Old Albuquerque High School
This was the third building that housed Albuquerque's high school students starting in the early 20th century until the 1970s. As Albuquerque grew, more and more students were enrolled into the education system, thus newer, bigger buildings were needed. Constructed between 1914-1917, this building was the largest in size and lasted the longest as a school. Until 1949, it was the city's only school when another was completed. In 1979, a new building was completed to house Albuquerque High students. From 1979 to 2001 the school building was largely empty. Now it has been renovated for lofts, which have helped usher recent economic growth to this area of the city.
Backstory and Context
Additional information from Albuquerque High School's website:
"(This history was taken from the 1974 Albuquerque High Yearbook. Thank you yearbook staffers!!) Editor's note: The La Reata Staff wishes to express its sincere gratitude to the people who made this section of the book possible. Thank you to Dr. Eldred Harrington and his work, Some Observations of the History of Albuquerque High. The early history on the first two pages was drawn exclusively from his history. Thank you to Coach Jim Hulsman who contributed his statistical sports history of Albuquerque High. The sports history was drawn exclusively from his records. And, of course, thank you to all the yearbook sponsors and La Reata staff members who have recorded Albuquerque High's history since the publication of the first La Reata in 1909.
The once crowded hallways are empty now. The sounds of voices shouting to each other and the clanging of locker doors are gone. The spine-tingling screech of the chalk on the blackboards and the soft pad and swoosh of the erasers is no longer heard. Ghosts of voices and people now take possession of the buildings that stand in the middle of town while outside, the commercial hauler, buses, zippy 240 Z's and rebuilt '56 Chevys pound rivulets into the asphalt that is Broadway. Shiny Cadillacs, newly polished Super Sports and dust covered Volkswagons careen to and fro on Central in the activity and pursuit of life in the growing metropolis of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Silently watching all, stand the red brick buildings in which most of the graduates of the city have received their high school educations. A segment of the city's life has been erased. A new school has been built, but it cannot replace the tradition, the love, the meaning of the Old Albuquerque High School. The first of the five brick buildings, which encircle a patio, was built in 1914, but that is not the beginning of AHS. The history of AHS is inseparable from the development of the city of Albuquerque, which was settled shortly after 1700 and was named after the Viceroy of New Spain, Albuquerque. It remained a small village until approximately 1880 when the Atlantic and Pacific railroad, en route to the west coast, reached a point two miles east of the village of Albuquerque. A small community developed around the rail-head included a depot which was built on the site of the old Alvarado. A horse car line from the "new" Albuquerque to old Albuquerque was started to provide transportation between the growing communities.
As the new Albuquerque flourished, the railroad assigned to Colonel Marmon to lay out some city streets. He laid one street parallel to the horse car line which he called Central, and the first road west of the tracks and running parallel he named First. Although the railroad did not request any roads east of the tracks, this is where Marmon plotted his widest street.
He named that street Broadway and proceeded to develop four streets east of it. He named the first street Arno, after Arno Huning who was a pioneer businessman in Albuquerque. The next two streets he named after his own children, Edith and Walter, and his last street was named High.
Running parallel to Central was an arroyo which ran into an area now called Hopewell Field where AHS football was practiced, and girls' and boys' PE classes carried on outside activities.
By 1881 the population of Albuquerque was 1000. It is said that Billy the Kid once made a trip to Albuquerque because of a tale that he'd heard, supposedly told by a local hardware store owner. This owner had made claims about what he would do should Billy the Kid ever have the misfortune to step into his hardware store. Billy strutted into to hardware store and walked out with a plow while the store owner hid under a wagon somewhere near the site of the present YMCA. Albuquerque was not an exciting town, however; and Billy moved on to the larger communities of White Oaks, Lincoln, and Ft. Summer, New Mexico.
