Occidental Life Building, Albuquerque
Constructed in 1917, this building has served as the headquarters of the Occidental Life Insurance Company for the past century. The building suffered severe damage following a fire in 1933. The building was not completely renovated and reopened until 1939, when all of the damage was repaired. The building has been renovated several times since that fire and in 1981, a second story was added. The building is a landmark in Albuquerque where it is known for its unique terra cotta facade and a Venetian Gothic Revival architectural style.
Backstory and Context
The Occidental Life Building features a Venetian Gothic Revival architectural style which is highly unusual for New Mexico, and has been described by the Albuquerque Landmarks and Urban Conservation Commission as "unique in the country." The Baum Building in Oklahoma City, built in 1909, employed similar architectural features but was demolished in the early 1970s.
The building's most significant feature is the white terra cotta facade, which wraps around the south and east sides of the building. The facade was modeled after that of the Doge's Palace in Venice, with arcades of pointed Venetian Gothic arches, quatrefoil windows, and, following the 1934 rebuilding, an ornamental frieze with a row of finials. The spandrels and capitals are decorated with elaborate floral ornamentation, and the building's rounded corners are punctuated with pointed turrets. The tile used in both the original and rebuilt portions of the exterior was manufactured by the Denver Terra-Cotta Tile Company.
"Properties by County" (PDF). New Mexico Department of Cultural Affairs.
Raynor, Ted (February 3, 1952). "Artistic, Unique in N.M., Occidental Building Here Brings Touch of Venice". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. 10.
"Guards put at buildings after $150,000 fire losses". Albuquerque Journal. NM. April 26, 1933. p. 1.
Edgell, G.H., The American Architecture of Today Charles Scribner's Sons, New York. 1929