Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Mo's Birthday, and the blog goes public

Happy Birthday, Mo!

Thank you for being an interesting person, a great writer, and a lover of local history!

COLORES | More! Albuquerque: Places Of The Heart

A documentary on which Mo Palmer worked:

Following the success of Albuquerque's Places of the Heart, New Mexico PBS and the Albuquerque Museum present More! Albuquerque's Places of the Heart. Included are places that did not make it into the first program. Memorable places such as Old Albuquerque High School, the Sunport, the Civic Auditorium and many, many others are featured. These landmarks live again through photographs, film, music, and the words of people who remember them. All communities have unique places, many which have been replaced by skyscrapers, freeways, and malls, yet they live on in memories. They hold the past, tell us who we are, tie us to our community and create a shared identity. More! Albuquerque's Places of the Heart celebrates Albuquerque's past, renews our common bond, educates and shares with newcomers the uniqueness and history of Albuquerque.

This is a sequel to Albuquerque's Places of the Heart

For more New Mexico PBS content visit

COLORES | Albuquerque's Places Of The Heart

A Documentary on which Mo Palmer worked:

As wave after wave of newcomers inundates Southwestern cities, the past gets buried deeper and deeper, and until recently almost all of Albuquerque's architectural history was disregarded and torn down. Now there is revitalization and a greater understanding of the need for preserving and celebrating the history and buildings of our unique southwestern identity.

Later there was a sequel: COLORES | More! Albuquerque: Places Of The Heart

For more New Mexico PBS content visit

COLORES | Clyde & Carrie Tingley Of New Mexico

A documentary on which Mo Palmer worked:

This is a story that has needs to be told! After years of dedicated service to Albuquerque and the great state of New Mexico, Clyde & Carrie Tingley slipped into obscurity. Clyde Tingley, is perhaps the most important politician in the history of modern New Mexico. His tenure from 1917 to 1954 was equal to Chicago's Richard Daley and Boston's James Michael Curley. Tingley is responsible for bringing New Mexico into the 20th Century after after years of tireless effort. He is most well known for bringing the benefits of New Deal programs to Albuquerque and the rest of New Mexico. Told for the first time, this is a poignant story of a couple whose great love for New Mexico knew no equal!

For more New Mexico PBS content visit

COLORES | Recuerdos De Los Duranes

A TV documentary on which Mo worked:

New Mexico PBS celebrates community by producing an intimate portrait, Recuerdos de Los Duranes. Working hand-in-hand with the Los Duranes Neighborhood Association, we conducted an oral history of the neighborhood. The result is a poignant account of how so much has changed so quickly in this traditional Hispanic community. Yet, Duranes residents still firmly believe in their community. As Joe Chavez says: "I think people are depending on themselves more and more. Before, we shared with each other whatever we could, our goods, our foods and I still do. I think that is the thing you never forget when you help somebody or they help you."

Mo Palmer Paula Matteucci documentary New Mexico KNME PBS NM Colores community

For more New Mexico PBS content visit

"Albuquerque, City of Change"

If you go to the Albuquerque Museum, check the schedule at the little theater downstairs.

Albuquerque, City of Change, 1940-1980. The Albuquerque Museum, GEM Theater, shown daily.
*Palmer, Mo and Michael Kamins, The Albuquerque Museum.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Presbyterian: 1908 - 2008 The First 100 Years

All I found was 2008 as a publication date, so I've deposited this on December 2, 2008.

The document is from

A Tribune article on the history of Presbyterian, in case you want the short, good-parts version, is here: A sanitarium has evolved into Presbyterian Healthcare Services

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Albuquerque's Civic Auditorium went from a landmark to the dustbin of history

by Mo Palmer

This is a tale of two domes: one a behemoth and full of hopes; the other an echo of it in miniature — a few dustpans full of vague memories of what went wrong. Ashes to ashes, dust to dust and all that philosophical stuff.