In the United States at that time, there were few high schools, primarily because it was difficult to obtain funds. The result was that academics would develop. Few cities had the power by law to levy taxes and Albuquerque didn't obtain this power until 1891. Meanwhile the Colorado College of Colorado Springs started the Albuquerque Academy in 1879 on the east side of the old plaza. Thus were the beginnings of what was to become Albuquerque High. Twenty seven students enrolled. In 1881; the academy moved to the new town into an adobe building on Lead between Third and Fourth. In 1882, it moved again, this time to Silver between Fifth and Sixth. The Academy was run by a seventeen member board of trustees composed of business and professional men whose chief purpose seemed to be to give the town as good a school as possible. Dr. Eldred Harrington, AHS class of 1920, stated in Some Observations on the History of Albuquerque High School "The Academy was a tuition school, but the tuition never supported it adequately and the difference had o be made up from the pockets of the trustees, from friends, or from the resource of the New West Association which supported the Colorado College. The Academy had a primary, intermediate, and a college preparatory department. The college preparatory division charged a tuition of $3.00 per month for the ordinary course and an additional one dollar per month if the student took the special French and German course. If the student wished, he could take twenty four music lessons during the year for an additional fee of $18.00. (We must remember that $1.00 per day was a good wage in 1880.) In 1886 the Academy's curriculum listed such subjects as English, History, Algebra, Geometry, Bookkeeping, Physiology, Rhetoric, Botany, Physics, Political Science, Civil Government, American and English literature, French, German, Latin, and Greek. School activities were chiefly provided by sedate music recitals and equally sedate debating contests. Boys were encouraged in playground sports such as baseball, but there were no competitive teams. In 1886, Professor C.E. Hodgin was the Academy principal, and he was destined to play a large part in State education for the next forty years.
In 1890 the academy moved into a new building at Central and Edith where the public library is now located, and it operated there until 1891 when the city received the power to levy taxes for school funds. The whole operation was then taken over by the city, and Professor Hodgen was appointed the new city superintendent of schools. While the Academy had been privately owned, it had been operated by local authorities and largely supported locally for the interests of the community.
By 1891 the population of Albuquerque had grown to 4000. The town had twenty saloons and two banks, one which went broke during the panic of 1893. The University of New Mexico was started, and the high school and the U. had developed a good relationship of cooperation.
The new Albuquerque High was housed on the third floor of the old city library building, and in 1892 the first graduating class consisted of three members: Mabel Daniels, Lu Hughes, and Mildred Whiteman. Enrollment was thirty members.
In 1893 the school was moved to a frame building in the 200 block of South Edith where it remained for six or seven years. In the fall of 1900 it was moved to the central school building at Third and Lead where it was located until 1914. This building later became an office for the superintendent of schools.
By 1895 Albuquerque had acquired twenty three saloons and had almost as many gambling establishments. People were moving to Albuquerque for reasons of health, and the city was taking on many aspects of larger eastern cities. Even after the 1900s there were still occasional stage holdups and by 1903 there had been two cases of school money embezzling by the city's officials.
One hundred dollars was spent to advertise the Albuquerque schools at the World's Fair in 1893, and in 1908 the city's educational exhibits won first prize in the International Industrial Exposition.
In 1914 Old Main was built. Along the north side of the building about where Copper Street is, ran an arroyo. On the North side of the arroyo was Pence Wagon Yard which was used to house the mules and otherwise provide for their needs. The south side of the arroyo is where the gym steps are now and where old Main was built; the school was heavily criticized for building a facility which was too large. One thing was sure - the school building was definitely going to satisfy the educational needs of the town for all time. Just east of Pence Wagon Yard were some weather beaten houses (current location of the gym) and it was rumored that a treasure was buried there. Over the years this area has been the scene of intensive search efforts in man's never ending quest for quick wealth. The arroyo which ran along the north side was quite deep and it often was the ground used for settling disputes. In 1915, it was the meeting place of two rival gangs, the Capulets and the Montagues; and in 1917 the rival gangs who used the area were the Hatfields and the McCoys. In this same area Dr. Harrington along with some of his friends caught a fawn and gave it to a resident of the town for a pet.
