Albuquerque: History

Early Native American and Spanish Influences

The region surrounding present-day Albuquerque was home to several groups of Native American peoples, including "Sandia Man," who lived there and hunted mastodon during the ice age 25,000 years ago. Albuquerque was later inhabited by the ancient Anasazi Indians. Their huge apartment-like buildings, constructed 3,000 years ago of stone and adobe, are still standing. The city continues to be a center of Native American culture: most of New Mexico's 19 pueblos—including the thousand-year-old, still-inhabited Acoma Pueblo—are within an hour's drive. To the north is Sandia Pueblo Indian Reservation. Albuquerque's modern architecture, particularly buildings on the University of New Mexico campus, combines modern design elements with native American and Hispanic motifs.

Albuquerque was founded as a villa in 1706 by Spanish colonists, who were attracted to the banks of the Rio Grande by the green pastures they needed to graze their sheep. The city is named for a Spanish Duke, the tenth Duke of Alburquerque (over time the first "r" in his name was dropped). The first structure built in Albuquerque was a church named for the city's patron saint, San Felipe de Neri. The original adobe walls remain standing in the part of the city known as Old Town.

City Becomes Distribution Center

Although the topography of the land—the mountains to the east and the Rio Grande to the west—afforded the settlement natural protection, Albuquerque was regularly threatened during the nineteenth century by hostile attacks, particularly from the Navajo and Apache. In the meantime, the town assumed a role as purveyor of goods to the West and served as a link in trade with Mexico. Situated on the Old Chihuahua trail, an extension of the Santa Fe Trail, Albuquerque's stores and warehouses were perfectly positioned to supply forts that were established in the Southwest to protect westward-moving settlers. Albuquerque became a U.S. Army post in 1846 and was occupied by the Confederacy for two months during the Civil War.

In 1880 rail travel arrived in Albuquerque. The town's strength as a transportation and trade center grew as manufactured goods were shipped in from the East and raw materials and livestock were transported from the West. A bustling new town quickly sprang up around the railroad, then grew to take in historic Old Town. In 1883 Albuquerque became the seat of Bernalillo County, and in 1891 it was incorporated as a city. Already an established oasis of civilization, Albuquerque, unlike other southwestern towns, never suffered from the boisterousness of the Old West.

Development of Atomic Bomb Brings High Technology

Until World War II, Albuquerque remained a small, quiet city. Then the development of the atomic bomb at nearby Los Alamos brought the town into the nuclear age. Now an important part of the Rio Grande Research Corridor, Albuquerque has undergone record population growth. It is a center of large high-technology industries that have evolved around the research and development of atomic energy and space exploration, drawing as well hundreds of smaller research firms. The city's celebration of its 2006 tricentennial is underway, with events and exhibits honoring Albuquerque's art, history, and culture. Culturally and economically diverse, Albuquerque remains historically aware and looks forward to a prosperous future.