Albuquerque battled for 25 years to create a new performance space — one that would attract big names to what the glitterati probably considered to be a cowtown. Sites were suggested and rejected; designs devised and debunked. All the while, those who deigned to perform in Albuquerque did so at the old Armory at Fifth Street and Silver Avenue Southwest. Even Elvis gyrated his pelvis there in 1956.

At last, the land was chosen — just east of St. Joseph Hospital and beside I-25. In essence it stood between the staid Downtown settlements and the upstart Northeast Heights. Everyone was more or less pleased.

An entire center was planned, with a new City Hall, theater, library and museum. The excitement was palpable as Phase 1 took shape — the Civic Auditorium. Ellen Ann Ryan's dad, Charles Lembke, and his contracting partners undertook the project — one of the biggest buildings of its kind in the country.

Its kind was an enormous mound. First, they made a huge, round pile of earth, then poured concrete over it. When it set, they dug out the dirt to create the interior. It was so unique — at the time it seemed ubermoderne and sophisticated. When I see photos now it reminds me of those bomb shelters we were so mad for.

Inside were highly polished floors, sparkling glass, tall columns and plush seats. Fit for a king, it opened to much fanfare in April 1957. It was to die for. You dressed up to go to its events — women wore high heels and fur stoles, which were de rigueur for the decade. Mom had one that was stuffed animals, with their tiny feet hanging down — sables, I think. Hated that thing.

The Civic became an instant landmark. Today, I date images by its presence or absence — in aerial views it looks like a huge, white, upside-down bowl, or maybe a UFO. Very individualistic and extremely snazzy.

In no time, such luminaries as pianist Jos‚ Iturbe and Frank Sinatra graced its stage.

The auditorium seated 6,000 and had parking for 1,200 cars. Little math problem there, but maybe everyone rode together. Ol' Blue Eyes liked compact audiences and the main floor filled, so everyone got to sit closer. His representative feared he might not croon if the crowd was scattered. Frank was temperamental. The priciest seats were only four bucks or so.

The American Ballet Company danced Aaron Copland's "Billy the Kid." The Albuquerque Symphony played. The Shrine Circus delighted children. Dick Bills and the Sandia Mountain Boys — a local Western band, including a very young Glen Campbell — packed the house.

Not to be left behind, promoter Mike London wrote a check for $10,000 to move his Monday night wrestling show from the Armory to the Civic. We all called it "wrastling" and I thought it was totally for real -------------- I was crazy about Gorgeous George. Remember him?

Everybody has a favorite Civic memory. Kathryn Bennett's father, Dick, took her to see Chuck Berry. Pretty nice, considering the attitude du jour toward rock 'n' roll. My brother saw Peter, Paul and Mary — and boxing matches. Ellen Ann recalls the Junior League Follies and the Ice Capades.

Don't tell anyone, but I got my first kiss at the Civic. My friend and I were bouncing around the huge hall, ignoring the entertainment and flirting with boys, and this typical juvenile delinquent in ducktails planted a wet one right on my lips. I was 14. I'm not surprised I kissed a stranger, but I am shocked to realize we were at the Grand Ole Opry. In the age of Elvis, Bobby Darin, the Everly Brothers and Buddy Holly? We'll never know why. Maybe Faron Young was the attraction.

Despite all that star power and our devotion, the Civic had problems. Apparently, the acoustics weren't great and the symphony was unhappy — couldn't hear one another, which seems like a distinct disadvantage. Twice, the city bought sound shells, the second costing cost more than $4,000. The orchestra was pleased, but the times they were a-changin'.

In 1964, two local gangs, the River Rats and the Businessmen, rumbled at the Civic over an incident during a teen dance. Very "West Side Story." Although Pat Boone overloaded the place with his religious revival show, pianist Van Cliburn found the venue "dirty." Rock aficionados polluted the air with pot. Police were pelted with rocks and bottles, and tear gas was released. In hindsight, we know it was the era and such incidents happened all over the country, but at the time this was scary stuff for our town.

