What’s In a Name?

Seeing as I won’t have any class related things to talk about until January, I thought it would be fun to talk a little about the history of the city I’m living in–Albuquerque New Mexico. An article in the magazine of the same name (albuquerque-the magazine) did an article about this in their last issue which I will be using as a resource. Also due to a class cancellation I was able to add Forensic Anthropology to my schedule for next term.

So around here we have some interesting street names. Menaul, Eubank, Tinggley Beach, Elena Gallegos to name a couple–first three I had to add to my dictionary here on WordPress. Where on Earth do these names come from? Do we have a team of people who do nothing but sit around and come up with hard to pronounce, harder to spell names for streets? Maybe. For dear old Albuquerque the streets near Old Town (what used to be called Old Albuquerque) are named for the original Spanish families that settled here in the 1700s. Except for Charlevoix Street which is indeed French–Jesuit and historian Francois Xavier de Charlevoix (1682-1761) earned himself a street for something we have no clue on but he had connections to the Spanish crown.

Unlike Jesus Romero who built the Romero House in 1915 that’s still standing. He was the sheriff of Old Albuquerque which earned him a street (Romero Street of course) and after New Mexico became a US territory in 1846 (that’s right! New Mexico IS part of USA) Anglicized names began appearing as the town developed.

A civil engineer Col. Walter G. Marmon, had the lovely job of laying out New Albuquerque in 1880 for the railroad that was coming, so of course his creativity limited itself to railroading and mining themes–which gave us Coal, Copper, Silver, Gold and Lead streets. The small odd streets–Edith and Walter boulevards were named after his children. Atlantic, Pacific and Santa Fe refer to….the railroads of the time! He also thought that every city should have a Broadway (sadly ours isn’t as exciting as New York’s.). However the streets past High Street were not named as “experts” at that time thought that Albuquerque would NEVER expand eastward past High Street (where I live for example). And of course High Street is so named because of it’s high location on the edge of the Rio Grande Valley which at that time was the outskirts of the city.

After  1912 when New Mexico became a state, the streets started to be named after Presidents and other states to show off patriotism. After 1889 when we got UNM–University Near Mommy….I mean University of New Mexico– we got streets named after the prestigious universities such as Stanford, Princeton and Yale to show it was in good company.

In 1950 Albuquerque had a population of almost 100,000. Post-war streets in the Park Addition east of Wyoming between Academy and Comanche were named after generals and admirals. The wars brought New Mexico Kirkland Air Force base and Sandia National Labs as well as the famous Los Alamos National Labs (where the atomic bomb was created). Ten years later Albuquerque had a population of 200,000. this caused a housing boom and the developers to get families into their homes started naming communities and streets using nature and pop culture inspiration; Santa Fe Villiage on the Westside near Unser and Dellyne; streets Price, Flynn, Gleason, Chaplin, Bogart and Gable honor classic movie stars. Unser Boulevard honors three-time Indy 500 winner Bobby Unser (named in 1981).

In every city there are names that were once or are of living breathing people who in big and small ways contributed to communities and were respected and loved enough to have streets and places named for them. And next time I’ll tell you more about the places and people of and around Albuquerque that gave us the names for places/streets and why.

Until next time when you’re bored find a street or place name and research it to find out how and why it is named as it is. And don’t go reading the latest issue of Albuquerque the Magazine or at least avoid pages 280-292! It’s a good magazine for locals and I’m enjoying it, but you wouldn’t want to spoil my next post by reading that article would you?

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Categories: Albuquerque, History | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

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