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: http://www.cabq.gov/museum/PublicProgramsforAlvaradoHotel.html
Lectures, films, a little bit of this and that.
Webpage about the show: http://www.cabq.gov/museum/featured.html