The city banned rock concerts and the Civic's future was questioned. Someone suggested using fire hoses on troublemakers. An upset reader, who was fond of the auditorium, asked the Albuquerque Journal whether the landmark would be torn down. Someone responded that were it to be razed, only Frank Lloyd Wright would care — it was the single edifice he praised during his local visit.

The city had a terrible time maintaining the Civic as Popejoy Hall, Tingley Coliseum and University Arena — The Pit — became more popular for shows.

The Civic Auditorium was demolished in the late 1980s. When I worked at the museum, Joe Sherwood photographed old landmarks biting the dust — what a great thing to do for the community. Comings are always documented, but goings seldom are.

The bulldozers left this tiny mound — a distant echo of the grand dome that once held so many dreams.

Originally published in The Albuquerque Tribune, February 14, 2008.
The Tribune articles are used with the permission of Scripps Howard.

The Missing Photos:

(Tribune file photo)

In its heyday in the '50s and '60s, the Civic Auditorium was an entertainment palace. The massive concrete dome seated 6,000 people and featured top entertainers such as Frank Sinatra.

(Courtesy of Joe Sherwood)

By the late '80s, the Civic Auditorium had become outdated and difficult to maintain. This photo shows the remains on the site after the dome's demolition.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Mo Palmer: A sanitarium has evolved into Presbyterian Healthcare Services

by Mo Palmer

Albuquerque just celebrated its 300th birthday. Now it's time to look forward to another centennial.

In 1903, a sick man named Hugh A. Cooper was sent west, as were so many people, in the hopes that his tuberculosis infected lungs might heal.

"Go West, young man (or woman)," was a dreaded phrase, for it meant giving up home, career, family and friends for an unknown place where one might die alone in a strange land — if rest and climate failed to provide balm.

There was only one sanitarium in Albuquerque when he came, St. Joseph. In only its second year, it was already bulging at the seams, and lists of invalids waited to get a bed. A Methodist sanitarium wasn't yet even in anyone's dreams.

Cooper rented, rested, and restored his health. We aren't sure where he stayed, but he was one of the lucky ones who survived to help "grow the town." Soon he was pastor of First Presbyterian Church.

His first task was to replace the 1880s-era, teeny temple at Fifth and Silver with a uniquely beautiful, flat-faced, interesting church.

But the minister was unable to shake recurring visions of less fortunate patients who lived in tents and shacks — often without any treatment.

And so this man nagged the Presbyterian Synod (a governing body) to create another tuberculosis sanitarium here. And it did. Up on the barren sand hills on Central, between Downtown and the University of New Mexico, plumber and City Council member Henry Brockmeier had a cottage and some acreage.

With a mortgage, donations and some help from our Commercial Club, Southwestern Presbyterian Sanatorium opened in 1908.

Brockmeier repaired two-wheelers and so billed himself as a "bicycle doctor." Now, real doctors practice on his old homestead.

Cooper continued leading First Presbyterian. The prime political couple of the day, Clyde and Carrie Tingley, were married by him, in the pastorate at 115 South Walter Street. The historic house bit the dust years ago.

A bunch of buildings blossomed in the shadow of the remaining sand hills, which gradually flattened out as Oak, Gold, and other streets were cut through. Some of the leftover New Mexico sand and clay were used for adobe bricks.

Edifices were erected for a nurses' home — nurses lived on campus because they worked six, sometimes seven, days a week with only two afternoons off.

There were large multiple-patient dwellings, a service building with an elegant, sit-down dining room, small tent-top cottages and, eventually, the Maytag Research Laboratory and a small hospital.

You can see the Maytag Building, the last vestige of the old complex. Drive north on Oak from Coal to Central and look right — quickly. It's an elegant pink two-story that quietly expresses the formal architecture of days gone by.

There was a bridge-hallway that connected the infirmary to the main building — you could drive right under it when Mulberry Street was open.

