ALBUQUERQUE’S FIRST SUBURB

The settlement of Albuquerque's East Mesa east of the University of New Mexico began with several homesteads in the 1890's. Those homesteads became part of subdivision plats in the 1920's.

In October 1926 the Monte Vista Corporation platted the Monte Vista addition, one of four subdivisions making up the Nob Hill neighborhoods. The land development company was headed by William J. Leveritt Sr., a tuberculosis patient ("lunger" in those days) who had come to New Mexico in search of the cure. The corporation hired a planner from Denver named De Bors to lay out the subdivision. They had wisely recognized that the severe slope of the southern part of the tract (the old drainage of Tijeras Arroyo) posed flood hazards and drainage problems and so required a different treatment than the traditional grid street pattern. The design solution devised by De Bors resulted in the diagonal thoroughfares of Campus and Monte Vista, above and between which were diagonally slanted blocks, maximizing developable land while safeguarding the environment.

Monte Vista Boulevard was planned as a wide boulevard with planted medians down the center. (According to local sources, a rebuffed Mayor Tingley moved the money for medians to the Ridgecrest area.) The original street tree plantings along Campus Boulevard were in a pattern alternating canopied Siberian elms with narrow Lombardy poplars.

The second Monte Vista Corporation innovation was the dedication of land to the Albuquerque Public School system for an elementary school, a masterful marketing stroke. Monte Vista Elementary School, steel-framed and built in California Mission style, is now a beloved local landmark.

Leveritt built his own adobe Pueblo-style home on two lots at Dartmouth and Girard Place. On Monte Vista Boulevard are two very unique homes directly across from each other---the 1920's Picturesque/Tudor Revival stone house designed by Beula Fleming, and the futuristic home designed by Bart Prince and built in 1983. Look down to find the few remaining driveways installed under the WPA; they can be recognized by the horizontal scoring and the WPA 1941 stamp.

The other subdivision now part of the Historic District is the College View Addition, with its 16 blocks arranged in a classic grid pattern. College View was also platted in 1926 and stretches from Carlisle to Morningside, Lomas to Copper.

Most of the lots within these two subdivisions were developed within 25 years, often by small contractors who built one or two houses at a time under contract or on speculation from a set of standard plans. The vast majority of Nob Hill homes' details were derived from traditional Southwestern architecture, as well as Mediterranean and California Mission design elements, with a smattering of Streamline Moderne. The earliest were sometimes built of adobe, then came block or "Pen tile" or wood frame, and stucco.

The earliest homes are also characterized by separate garages set back on the property; later garages tended to be attached to the houses with the same front setback. Small casement windows on either side of the fireplace were typical in the 1920's and '30's, as were double-hung windows with three panes set over a single pane. Look for hand-made Spanish roof tiles or colorful Ludewici tiles.

Nob Hill, the hill south of Central was named by entrepreneur and adventurer D.B.K. Sellars to give cachet to his real estate venture. Sellars is that figure with his dog standing on a naked hilltop near the Nob Hill sign in that oft-seen photo. The photo was actually taken for him and sent out as his New Year's greeting for the year 1937.

One of the more unique homes on the hill is the "Water Tower House," designed by William Burk Jr. in 1937 around a water tower built in 1916. The two quadrants south of Central were named the University Heights and Granada Heights additions.

The Granada Heights plat, Silver to Garfield/Carlisle to Morningside, filed in 1925, is where homes of a somewhat larger size prevailed. Of note is the "Kelvinator House" on Hermosa SE, built in 1938 in Streamline Moderne style as a "Machine for Living" with all-electric appliances. William Burk Jr's design evokes the 1939 World's Fair and was meant to demonstrate that "modern" need not be expensive.

 


Below is a map, courtesy of the City of Albuquerque Planning Department, from the survey and Historic District nomination to the National Trust for Historic Preservation. For more information about the historic designation, preservation techniques or tax credits, please call the Preservation Planning Office at 505-924-3342.
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