Alvarado Hotel Demolished

By Sue Schuurman

Weekly Alibi Feb 17 1999

On Feb. 13, 1970, the wrecking ball smashed into the central portion of
Albuquerque's most famous historical landmark, the Alvarado Hotel. Neither the
Albuquerque Journal nor The Albuquerque Tribune had a photographer or
reporter on hand that day, apparently, judging from the lack of coverage in the
papers the next day. The following editorial, still trying to show the famous hotel's
architectural and tourist-attracting value to the community, ran two days after the
main structure had already been razed. Quite fitting, since "too little, too late" seems
to have been the key to the Alvarado's demise. During the first half of the month of
February, many efforts were made to halt demolition, but not enough people--and
more importantly, not enough money--came forward. Instead, Albuquerqueans
flocked down to salvage what they could for their own homes: candelabras, tile,
works of art, chairs, etc. And thus, arguably, the physical soul of this city was
destroyed, and its gaping scar--a desolate parking lot--remains to this day.

"At City Hall: Alvarado in Key Spot" by Joline Daffer

"While the controversy over demolition of the Alvarado Hotel rages on, most people
are unaware the building holds a key position in the new downtown plan.

"City Planning Dept. officials unanimously favor preservation. They envision the
Alvarado as a nucleus in a hotel-tourist center proposed for that area.

"The planned center, while enhanced by urban renewal, relies heavily on the
Alvarado because of its architecture. If that building were integrated with other
nearby historical landmarks, the area could become a real tourist attraction,
comparable to Old Town, says Mrs. Maria Blachut of the Planning Dept. If that
became a reality, the economic advantages would be tremendous, particularly when
viewed in relation to the planned convention center, which would be within walking
distance.

"Such a center surely would have more lure for tourists and conventions than a
metropolitan area of modern hotels and businesses.

"But the problem is money. And all the talking and planning in the world isn't going to
furnish that $1.5 million asking-price of the Santa Fe Railway.

"City Commissioners expressed genuine concern over the situation at their last
meeting, but told the 100-or-so protesters the city just hasn't the necessary funds.
(Last Thursday, Commission Chairman Pete Domenici wired railway president John
S. Reed, asking that demolition cease on the central portion of the building, and that
the Santa Fe set a rental price on that section for a year. ...)

"And it's interesting to note that while $2800 was pledged at that meeting, when
sentiment and emotions ran high, only $25 was received at city hall the next day--and
that came from Commissioner Harry Kinney. Pledges now total $3202. Perhaps that
first $2800 was more a rebuff against the commissioners' taking no action (which
they said they couldn't do because the railway owns the property) than real support
for the Alvarado? ...

"Experience has shown collecting pledges is a lot easier than collecting the cash
afterwards, and no wealthy entrepreneurs have stepped forward with interest in
developing the site. Perhaps Commissioner Louis Saavedra was right when he made
his ill-received comment at the commission meeting: 'I don't think the money can be
raised. Especially when you remember we had to put the raising of funds for two
antelopes at the zoo in the hands of the city's children.' ... "

--compiled by Susan Schuurman

Source: Albuquerque Journal;

Feb. 15, 1970