The core of Central Albuquerque is the “original town site” founded upon the arrival of the railroad in 1880, and historically referred to as “New Town” Albuquerque (or “New Albuquerque”). As would be expected, as the city grew during the course of the twentieth century, the boundaries of Central Albuquerque expanded as the new city annexed newly formed subdivisions and three previously unincorporated communities into its boundaries: the original Villa de Albuquerque founded by Spanish colonists in 1706 (commonly known as “Old Town” and located two miles west of the railroad town); the seventeenth century Hispanic village of Barelas (situated immediately south of the original town site); and the once semiautonomous, neighborhoods of Martineztown and Santa Barbara (located to the northeast of the historic downtown’s commercial center). In short, Central Albuquerque represents what most of the city’s residents considered “downtown” for almost eighty years. It was the place where at one time or another most people lived, worked, shopped, and visited doctors’ offices as well as government offices. Today, its built environment reflects the historical patterns of these activities.
A note about the time period – 1880 to 1970 – covered here: this ninety-year period was established for some obvious – and not so obvious – reasons. The obvious: the year 1880 marks the arrival of the railroad which was a seminal moment in the City of Albuquerque history and is, in fact, its raison d’ etre. The end year of 1970 is less obvious; but represents a point in the city’s timeline where significant changes were occurring in the character of Central Albuquerque. By 1970, “urban sprawl” was in full force as housing, shopping, and industry were leaving (or in many cases had left) the traditional downtown core for the Northeast and Southeast Heights, and soon thereafter, the West Mesa. New subdivisions were reaching the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, shopping had moved to the many strip centers found throughout the city and the largest retailers were now housed in two regional shopping malls – Winrock and Coronado. Except for government offices, most jobs were now located outside of Central Albuquerque at the University of New Mexico, Kirtland Air Force Base, Sandia National Laboratories, and the newly built, “industrial parks” sitting astride the interstate highways. By the late 1960s, Central Albuquerque was a site of urban renewal projects that leveled block after block of late nineteenth and early twentieth century buildings in preparation for new development, much of which was not completed until the following decades – leaving instead empty parking lots interspersed by a handful of new high-rise buildings. Therefore, by 1970, Central Albuquerque was about to undergo a dramatic change, not only in its built environment but also its role in the history of the city.
Learn more about Albuquerque’s vibrant history here.
From the US Department of the Interior, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Multiple Property Documentation Form “Historic and Architectural Resources of Central Albuquerque, 1880-1970” William A. Dodge, 2012
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