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   City History

What is Albuquerque?


Albuquerque is old – 300 years old – and Albuquerque is new. It’s cutting-edge science and technology developed in view of the timeless and spectacular Sandia Mountains. Albuquerque is ancient pueblos and their living cultures, and it’s computer chips made a few minutes away.


Albuquerque is color. It’s the color of nearly a thousand hot-air balloons rising in crisp, morning skies, the color of the Sandias at sunset, the color of flying skirts of traditional Mexican and Spanish dancers.


Albuquerque is light. It’s 300-plus days of sunshine, it’s the growing number of movie makers, and it’s the decades-old optics industry harnessing laser light.


Albuquerque is people. It’s the original Pueblo people of the valley. It’s the descendants of Spanish explorers and settlers and of American soldiers and railroad workers. And, for many generations, it’s a place that welcomes immigrants and newcomers of all kinds.


Albuquerque History Timeline


1000 A.D. (approx.): Tiwa people migrated to the Rio Grande Valley.


1200-1325 (approx.): Pueblos were founded along the Rio Grande, including Sandia Pueblo.


1400 (approx.): Athapaskan (Apache and Navajo) people arrived in the Southwest.


1540: Francisco Vásquez de Coronado’s expeditionary force of 300 Spaniards and 800 Indian auxiliaries wintered at Tiguex province, near present-day Albuquerque, while in search of the legendary city of Quivira.


1598: Don Juan de Oñate passed through the Middle Rio Grande with 400 men, some with families, and 10 Franciscan missionaries. He claimed the area for Spain.


1609: Trails leading from Mexico City were consolidated to form El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro, the Royal Road to the Interior Land. It would become Albuquerque’s lifeline to the outside world, bringing news, settlers and trade goods.


1632: Diego de Trujillo established a rancho, the Paraje de Huertas (“Place of the Orchards”) at the future site of Albuquerque.  The area was called El Bosque Grande de San Francisco Xavier (“The Great Woods of Saint Francis Xavier”).


            1680: During the Pueblo Revolt, people from Sandia, Puaray, and Alameda pueblos attacked 17 ranchos south of Sandia Pueblo, killing more than 120 settlers. Escaping south were 1,500 colonists and 7 priests. 


1692: Captain General Don Diego de Vargas and a small army marched up the Rio Grande and reclaimed New Mexico. 


1693: Vargas returned with a large group of settlers and Franciscan priests. Many colonists left the main party near Isleta to resettle the Middle Rio Grande.


1698: Vargas began making land grants in the Albuquerque area to new settlers and returned some lands to descendants of pre-revolt settlers.


1703: The village of Atrisco was founded on the west bank of the Rio Grande. 


1706: Governor Francisco Cuervo y Valdez founded the Villa San Francisco de Alburquerque.  San Felipe de Neri Church was built on the west side of the plaza, facing east.


1716: The Isleta people returned from Hopi country, where they fled in 1681, to re-occupy Isleta Pueblo.


1726: Alburquerque was a loose settlement of farms. A few families had homes near the church.


1742: The Sandia people returned from Hopi country, where they had fled in 1681, to reoccupy Sandia Pueblo.


1779: After the governor ordered settlers to build a defensible and more concentrated community to combat Indian raiding, a recognizable plaza took shape.


1793: San Felipe de Neri Church, which had collapsed, was rebuilt on the north side of the plaza, facing south.


1821: Mexico won independence from Spain. Under Mexican control, New Mexico was permitted for the first time to trade with the United States, which led to opening of the Santa Fe Trail.


1846: During the Mexican-American War, General Stephen Watts Kearny entered Albuquerque and claimed it for the United States. The army established a supply depot west of the plaza.


1848: The Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican-American War.


1851: New Mexico was admitted to the United States as a territory, and Albuquerque got its first post office.


1853: Maj. Richard Weightman launched El Amigo del País, a partisan political newspaper.


1862: A column of Texas Confederate soldiers occupied Albuquerque, but after a disastrous loss to Union troops at Glorieta, they retreated and Albuquerque returned to Union control.


