Choices in houses of worship expanded
dramatically during the U.S. Territorial Period.
The Rev. Hiram Read arrived in Santa Fe in a
wagon train in 1849, intending to preach to gold
miners in California, but decided to stay. On
Oct. 10, 1853 he established the First Baptist
Church in a small adobe building in Old
Town, rented for $10 a month. It was the first
Protestant church in Albuquerque. Membership
dwindled with the Civil War and closing of the
army’s post. Rev. Read re-established the church
in 1887 on the second floor of the YMCA building
at Gold and Second. The second minister,
however, left after a year, complaining that
Albuquerque was "too tough a town, with too many
prostitutes and rapscallions." In 1892 the
church moved to its own building on Lead and
In 1868 Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy’s orders
were to transform the Spanish Catholic Church
into the American Catholic Church. He sent five
Italian Jesuits to San Felipe de Neri Church in
Albuquerque, and they began the change. They
added two wooden bell towers, done in Italian
baroque style, and removed New Mexican santos
from the church and gave them away to
parishioners. Replacement art was paintings in
wooden frames. With the help of local
carpenters, they made hand-carved pews. The
cemetery was removed in 1872. They added a
convent on the west side in 1878.
In this period Protestants began arriving in
greater numbers and began to build churches. In
1879 Central United Methodist Church, originally
called the Central Avenue Methodist Church,
began in a rented room.
The coming of the railroad increased the
population – and the demand for new churches.
Between 1880 and 1917, Albuquerqueans built 15
new churches. The Town Company, which was
developing neighborhoods, donated lots for
In 1879 Central United Methodist Church,
originally called the Central Avenue Methodist
Church, began in a rented room.
In late 1879 the Rev. Hewett Gale
arrived in Albuquerque, appointed by pioneer New
Mexico clergyman Rev. Thomas Harwood, who came
to New Mexico in 1869. In April 1880 Gale
started the First Methodist Episcopal Church,
which met in temporary quarters for that year.
By 1881 construction began on an adobe building,
which was finished in 1882. It was the first
church built in New Town.
St. John’s Episcopal Church began in a room
converted into a chapel at the Exchange Hotel
and completed its church at Fourth and Silver in
1882. Also in 1880 the Methodists started Bowman
Chapel in Old Town, and the First Congregational
United Church of Christ began.
The Rev. James Menaul helped found First
Presbyterian Church in 1881. (Menaul School was
named for him.) And German immigrants started
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church began in
1882. (It survives as Grant Chapel.) And
at Sixth and Copper became
In the 1880s, Manuel and Anna María Martín,
founders of Martineztown in 1850, broke with the
Catholic Church and became Presbyterians, which
is why the first church in Martineztown, in
1889, was the Second Presbyterian Church.
The First Congregational Church began meeting
in 1892. That year First Methodist
Episcopal Church acquired two adjacent lots. By
1904 the congregation had outgrown the adobe
church, and it was torn down to make way for a
new church, said to be built by chicken dinners
because the women of the church gave so many to
In 1897 Congregation Albert, organized by
German Jews, became Albuquerque’s first Jewish
congregation. On September 14, 1900 the first
synagogue, Temple Albert, was dedicated on the
corner of Seventh and Gold downtown. Its design
was noteworthy – a brick building with a round
dome, a hipped, pitched roof and twin staircases
to the second-story entrance. (It was leveled in
Churches also contributed to Albuquerque’s
The Sisters of Charity opened Albuquerque’s
first public school in September 1881. The nuns
also opened Our Lady of the Angels Private
School. Both were located in the convent. The
nuns taught the private school, and Jesuit
priests taught the public school.
In 1887 the Methodist Church founded the
Harwood Industrial School, at 1114 Seventh St.
NW, as a boarding school for Spanish-speaking
girls. (The school closed in 1976. Since 1992 it
has been the Harwood Art Center.) And in 1896
Rev. James Menaul got Presbyterian Mission
funding for a boarding school to serve
Spanish-speaking boys in New Mexico. The Menaul
School became independent of the church in 1972.