Aldo Leopold Neighborhood Historic District
The Aldo Leopold Neighborhood Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Portions of the content of this web page were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [†] Adaptation copyright © 2016, The Gombach Group.
Platted in 1913 as the first subdivided portion of 400-acre Franz Huning estate that straddled the western boundary of the Original Townsite of New Albuquerque; the northernmost block of the three-block Huning Place Addition was lined with residences by 1920. Constructed within a period of just six years, all of the houses lining the one hundred block of South Fourteenth Street embodied a modest variety of the elements associated with the Craftsman/Bungalow style. Complementing their uniformity of stylistic details were their immediate surroundings, a landscape comprised of contiguous front yard lawns with flowerbeds and shade trees and small back yard gardens, orchards and grapevines. This composition in which Craftsman/Bungalow style houses on standard-sized suburban lots were surrounded with a verdant landscape represented an idealization of the Craftsman movement as its proponents reacted to the industrialization of the era. While many contemporary neighborhoods also reflected efforts to achieve a natural setting, the Huning Place Addition was notably successful, in part, because of its location and the attitudes toward nature embraced by its early residents, including Aldo Leopold, then an employee of the United States Forest Service. The result was that the district assumed, and now retains, the appearance of the ideal Craftsman/Bungalow neighborhood, a character that its current residents seek to maintain. Illustrative of patterns of suburban growth in Albuquerque during the 1910s, with its houses embracing variations on the Craftsman/Bungalow style, and with its association with Aldo Leopold during its period of significance
As discussed in "The Twentieth Century Suburban Growth of Albuquerque, New Mexico " multiple property listing, the arrival of the AT&SF Railroad in the Middle Rio Grande Valley in 1880 resulted in the creation of a new railroad town approximately two miles east of the Villa de Albuquerque, founded in 1706. With the names Old Albuquerque and New Albuquerque initially used to differentiate the two separate communities, the latter grew with its commercial center near the railroad depot. Consisting at first of a 3.1-square-mile tract known as the Original Townsite and platted in a grid pattern, during its first three decades the new community grew steadily within the original plat and in several additions, most appearing east and south of the downtown. The Willits Map of 1898 prepared for the Albuquerque Abstract Company shows that even as infill was occurring in a pattern generally emanating from the center of the new town, large tracts of land owned by various individuals remained undeveloped. One such tract was that held by Franz Huning, a businessman and land developer who had been one of the three investors who, acting as the New Mexico Town Company for the AT&SF Railroad, had acquired the land that became the Original Townsite.
Much of the land Huning held straddled the western boundary of the townsite along the floodplain of the Rio Grande as it coursed southeast, completing an eight-mile bend as it wrapped around Old Albuquerque. Prior to the coming of the railroad, Huning had used the land with its marshes and sloughs to feed the livestock that carried his trading wagons up and down the Santa Fe Trail. There, in 1881, he had constructed his two story home, Castle Huning, with a central tower and ornate Italianate details. Its sod, or terrenes, walls plastered with adobe served as a reminder of how creatively skilled builders could work with earth. As he became more withdrawn in the last decades of his life, Huning turned his attention to his estate, planting an orchard, a vineyard, gardens, and a variety of deciduous trees including catalpas, Lombardy poplars and Osage orange. Even as silting slowly raised the bed of the Rio Grande, prompting increased flooding that ate away at his corn and hay fields, Huning's 400-acre estate remained an exemplar of landscaping and introduced cultivated vegetation in the territory. The southern portion of the estate, at first the site of Huning's hog ranch, however, gradually became a wetland, accessible to nearby residents, including Leopold who had local contractor, E.A. Gertig, construct his adobe-walled home at 135 South Fourteenth street in 1915.