Cooper died in 1934, but left his lifework in the capable, caring hands of Marion K. Van Devanter, "Mrs. Van." She came as a young woman to take her ailing fianc‚e, Jimmie, home to die, but the couple wound up marrying and staying on.

The high, dry desert air provided the young husband with a few more good years. After Jimmie passed, Marion devoted the rest of her life to the sanitarium — visiting patients, cleaning floors, raising funds, publishing a paper, washing linens, acting as executive secretary, admonishing administrators, nurturing children, and doing absolutely anything that was needed to help.

She was still making rounds when I was a patient in the early '80s — what a thrill and an honor. Made the misery tolerable.

Of course there was a board, directors, superintendents and so forth, but Mrs. Van was and is the soaring soul of this healing haven — despite having joined Jimmie in 1984.

Romances sometimes bloomed. Dick Corwine, who survived and became Presbyterian's first pharmacist, married another patient, Emily Hanna, and eventually moved his TB cottage to South Richmond Street, where it remains today.

Recently, I interviewed John and Vivian Doran. John came from Tennessee, got well, and met a gorgeous redhead who was visiting relatives at the sanitarium. They were married in the living room of "Old Main" because, John says, "our friends were to sick to attend at another location."

Mrs. Van arranged the shindig, from ceremony to cake, and even sang a hymn. John and Vivian just celebrated their 60th anniversary.

John taught middle school in uque for 35 years — what a wonderful way to give back to the community. Last month, we talked about antibiotics defeating tuberculosis after World War II. Presbyterian Sanatorium became — you guessed it — Presbyterian Hospital.

"The old must give way to the new," said Mrs. Van, and so it did. All the old fashioned, antiquated, and probably hazardous architectural wonders were razed, and new, state-of-the-art treatment towers took their places. Presbyterian persevered.

Today, Presbyterian is one of New Mexico's best-known health care institutions. Everything else has been merged, sold, closed, or irrevocably altered. I suspect the Sisters of Charity of St. Joseph and old Dr. William Randolph Lovelace are turning over in their graves. But Cooper and Mrs. Van can be proud of their legacy.

There will be centennial books and bashes to look forward to. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, Happy Birthday, Southwestern Presbyterian Sanatorium. Ya done good.

Originally published in The Albuquerque Tribune, January 17, 2008.
The Tribune articles are used with the permission of Scripps Howard.

Much more history of Presbyterian, by Mo Palmer, right here:

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was a hallmark of Albuquerque, dubbed TB Town

by Mo Palmer

Recently I gave one of my snoozer talks about "Albuquerque in the Time of Tuberculosis." The title is a play on "Love in the Time of Cholera," which sounded cool. The title, not cholera. I have no idea what the movie is about.

I got through the lecture without falling asleep, and it must have been OK, because I didn't hear anyone snoring.

I realized while doing research and the "history chat" that people are aware of Presbyterian and St. Joseph sanatoriums. But how many remember the one at Central and Pine, one block west of University, which was Plum Street back then.

It was Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium, built in 1912, and although its legacy is the same as Presbyterian and St. Joseph — major metro hospitals — its heritage is no longer visible.

Here's what I learned. If I'm wrong, or you have something to add, I'd love to know.

Many denominations "missionized" the West. Among them were Catholics, Presbyterians, Congregationalists, Episcopalians and Methodists. All were dedicated. Most established churches and schools, and some got into health care.

The University of New Mexico has an early photograph of a house barely beyond the campus. We've pondered who lived there. Now I think it was the Porterfield homestead, which the family donated to the Methodist Committee.

I found, in a "booster booklet" advertising the facility, all the little cottages around that very home. I think I made a discovery. That's always a thrill.

The cottages were moved to a new location. This might help you get a visual. Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was built in California Mission Revival style, like the Alvarado Hotel and the YMCA at First and Central.

The featured photo is the main building. Look at the lawn furniture, where folks could recuperate outdoors.

