The 4thWard Historic District: Once upon a time, Albuquerque was divided into four wards, initially defined by Railroad Avenue (now Central) and the Santa Fe railroad tracks. The residential area located between Old Town and New Town, was known as the Fourth Ward. See Kenneth Balcomb’s “A Boy’s Albuquerque, 1898 to 1912”. This area stretched from Mountain Road to Central and from 14th Street east to the railroad tracks.
The land which made up much of what was to become the Fourth Ward was owned by Jose Leandro Perea. Perea was considered to be the richest man in the Rio Abajo, or lower river area. The Perea Addition was platted in March 1881, less than a year after the railroad came to Albuquerque. Perea sold land in half block parcels. Given the expense of buying such a large parcel of land, Perea maintained ownership of the majority of the land until his death in 1987. Although the district was sparsely settled before 1900, the homes that were built in the area at that time were considered to be grand, impressive homes.
The Albuquerque Townsite Company purchased the remaining lots from Perea’s estate . The lots were slow to sell, as the initial growth in the city was to the north and to the south of New Town. In 1900, the Company split up, resulting in the former partners Longwill, Otero, Field, and Harrison dividing the remaining land among themselves. The four moved from selling “half block” parcels to individual lots. This spurred development, resulting in the building of many large, new homes.
An 1898 map shows that additional land located in the Fourth Ward was owned by Wiley M. Weaver, In 1907 this land was acquired and platted by developer Solomon Luna of Los Lunas .
From 1905 to 1930, the Fourth ward was home to many of the growing city’s most influential citizens. Local families who played significant roles in Albuquerque and the state’s history included the: Hesseldens, the Bonds, the Simms, the Rodeys, the Benjamins, the Amado Chaves, the McCannnas, and the Oteros.
True to its geographic location between the Anglo town (Huning Highlands) and Hispano town (Old Town), the Fourth Ward was never exclusively Anglo, nor exclusively upper-middle class, though they represented the majority of home owners in the area. The first street car ran along Central from Old Town to New Town, and the second was further north on New York Ave., now known as Lomas. Thus transportation to jobs and services, and the railroad was relatively easy for the residents of the Fourth Ward.
As was the case for all urban neighborhoods, the fourth Ward began to decline after World War II, when the city’s energy went into building neighborhoods to the east. Fortunately long established families continued to reside in the area, insuring the continued nurturing of the streets’ trees and gardens. The area never got a reputation for high crime often used as a justification for the razing of old homes. However, given its proximity to the city’s legal and financial centers, the area did become very popular with professionals who desired the classic homes for office space.
In the early 1970’s, the Downtown Neighborhood Association formed. One of its first successes was to persuade city hall to down zone the area to primarily single family uses. The Association also persuaded the city to create Mary Fox Park. Over the years, thanks to many volunteers who gave countless hours, the city has historic guidelines and zoning regulations in place that support historic preservation and give neighborhoods a voice in the planning and development process.
The result is that today, the Fourth Ward Historic District is one of Albuquerque’s finest neighborhoods, with home prices keeping pace with that of new construction. The significant variety of architectural styles, yards with gardens, trees shading sidewalks and streets, the diverse backgrounds of its residents, have together served as a magnet attracting artists, young professionals, families, and baby boomers to choose to live in the area. The energy of relative new comers, along with the long memory of the large numbers of residents who have lived for many decades in the Fourth Ward, contributes to a strong neighborhood identity and creative approaches to problem solving and enhancing the sense of place.
Downtown Central Commercial District
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