Best of Burque Restaurants
Alibi Bucks

 Mar 31 - Apr 6, 2005 


This is Your Life

Happy 300th Birthday to You, Albuquerque

By Steven Robert AllenContemporary Photos by Singeli Agnew

Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.141.282

Albuquerque, darling, you are looking so fine! I might be biased, but I can't think of a single other city on the cusp of the big 3-0-0 that looks even close to as pretty as you do. Sure, you've got a few blemishes, and, let's face it, it wouldn't hurt to trim a few pounds here and there. Still, all in all, you've aged well. Your mind is surprisingly sharp, and looking at you I'd be willing to bet you're just now entering the prime of your life.

Given the quick approach of your 300th birthday, this seems like an ideal occasion to take a look back on how you got to where you are today. It's been a long and winding road, Albuquerque. This, my dear friend, is your life.

Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.141.282

Long before you were born, in approximately the sixth century, the ancestors of the Pueblos had already become permanent residents in the Middle Rio Grande Valley, living in pit homes along the banks of what would one day be your river. By the time Don Juan Oñate arrived in 1598, Indian communities already occupied all the really pristine land along your stretch of the Rio Grande. Since some of these communities were hostile to the newcomers, Oñate wisely decided to keep moving north.

The first European settlers in your neck of the woods were actually Catholic missionaries. In addition to bibles and churches, they brought along several nasty illnesses that killed off the local Indians in droves. Sad as this sounds, the infestation of foreign diseases opened up your valley to Spanish settlers.

Finally, we come to April of 1706—the month of your birth. By that time, of course, there were enough Spanish farmers in the valley to justify governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdés' establishment of La Villa de Alburquerque, a small community consisting of 252 people and a completed church. My golly, you were such a cute young thing!

During most of the 1700s and 1800s, your growth was somewhat stunted, if you'll recall. Throughout these years, you remained a scrappy trading post along the Camino Real linking Mexico to Santa Fe.

Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1982.180.346
For over 70 years, the Alvarado Hotel was the center of Albuquerque. This photograph was taken during the hotel’s heyday, in approximately 1930. The Alvarado was demolished in 1970 to make space for a parking lot. A couple years ago, the new Alvarado Transportation Center was completed near the spot where the hotel was located, an homage to a prized piece of Albuquerque history.

In 1880, however, you finally experienced a healthy growth spurt when New Town began to develop around a new railway station to the east of Old Town. Over the next several decades, trains brought a new influx of Anglo transplants to your bosom. During this period, you put on quite a few pounds as your commercial and political center shifted to the new Anglo neighborhoods around your current navel: modern-day Downtown.

Let's be honest, Albuquerque. Since World War II, you've blimped out quite a bit, spreading from the foothills of the Sandias across the river and far to the west. You're getting chunkier every year, Albuquerque, but you're still looking good to me. I don't just love you for your body, though. I love you for your mind as well. You mix the best of both worlds: You've got much of the cosmopolitan multi-ethnic culture of larger cities, but you've also got plenty of the neighborliness of much smaller ones.

This month kicks off a yearlong celebration leading up to your 300th birthday. Countless events are planned for the next 12 months, and these are detailed at Invite all your friends. We're going to have a grand old time.

Unfortunately, you grew up long before the advent of the camera, so we don't have any baby pictures of you. We did, however, manage to dig into the photographic archives at the Albuquerque Museum and come up with some striking images from the last 100 years of your life, which, in a lot of ways, are your proudest years. Our talented photographer, Singeli Agnew, has also taken a series of contemporary portraits to present side by side with older ones, to show us just how much you've changed.

You're a big girl now, Albuquerque. I hope you enjoy your party. Let's do this again in 100 years.

Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1980.186.243
This photo from 1950, at the height of Downtown’s commercial and cultural power, looks west at the corner of Central and Second Street. City officials are currently trying to reinvigorate Downtown with some of its former glory. Surprisingly, they aren’t doing such a bad job.
Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1980.154.25
Huning Castle was the home of Franz Huning, one of Albuquerque’s biggest powerbrokers during the final decades of the 19 th century. Huning’s home eventually fell into disrepair and was torn down in the ’50s. The swanky new Huning Castle Apartments currently occupy the same site.
Courtesy of UNM Center for Southwest Research, Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.50.37
Old Town’s San Felipe de Neri Church was built in 1793 to replace the plaza’s old mission church, which was built in 1706. To this day, it remains a functioning Catholic church.
Courtesy of UNM Center for Southwest Research, Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.50.37
Here’s a glimpse from the 1880s of Old Town during the pre-asphalt era. Hitch up your pony to a post on the left.
Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.50.37
Built in 1890, Hodgin Hall (large building on far left) was the first building on the University of New Mexico campus. During the first half of the 20 th century, architect John Gaw Meem and others completely remade the architecture of the university in the ever popular Pueblo Revival style.
Ward Hicks, Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1982.180.744
This photo from August 19, 1939 captures the grand opening night festivities at the Lobo Theater, one of Albuquerque’s oldest and finest movie theaters. The building currently houses a church called City on a Hill and hosts a variety of community meetings and the occassional live music venue.
Brooks Studio, Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.151.859
Built in 1927, the KiMo Theatre has been a fixture of Albuquerque life for decades. A series of renovations have preserved its reputation as one of the finest entertainment venues in the city.
W. Cal Brown, Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1990.13.43
This photograph from approximately 1880 presents a very early view of Old Town. Today, the dirt, dust and livestock are gone, replaced with retail stores, restaurants and tourists.
Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, PA1978.141.282
In 1940, when this photo was taken, Nob Hill still had a way to go before it became the bustling commercial and residential neighborhood it is today.
NEWSLETTERS Great Alibi stories, events and deals delivered to your inbox each week. No fooling!
View desktop version