Wednesday, November 19, 2008

West Downtown and The Fourth Ward


And the walking tour of Albuquerque continued as we left our unexpected tour of the Kimo Theatre, and walked west along Central towards the Fourth Ward neighborhood, which is situated between Downtown and Old Town.

The El Rey theater is on the western edge of Downtown. This is a live performance space that caters mainly to the over-21 crowd. I have not been there in a while, but I have seen such acts as The Cowboy Junkies, The Indigo Girls, Bayou Seco, and Los Lobos there.
I also helped organize a fundraiser for the New Mexico Greens there, and learned the intricacies of running a theater that serves alcohol.

West of downtown Albuquerque, there is a park at Central and 8th, that serves as the beginning of the Fourth Ward. This area, also developed by Huning, features the graceful mansions of the up-and-coming Albuqueque upper crust circa the late 19th and early 20th century. Here is one, now a law office, with the look of an antebellum southern plantation house.

In the park itself, just off of 8th Street between Central and Copper, stands the most amazing Valley Cottonwood.
One branch makes a near loop, and the old tree is gnarled and yet green and growing.
The students rested beneath it, speculating on how the branches were so bent. Then it on through the Fourth Ward.

Here is the home of one of Albuquerque's German settlers, done good.

Built in the late 1800's, the house features high ceilings, and a large single room on the second floor, the better to catch the summer evening breeze in the days before air conditioning. On the curb in front is a set of carriage steps, the better to alight from the buggy with long skirts.

Near 12th and Central is the location of the old Huning Castle. Built by the railroad tycoon and developer, it was build with a round turret and other features of a medieval castle, but it also had all the modern conveniences of the Gilded Age.

It has been converted into the Huning Castle condominiums, and very little of the original structure remains.

Albuquerque was also the destination of "health seekers," people with 'the consumption' (TB) who came for the clean, dry desert air at altitude. The Fourth Ward has many "TB houses" with the four-sided second floor room featuring nearly floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides, that served as a sleeping porch room for the sick one.

Presbyterian Hospital (just east of the Huning-Highland neighborhood) was founded as a TB hospital, and the original building was featured in the film Infinity, about the early career of Richard Feynman, whose first wife died of TB in Albuquerque during his time at Los Alamos.

Next week: Old Town and San Felipe.


Annette Laing said...

It's interesting that so many quirky American towns have a history as health spas. I hasn't realized that Albuqerque was one of them. I recently spend a weekend visiting friends in Asheville, NC, which was a capital of quack medicine in the 1920s (the greatest era of quackery.) The architecture and the vibe were quite unlike anywhere else I have been in the South.

Amie said...

Interesting mix of architecture. The "TB" houses are very interesting.

I've always heard that people with TB were told to go live in dry air, but I've never heard if it really made a difference.