Following his death in 1905, Huning's children, led by his son Arno, began a gradual process of subdividing the estate. Moving deliberately, even as he continued to reside in Castle Huning for another 25 years following his father's death, Arno Huning executed the first subdivision in April, 1913, when he carved the three-block Huning Place Addition from the eastern portion lying within the Original Townsite of his father's estate. It would be another 15 years, and only after the creation of the Rio Grande Conservancy District and its efforts to control flooding along the river that he sold the larger portion of the estate to A.R. Hebenstreit and William Keleher, who developed it as the Huning Castle Addition. There, the developers carved out an upper middle class enclave with obliquely angled streets, allocating some of the land for the Albuquerque Country Club. Thus, for more than 15 years, the one hundred block of the Huning Place Addition lay adjacent to the great landscaped estate that Franz Huning had designed. Not until the 1930's, would the Huning Place neighborhood lose the feeling of its direct connection to Rio Grande riparian zone, and not until the late 1930's did construction begin along blocks further south along Fourteenth Street.
The Huning Place plat surveyed by Civil Engineer J.R. Farwell and filed with the city indicates that South Fourteenth Street, as it was then designated on city maps, was also referred to as Huning Place. Bracketed by Central Avenue on the north and what was then called West Copper Avenue (now Los Alamos Avenue SW), the three-block Huning Place Addition was simply a half-block wide with an alleyway, common to many of the subdivisions of the time, to the west. Farther west lay the remainder of the Huning Estate, and to the east undeveloped land within the Original Townsite and owned by Clara Fergusson, Huning's daughter who had married attorney Harvey B. Fergusson. During the next few decades the east side of South Fourteenth Street would remain vacant and become the site of a playground for the new neighborhood's children. Of note was that the three blocks of the Huning Place Addition were cut into narrow 25 ft. wide parcels, extending approximately 140 ft. to the rear alley. As a result, the lots that were developed on the block within this historic district all included more than a single surveyed parcel of land.
Although there is no record as to how those purchasing lots reacted to the location of the new addition, it must have held great appeal to those who sought to locate near the downtown but retain a feeling of closeness to nature. Just north of Central Avenue lay the solid middle class enclaves of the Fourth Ward, and along Central Avenue extending six blocks eastward to the edge of downtown stood a line of substantial Craftsman/Bungalows popularly referred to as "Honeymoon Row." Within walking distance was the downtown commercial district, and less than a block away along Central Avenue was the western spoke of the city's electric trolley system begun in 1904 and extended to this point in 1908. These attributes suggest how readily the new addition fit the definition of a streetcar suburb even as its broad sidewalks permitted pedestrian access to downtown and even as street improvements accelerated to accommodate the city's growing population of motorists. Unlike the Fourth Ward north of Central Avenue, the Huning Place Addition also offered a much greater access to nature accessible just to the west along the sandy path at the south end of the block that became Los Alamos Avenue SW.
This closeness to the Rio Grande was an attribute many of the early residents valued. Not only did the Leopold family settle on the block, so, too, did one of Leopold's supervisors at the U. S. Forest Service, Frank C. Pooler, who moved into the new house at 115 by 1919 and remained there until after World War II. For the Leopold children as well as other neighborhood residents, the nearby riparian area offered adventure and lessons in ecology from Aldo Leopold during the years in which he was formulating many of his early thoughts about stewardship of the land and the need for wilderness. During the eight years that he lived at 135, Leopold prepared his first proposal for preserving wilderness areas in the Gila National Forest as well as his Watershed Handbook, a compilation of his studies on erosion and watershed protection in the Southwest. According to Luna B. Leopold, a son who spent nearly the first decade of his childhood living on South Fourteenth Street, his father hiked the nearby river's marshes frequently and the children fished for minnows (Leopold). Although Leopold's vision of wetlands would evolve from draining them to preserving them, during his tenure at Huning Place, he advocated the need for improved drainage of lands along the river as he witnessed the deterioration of portions of Huning's estate from productive farmland to marshland. As did many of the residents in the neighborhood, Leopold also became an active gardener, drilling a well, planting an orchard and maintaining gardens. Others who grew up along the street recall other backyard gardens and small orchards as well as elaborate rose gardens and the colorful dahlias growing in the dormer planters at the Roehl, later Stamm, residence at 131.
