The Alvarado Has Come Back For A Visit, So Give the Old Girl A Chance

The Albuquerque Museum recently opened a new exhibit that explores the history, style and romantic era of the Alvarado Hotel. Our own beautiful old Harvey House, right in the heart of our city, knocked down in 1970 and now kind-of memorialized by the Alvarado Transit Center, which sits on the same ground.

I went for a very quick look this past week, but wanted to save the real visit to be shared with my guy, who is a wild enthusiast for Historic Albuquerque. Now, I realize that not everyone will do the same, and some might even be spooked by the very idea; but today we spent two and a half hours in the exhibition. And we'll be going back at some point, I'm sure.

Thing is, this is an excellent thing that the museum has done. This show is completely stuffed with beautiful and interesting things. There are architectural details: old doors, windows, signs and glazed tile work. The restaurants are revived: dishes, cutlery, menus, and even copper & tile-work pie cases, as well as the old brass stools that pulled up to them. The curio shop is recreated: novelties, geegaws, Pueblo & Navajo pottery and textiles, matchbooks and tourist books. And interspersed throughout are the uniforms and outfits that were worn by the staff, the Harvey Girls, the adventure tour guides. Not to mention a good number of photos, paintings, prints and ephemera commissioned by the Hotel and the Railroad.

If you have an interest in the old days of train travel, if the mystique of the "wild west" brings back memories of your childhood (or your grandpa's childhood, or your great grandpa's), or if you're like me and everything about Albuquerque is interesting, then this is an exhibition you shouldn't miss. Take your visiting relatives this summer, they'll love it. Sneak off alone on a Saturday afternoon for some peace and quiet while you have a look. Take a date to one of the film screenings (see below). It's a pretty dense show, and there's a lot of wall text; but it is well written and rewarding. The whole show is rewarding. An amazing amount of work on the part of the museum staff went into this, and man oh man does it show. (There's a beautiful catalog for under $30, too.)

The only really crappy thing about this exhibition is that the story ends, inevitably, with the razing of this old beauty to the ground. Most of the Harvey Houses are similarly gone by now, but not all of them. At the far end of the exhibition you can check out the postcard display and find out which ones are still up and alive, even running, and some only an hour or two away from here.

Jewel of the Railroad Era: Albuquerque’s Alvarado Hotel
March 8 - June 7, 2009

Public programs:
Lectures, films, a little bit of this and that.

Webpage about the show:

Views: 555

Comment by Bookworks on March 16, 2009 at 2:50pm
Just a quick note - Deb Slaney from the Albuquerque Museum will be at Bookworks giving some of the backstory on the exhibit - how they put it together, what's in the exhibit and how they found it - next week, March 24 at 7 p.m. Not a substitute for seeing the exhibit (which I've heard from several is just fabulous) - but if you're interested in "behind-the-scenes" info about the Alvarado and the museum, Deb will have it, along with a slideshow. We'll be selling the exhibit catalog (and it is beautiful) at the event. The event itself (as always) is free.
Comment by killbox on March 16, 2009 at 4:14pm
Went Sunday, Its a much more extensive exhibit than i thought it was going to be, took about 2 hours to go through it all. I think they did a pretty good job!
Comment by Brendan on March 16, 2009 at 4:22pm
I thought the exhibit was a little.... sterile. We went to the pre-opening for museum members- perhaps the best part of the exhibit were all the white haired folks reminiscing about the place!
Comment by killbox on March 16, 2009 at 5:13pm
Im sure if i had not grown up hearing stories and looking at the sad empty lot, it would have been more boring, but because it ties into much of the reading and research ive done this year it was just an awesome real world nearly touchable supplement.
Comment by John on March 16, 2009 at 6:19pm
I went yesterday, and I was stunned. I just couldn't believe how much stuff they had from the hotel, and how large the exhibit is. I was half expecting just a small room with a few photographs.
Comment by Barelas Babe on March 16, 2009 at 7:01pm
I can't wait to check this out! For other Harvey House fans, La Posada and the Harvey Restaurant in Winslow, AZ is well worth the trip.
Comment by killbox on March 16, 2009 at 7:14pm
Barelas Babe, you can also hop the railrunner south and catch the Harvey House Museum in Belen, in an old Harvy Dining room,
Comment by Barelas Babe on March 16, 2009 at 11:16pm
@ Killbox and NMGolfHacker - yes, the Belen HH is indeed a treasure and close to boot - it has been some years since I've visited. Thanks for the reminder.
Comment by Phil_0 on March 22, 2009 at 10:14pm
Went yesterday, and man, what a great exhibit. I'm thrilled so much got saved, and even sadder than before that there wasn't enough will to save it. (The photo of 5 lonely protesters out front in 1969 is tragic).


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