Nob Hill Neighborhoods: University Heights Architecture

Nob Hill Neighborhoods: University Heights Architecture
by Chris Lucas

The University Heights Neighborhood SE

The streets in front of the University of New Mexico (UNM) were named after prominent universities, starting with Yale Blvd to the west, & stretching a full mile east to the last university street, Amherst Drive. Only half of those streets remained with the University Neighborhoods; the other half pealed off into what would become one of the neighborhoods of Nob Hill.

Springing to (platted) life in 1916, the Nob Hill portion of the University Heights Addition starts east & south of the University of New Mexico. We’re lucky to have a great aerial photo of Nob Hill in 1935, borrowed from the NHNA. Knowing the area, it’s great to see Nob Hill in 1935 with tags.

Because the west half of University Heights was across from UNM, those lots developed first. Girard Blvd is the important dividing line between West & East University Heights, with the University on one side & Nob Hill on the other. Considered a more expensive, high-mesa suburb, the section of University Heights platted in Nob Hill east of the University at Girard Blvd tended to attract professors, university faculty & business-owners wanting to live within a few blocks of Central Ave/Route 66.

The horizontal line in the middle is the Central Ave/Route 66 Mother Road seems to become dirt or gravel at Washington St heading east. The grid-pattern development seen mostly in the bottom left of the photo is the western half of the University Heights subdivision. Just to the east, the development becomes more sparse. Flash forward to Nob Hill around 1950, & you see how most of the rest of the neighborhoods are filling in; by this time, University Heights was fully developed

From Central Ave & Girard Blvd, the neighborhood runs east along the Central Ave/Route 66 Corridor for seven blocks to Carlisle Blvd, to the Nob Hill Business Center. the architectural center of the Nob Hill Neighborhoods. The rectangular neighborhood continues south—& up the Nob Hill—four blocks to Garfield Ave.

Numerous interesting housing styles are found there, including classic Pueblo Revival styles, Mediterranean & Territorial styles. Mixed into this varied architectural mix, though, are some other wonderful & unique surprises along the way.

Sleek & modern in the 1930’s, the Streamline Moderne Art Deco style is prominent in the neighborhood. Streamline architecture emphasizes curving forms, long horizontal lines, & sometimes nautical elements; all those features are found in the neighborhood.

A bunch of simple & sleek Mid-Century Modern homes also reside in the neighborhood; almost enough to be called a cluster, on Wellesley Drive SE.

The neighborhood is a healthy mix of density, too: closer to Silver Avenue & the Central Ave/Route 66 corridor, mid-size apartment buildings &condo complexes have filled in available lots over the years, close to the public transportation systems along the corridor. Shops & offices also stretch south into the neighborhood from Central Ave.

Silver Avenue in Nob Hill is another important small commercial side-street hamlet. It sits a block off the busier Central Ave corridor, in a decidedly more relaxed area, with quaint local & trendy shops like soap, salons, massage clinics, coffee houses, a tea shop, & restaurants, etc. Along the seven blocks Silver Ave runs through the University Heights Neighborhood, it features mixed commercial & residential buildings.

Like the other Nob Hill Neighborhoods, University Heights has it’s share of whimsical homes that are always fun to pass by: there’s the Water Tank House from days of yore, &a recent outdoor& interior image. The Log Cabin House& a flamboyant Streamline Moderne condo complex with public elevated walkways. The neighborhood also figures highly in the unofficial front-yard-as-greenspace competition, as many of the homeowners have created fantastic natural sidewalk-viewed greenspaces, which makes walking down any street there quite a treat.

The alleys in the Nob Hill’s University Heights Neighborhood were originally used to bring coal & ice into the homes, & also allowed for electric lines to be strung up behind the homes. The MetroABQ is a patchwork of alleys: seemingly at random, some blocks have access alleys; the next blocks might not. Although not always maintained, in Nob Hill they have evolved into great shortcuts & quiet walkways, that allow alternate views of the character of the neighborhood.

In Nob Hill, alleys exist only in the west half of the neighborhood: they run behind houses from Girard to Carlisle Blvds, which includes the University Heights & Monte Vista Neighborhoods. Heading east away from University Heights after Carlisle Blvd, alleys stop.

The University Heights Neighborhood does front the Central Ave/Route 66 corridor, so it has it’s share of main-street activities outside it’s front door. Small local hops abound in the neighborhood. Hstoric buildings have survived & thrived in the neighborhood: like the Streamline Moderne-style Jones Motor Company& the Territorial/Streamline Moderne Nob Hill Business Center. Of course the neon at the entry to the Nob Hill Neighborhoods begins in University Heights.



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