The non-profit group Albuquerque is devoted to the promotion, preservation and communication of modernist structure in New Mexico »Albuquerque Journal

The Whole Hog Café, 725 Central NE, is another example of Googie architecture. It was a Denny’s Diner when it debuted in Albuquerque in 1964. (Courtesy Thea Haver)

ALBUQUERQUE, NM – In June 2014, upon arriving in Albuquerque, Thea Haver was driving west on Central Avenue, old Route 66, from her home state of Maryland, feeling a little in her pale blue Saturn Ion, a car she thought was unworthy confidently down the famous Mother Street when she was terrified to see a tall building in Central and San Mateo.

“I was pretty confused about this tower with little else that is so high around it,” Haver said bright spotrecently recalled.

The emerging structure that left them unprepared was the 17-story old First National Bank Building East, now known to many Albuquerque residents as the Bank of the West Tower.

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Haver faced more surprises as she continued west.

Modern Albuquerque’s logo is inspired by a lighted yucca that was on the Kistler-Collister department store, now Ace Hardware, during the Christmas break. (Courtesy Modern Albuquerque)

“I drove through the Highland Business District, which I now call my home and see as an incredible bag of mid-century modernist architecture,” she said. “I’ve seen the circular Bank of Albuquerque, Classic Century Square, and Loyola’s. It opened my eyes. The diversity of people, culture and architecture was more than I expected. “

Simple driver

Four years after that drive west on Central, Haver and her husband, Ethan Aronson, whom they met after moving to Albuquerque, founded Modern Albuquerque, a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting, preserving and educating the public about modernist architecture and art in Albuquerque and New is dedicated to Mexico.

Loyola’s family restaurant, 4500 Central SE, opened as Sherm’s in 1958. It’s an example of a futuristic design guy from Southern California called Googie, named after a Hollywood coffee house. (Courtesy Thea Haver)

Last week, Modern Albuquerque launched a website,, where people can tour modernist or mid-century buildings, like Haver did a few years ago, only with a computer and not a Saturn ion.

The website offers a touch of the open road to those living in their homes due to the COVID-19 crisis.

“It’s supposed to be a rabbit hole full of information,” Haver said.

The site has 12 buildings that make up a must-see modernism list, including some that drew Haver’s attention to that first ride in 2014.

Printable coloring pages of Modern Albuquerque can be found at First National Bank Tower East. (Courtesy Modern Albuquerque)

but also Ace Hardware, formerly the Kistler-Collister department store, 1100 San Mateo NE; Summit Construction, 900 Hazeldine SE; and the Simms Building, 400 Gold SW.

Click on these websites for a picture of the building, the date it was constructed, the architect or architectural firm that designed it, and some details about its history and design features.

“The more we learn about a building, the more we learn about the architect’s intent,” Haver said.

Form and function

Haver said modern or mid-century architecture dates from 1945 to 1975, “from the post-war period to the” Star Wars. “

“Modernism is a set of (architectural) principles; It’s a shape following function, ”Haver said. “You drive past Loyola’s (family restaurant, 4500 Central SE), you look in the window and you want a good meal.”

Loyola’s, which opened as Sherm’s in 1958, and Whole Hog Café, 725 Central NE, which was built as Denny’s Diner in 1964, are examples of Googie architecture named after a Hollywood café. Googie architecture, born in Southern California, often includes design elements such as raised roofs. curvy, geometric shapes; and brazen use of glass, steel and neon.

Summit Construction, 900 Hazeldine SE, was George Rutherford Construction when it opened in 1964. The design by the architect Don Stevens contains a sun protection made of concrete. (Courtesy Brady Lavigne)

While mid-century architecture sometimes contains dramatic elements, it does not often have exterior ornamentation.

“It’s buildings that do a job,” Haver said. “And modernism is honesty in materials. The Simms building is made of a lot of glass and draws attention to it. “

As of January 2019, Modern Albuquerque has added 57 Modernist buildings to a previous city inventory, bringing the total number of mid-century Albuquerque buildings to 366.

“We were out there looking around,” said Haver. “The research never ends. And we started adding (built) buildings after 1975 because there are still architects doing modernist design. When we list these, we get the go-ahead for storage. “

Do not forget

Conservation is important as major mid-century buildings have been lost in Albuquerque.

The Lost Architecture section of the website includes Elks Lodge, built in 1963 and demolished in 2019. The White Winrock Hotel, built in 1962, was demolished in 2012. The Trade Winds Motor Hotel, built in 1958, was demolished in 2009. and the Albuquerque Civic Auditorium, built in 1957, which was demolished in 1986.

Ace Hardware, 1100 San Mateo NE, started out as a Kistler-Collister department store in 1962. The building has been rebuilt, but still has its original entrance roof and precast concrete elements with a diamond relief pattern. (Courtesy Jessica Roybal)

Visit the website for Modern Albuquerque’s three-part, 35-minute video presentation, The Albuquerque Civic Auditorium: An Architectural Story.

“The Albuquerque Civic Auditorium is the deepest and most resounding loss,” Haver said. “Think of all the (music, sports, other) events that took place there. Often we don’t pay attention to the buildings we experience. We don’t pay attention to space. We’ll take them for granted until they’re gone. “

Haver said the Civic Auditorium had financial problems and was a victim of vandals. The Trade Winds Motor Hotel was demolished because it was “an annoying property”.

“There were so many Route 66 motels that went into disrepair after I-40 hit,” Haver said. “It is difficult to prioritize architecture over the safety and wellbeing of the community.”

Orange at sunset

Another feature of the site is “coloring pages” that site visitors can use to download, print, and color images of mid-century Albuquerque buildings.

One of the buildings available for artistic embellishment is the First National Bank Building East, the soaring giant that first caught Haver’s attention in 2014.

When completed in 1963, the 17-story bank building was the tallest in New Mexico. It is now the fifth tallest in the state and the tallest outside of downtown Albuquerque.

“Its white tower reflected the desert sun and its golden tiles changed color depending on the time of day,” said Haver. “They were golden orange at sunset.”

Haver, 35, moved to Albuquerque to accept a position at the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History and is now a self-employed creative advisor on museums and attractions. She sees herself as a museum person.

She said that because of her love of architecture, she came from a maternal grandmother she never knew.

Classic Century Square, 4616 Central SE, opened as White’s Department Store in 1957. The building designed by the architect Max Flatow has a glass facade along the entire north side. (Courtesy Thea Haver)

“She drove her kids around Dallas to look at buildings,” Haver said. “My mother thought you did that. So she drove me around (Maryland) and looked at buildings. “

And that is exactly what Haver and Modern Albuquerque are trying to do with their website for the people today.

But even in these self-isolating times, it is possible for people to come across modernist gems while driving for groceries or picking up recipes. You just have to be on your guard.

“If we have any influence at all,” said Haver, “we hope that when people sit at a traffic light, they look left and right and pay attention to the buildings they see.”

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