I’ve been doing a lot of historic research on Albuquerque since last October. It’s been a fascinating study, particularly regarding the buildings that once populated our fair city and at one time made it look like every other American city of the time. A recurring theme in the narrative descriptions and commentary is the lament that many of those incredible buildings were torn down in the name of urban renewal or “progress.” Included on that roster are the Commercial Club, Castle Huning, the Alvarado Hotel, and the Franciscan. These are notable particularly because they were not derelict or poorly built. In fact, the Franciscan Hotel was so solid that it took seven swings of the wrecking ball to even begin making a dent in it.
As I was driving east on Central Avenue on a warm spring evening with the window open, I realized that those buildings were a part of their Albuquerque, those people I’ve been studying who were so important to the city’s development–Huning, Hazeldine, Stover, and Rodey, among many others.
My errands on that evening took me through MY Albuquerque and by some places I love. The University of New Mexico is unique among schools. Simply walking on campus is a treat, past buildings whose architecture is like none other. My favorite restaurants are from a wide variety of ethnic groups and include some fabulous restaurants–Crazy Fish, Sahara, Bumblebee, Zinc, Scalo, Rudy’s, La Crepe Michel, Antiquity, Taj Mahal–and the list goes on. Art Deco style buildings in Nob Hill rub elbows with bungalow homes the next block over. I can have great coffee in many places, eat incredible desserts at Flying Star, cruise the web on wireless networks all over the city, and enjoy one of the most spectacular views in the world from Sandia Peak. I can enjoy a soft summer evening outside at Kelly’s and have a phone conversation with my daughter who lives 1200 miles away. And always there is Old Town, the historic heart of the city.
These are all places I can go, meals I can enjoy, and things I can do today that our forbears couldn’t do 100 years ago. And while I can appreciate the history and architecture for what it was, I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
That was their Albuquerque, and this is mine.
I’m having fun–come on along!