In 1914 the population of the town was 10,000 and grades nine through twelve were being educated in the building on Central Avenue. The library was located on the third floor, where, in recent years, the Art Department has conducted classes.
By 1917 the county population had increased by 2000, and paving was becoming a sign of the times. Central Avenue was paved from Eighth to approximately where the Presbyterian Hospital is currently located and Fourth Street was paved from Mountain to Coal. However, the majority of the streets remained unpaved and only five years prior to the paving, the speeding vehicle of the mayor was caught by a policeman on a bicycle. John Milne shot a deer somewhere near the Veteran's Hospital. The site of the Albuquerque Country Club was a duck pond and West San Jose was a cat-tail swamp.
The primary method of commuting around the town was street cars which originally were run by male motormen. With the advent of World War I, the city saw these male operators replaced by women who held the positions until more modern busses came into use.
John Milne became superintendent quite early in his career in Albuquerque. Appointed in 1911, he remained in that post well over forty years.
The first edition of the La Reata was printed in 1909, by a local establishment and was financed largely by advertising. In 1917 the school began instruction in printing, and in 1918, the first La Reata was printed by the instructors and students of AHS. It was printed by the school until 1959. The first newspaper produced by Albuquerque High came out in 1902 an was published until1907. The title of this early newspaper was The Occident and no copies of this remain. During the school year 1919-20 Miss Oliver Morris started The Record, which to this day remains as the official and only school newspaper. The first issue was published on September 28, 1919.
The armistice was signed in 1918 for the "war which was to end all wars," and everyone was dealing with the post war activities which were universal. The manual arts classes during the year 1918-19 constructed four dozen tables for the Red Cross to be used for wounded soldiers.
Despite the tragedy of the war, the populace was still trying to put sunshine in its life and the era of jazz was already afoot. AHS was a part of this movement. It had its own version of a jazz band called the Ukelele Orchestra.
While audiences throughout the country were going to movie houses to watch Theda Bara, Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and Douglas Fairbanks, students at AHS were producing their own versions of Mikado (operetta), The Amazons (senior play given for the benefit of La Reata) and a Spanish play titled Dona Clarines.
The class of 1920 contained students which represented thirty-six states and ten countries, in recognition of the apparent cosmopolitan nature of Albuquerque as reflected by the Student Body. King Albert of Belgium visited this humble city. The Roosevelt and Webster debating societies were organized in 1919 and most people in the school belonged to one or the other. Sponsoring the Roosevelt Society was Barbara Phillips and sponsoring the Webster society was Mary Dole Dixon. Both of these societies continued until 1940. The Girls' League worked to raise money for the French and Belgium War Orphan "drives." The boys' equivalent organization was the Bugle and Drum Corps, which was organized to boost all the "drives" for the welfare of American soldiers and citizens. Leads in the Spanish play, Zaragueta, went to Eldred Harrington and Lyle Gains. Edwin Harrington was president of the Athletic Association and senior class president was Dale Snyder. The apparently unsuperstitious class held a very successful Vaudvillian show on Friday, February 13.
The feeling that American English is in abominable shape has been around for a very long time. In 1920, because of the "Nationwide cry for better English," the English teachers at Albuquerque High instituted Good English Week."
Metcalf, Richard (September 29, 2008). "Albuquerque High renovation in last phase". Albuquerque Journal. NM.
Jojola, Lloyd (August 9, 2003). "Lofty Idea for Old Gym". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. E2.
Contreras, Russell (August 6, 2005). "Albuquerque High Grew Along With City". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. E1.
Glover, Cindy (June 18, 1996). "City finally buys old AHS". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. A1.
Chavez, Barbara (May 25, 2002). "Strictly Old School". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. B1.
Jojola, Lloyd (September 11, 2003). "Downtown Master Plan Sought". Albuquerque Journal. NM. p. D2.
Building Better: A Guide to America's Best New Development Projects (PDF) (Report). Sierra Club. 2005. pp. 16–17.