1863: Albuquerque was incorporated as a town.


1876: The first telegraph line connected Albuquerque with the nation. 


1880: The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Co. reached Albuquerque. Late that year the first gas utility began.


1881: The first Territorial Fair was held.


1882: Park van Tassel rose to 14,207 feet during the city’s first balloon ascension. And the first telephone service was offered in Albuquerque.


1883: The first electric light utility began operating.


1889: The Territorial Legislature established the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. 


1891: Albuquerque incorporated as a city with a population of 3,785. The first public library opened. And the Albuquerque Public School system was founded.


1902: The Alvarado Hotel was completed. It was considered the finest railroad hotel of the time. And the Sisters of Charity opened St. Joseph Sanitorium, the first such facility for tuberculosis patients. Albuquerque would subsequently become a haven for health seekers.


1912: New Mexico was admitted to the union as the 47th state.


1923: The nine-story First National Bank building at 3rd and Central Ave. became the city’s first sky scraper.


1925: Clyde Tingley became chairman of the Albuquerque City Commission.  He would serve as chairman and ex-officio mayor in 1925-1935, 1939-46, 1947-48 and 1951-53.


1927: The KiMo Theatre opened at 5th Street and Central Avenue, and the Rio Grande Park and Zoo were established. Route 66 was completed through Albuquerque, passing north to south along 4th Street.


1928: KGGM, the first radio station in Albuquerque, began broadcasting.


1930: The Middle Rio Grande Conservancy, organized in 1925, began building dikes and conversion channels to control the Rio Grande.


1931: Tingley Beach opened in Rio Grande Park.


1936: WPA projects included the Coal Street overpass, underpasses at Central Avenue and Tijeras, and the new Albuquerque Municipal Airport.


1937: The Tingley Field Stadium was completed, and the Albuquerque Cardinals began playing baseball. A realigned Route 66 now passed through Albuquerque east to west along Central Ave.


1938: The New Mexico State Fair, built with WPA funding, opened at the new fairgrounds on San Pedro and Central, two miles east of the city limits.


1939: The Army Air Force leased land to open a flight training base. By 1940 it would have 110 buildings. In 1942 it was named Kirtland Army Air Field.


1940: Albuquerque’s telephone system was converted to dial phones.


1945: Los Alamos National Laboratory moved its Z Division to Albuquerque’s Sandia Base; it was renamed Sandia Laboratory in 1948 and became independent in 1949.


1947: R.B. Waggoman completed the Nob Hill Business Center, the city’s first shopping center.


1948: KOB-TV was Albuquerque’s first television station.


1949: The City of Albuquerque annexed Old Town, joining the two officially.


1952: Construction began on the Simms Building at Fourth and Gold, the largest, and most modern office building in Albuquerque.


1956: Albuquerque celebrated its 250th anniversary, called Enchantorama.  And freeway alignments for I-25 and I-40 were decided.


1957: Civic Auditorium was completed.


1959: Arthur Bonnette opened Albuquerque’s first McDonald’s franchise at Menaul and San Pedro.


1961: The $9.7 million Winrock Center opened. And the 16-story Bank of New Mexico Building became the city’s tallest building.


1963: Work began on the new city airport.


1966: The Sandia Peak Tramway, the longest of its kind in North America, opened. And the I-25 and I-40 interchange, The Big I, was completed.


1967: The Museum of Albuquerque opened near the Old Town.


1968: Albuquerque resident Bobby Unser won the Indianapolis 500.


1972: Albuquerque held a balloon rally with 13 participants. The next year the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta launched with 138 balloons.


1974: MITS Inc., an Albuquerque company, made the first practical, affordable home computer – the Altair.


1978: Albuquerque balloonists Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo and Larry Newman become the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon, the Double Eagle II.


1981: Ben Abruzzo led a balloon flight from Japan to America, the longest balloon flight in history.


1985: Route 66 was decommissioned as a national highway.


1991: Col. Sidney Gutierrez piloted the Columbia on its 11th flight from Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, becoming the first native-born Hispanic astronaut.



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