As a result of the unique setting for the Huning Place subdivision, the ideal of seeking a middle ground in which suburban residential construction would still permit city dwellers to experience nature flourished in the new neighborhood. In fact, many of those contracting with local builders to construct their new homes were Albuquerque residents currently living closer to downtown. No doubt, the Craftsman/Bungalow style with its multiple porches, generous fenestration, and great emphasis on built-in handcrafted wood furniture greatly appealed to them as a design conducive to enjoying the natural environment the new subdivision offered. The building permits available for most of the houses on the block show that several contractors representing would-be homeowners applied for permits between 1913 and 1920. Two contractors, A. J. Christopher and E. A. Gertig, appear to have been the only builders who undertook more than one house along the block. Permits also reveal that the cost of the houses ranged from $2,950 to $7,500, with the higher costs for the houses constructed in 1919-20 during the inflation induced by the shortage of materials following World War I. Materials also varied with wood-frame construction most prevalent and with brick, as well as Leopold's adobe, a minority.
The Craftsman/Bungalow precedents found in the Fourth Ward suggest how prevalent the building style was in Albuquerque and how familiar many of the local builders were in adapting the style's many house plans available to their construction practices. The houses within the district represent a cross-section of the style's subtypes as defined by their various roof types. While the front-, side- and cross-gabled types accounted for the vast majority of Craftsman/Bungalow houses, the less-represented hipped roof subtype is evident at 131 and 135, with the former presenting the greatest range of the style's details. Particularly notable are its three hipped roof dormers with their accompanying planters, the wrapped porch with its entry denoted with a decorative gable, the double-door side entry, and the decorative glass at its doors, transoms and windows. Also notable are the various examples of porches evident in the district, ranging from two wrapped porches to those defined by a projecting cross-gable to those extending the width of the facade. As a group, the houses within the district offer a superior example of the range of expression of the Craftsman/Bungalow style in Albuquerque.
City directories show that most of those choosing to settle in the Huning Place Addition remained there for a considerable period of time. They also reveal that the new neighborhood attracted a generally managerial and professional class in which the men were executives in some of the larger companies in Albuquerque and in which some women were educators. Frank Pooler, who lived at 115 until after World War II, rose to the rank of Regional Forester. William Keleher, who briefly resided at 111, became a prominent attorney, and two of his sisters, who occupied the house until the 1950s taught at Albuquerque High School and the University of New Mexico. E. L. Moulton, who lived at 129, became the president of the Charles Ilfeld Company and constructed an elaborate meat oven in his backyard where he smoked some of the company's slaughtered livestock for his personal use. R.D. Strome, who lived at 117 until after 1950, was the longtime secretary/treasurer of the Springer Transfer Company. After the eight-year tenure of the Aldo Leopold family at 135, followed by another U. S. Forest Service inspector, rancher Barnard A. Trudelle moved to 135. There his wife set up a kindergarten on the porch and then established a private school at Castle Huning, which some of the neighborhood children attended. Reminiscences gathered by current residents within the district underscore the stability of the early neighborhood and the sense of community that it fostered as residents shared garden products and cut flowers.
In 1981 the City of Albuquerque's then Municipal Development Department prepared a neighborhood sector development plan for the area west of downtown. Recognizing that both individual structures and neighborhoods possessed historic significance, it recommended determinations of register eligibility for such properties. In 1999, a first step in this direction was taken with the listing in the State Register of Cultural Properties of the Aldo Leopold House at 135 Fourteenth Street SW. Further interest on the part of neighborhood residents has prompted recognition and preservation of the oldest section of the 1913 Huning Place Addition.
† David Kammer, Ph.D., Contract Historian, City of Albuquerque Planning Department, Aldo Leopold Neighborhood Historic District, Bernalillo County, NM, nomination document, 2002, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.