Albuquerque needed all the health care it could get. Tuberculosis was to the 1800s and early 1900s what the bubonic plague was to the 1300s, except tuberculosis was a white death instead of a Black Death.

The extremely pale look of "consumption" victims appealed to those of the Romantic era. Lord Byron wanted to die of tuberculosis, dribbling blood. Unfortunately, he caught a cold, got a fever and shuffled off in a more mundane manner. Oh, well. The wasting disease did give rise to dramas such as "Camille" and operas "La Boheme" and "La Traviata."

Albuquerque's altitude, sunshine and air attracted legions of "lungers," chasing what often proved to be an elusive cure. As fast as treatment centers appeared, they were stuffed.

Over the years, Albuquerque was "San City," as in Sanatorium City. In addition to St. Joe, Pres and Methodist, there was the Albuquerque Sanatorium, AHEPA (a Greek sanatorium), Miramontes on the Mesa, Sandia Ranch, Murphy, St. John's and Hillcrest.

Some were the same buildings that changed names. Anybody go to Regina Coeli (Queen of Heaven) Church or School? That is what Miramontes became. Now the site is occupied by a mattress place.

Methodist Deaconess was a success. Ives Memorial soon graced Methodist's campus and was used as a dwelling for nurses, doctors or maybe both. Later, Ives Hall was host to all sorts of community meetings. It seems like every one of our myriad service and social clubs met there.

The Ives Memorial became the Park Lane Hotel, and it was painted yellow. It was on Route 66. Apparently, it was an elegant place for a while.

After the freeway beat up the Mother Road, many old hotels and motels faded away; at some point, the Park Lane was razed.

Some Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium patients healed and stayed on to make us proud. U.S. Sen. Clinton P. Anderson and Ward Hicks of advertising fame both got well there. Larry Glasebrook, who eventually lost his long battle, helped establish Kamp Killgloom, later Camp Well Country, in the Sandias. He dreamed of providing mountain care for those of limited means. The camp is still there, but it's a private home.

Glasebrook and Anderson edited the Herald of the Well Country, a house organ that still yields a cornucopia of gossip about life in TB Town.

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium succumbed to decline, as did all other sanatoriums, when World War II drugs made tuberculosis a goner.

Here's a tidbit you might not know. Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium was sold to help finance a new hospital. You'll never guess what rose from the sanatorium's ashes or broken bricks, as the case might be. Today it's Galles Motors on Central, with its acres of glass windows.

(A passer-by snapped a photo of the Methodist sanatorium's smokestack going down. And that's the only image I found.)

Like the Presbyterians and the Catholics, the Methodists also continued their work in a brand-new hospital, Bataan Methodist Memorial. The Bataan hospital opened in 1952 on Gibson Boulevard, next to the little Lovelace Clinic. The hospital was named for the New Mexicans who lived and died on the Bataan Death March.

Bataan Memorial was absorbed by Lovelace. Walking from one end to the other of those facilities will put 10,000 steps on your pedometer. Today, it belongs to Ardent.

There are 8 million stories in the Naked City — of course, that's New York, not Albuquerque. But this has been one of ours and a patch added to the history quilt we've been assembling for the past seven years. This might be our last. Hope to see you again.

Originally published in The Albuquerque Tribune, December 13, 2007.
The Tribune articles are used with the permission of Scripps Howard.

The Missing Photos:
(Courtesy of The Albuquerque Museum)

Methodist Deaconess Sanatorium, built in 1912 at Central and Pine in Albuquerque, was designed in California Mission Revival style, like the Alvarado Hotel and the YMCA at First and Central. The photo above is the main building. Notice the lawn furniture (left), where folks could recuperate outdoors.

(Courtesy of Albuquerque Museum, gift of John Airy, Ward hicks Collection)

Ives Memorial, circa 1920s, soon graced Methodist's campus and was used as a dwelling for nurses, doctors or maybe both.