched roof was added in 1886 by William Rosenthal & Co.
The west wing, a separate building later attached to the store, was constructed in 1886-1887. The east wing contained three rooms which were Tunstall’s living quarters. The Tunstall Store is about 4,300 sq. ft. in size.
Following the killing of Mr. McSween, and after the Five Day Battle, the store was looted. Thereafter, it was a major trading establishment for Lincoln County run by several businessmen, including Jimmy Dolan, whose father-in-law Charles Fritz had purchased the property when it was put up for auction. Both Tunstall and McSween are buried southeast of the store.
In 1901 the store was owned by the Roswell Trading Co. and operated by their manager, John M. Penfield. He bought the property in 1914 and continued operating the store until his death in 1938. The business was carried on by his family until 1957, when they sold it to the State.
The building is on both the National Historic Register and the State Register of Cultural Properties. It contains displays of the original 19th-century merchandise in the original shelving and cases!
The Tunstall Store currently has structural issues because it has no foundation and sits directly on the ground, causing major shifting in the walls. There are also drainage issues with water running under the building. Stucco repairs are needed, and restoration work is required on windows and exterior wood trim.