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Vista Larga Residential Historic District

Albuquerque City, Bernalillo County, NM

The Vista Larga Residential Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2016. Portions of the text below were adapted from a copy of the original nomination document. [‡]


The Vista Larga Residential Historic District is a residential subdivision in the Northeast Heights section of Albuquerque, New Mexico. Developed between 1947 and 1967 [The median age of the homes is 1956.], the neighborhood comprises houses that feature architectural house types, especially Ranch Houses, and architectural styles associated with the Modern Movement. These houses are situated in a subdivision that features curvilinear streets, circles, cul-de-sacs, and large, sometimes irregularly shaped lots. The historic district includes 40 of the original 80 platted acres in the western half of the Vista Larga Addition. These mostly Ranch Houses include historical revival styles, such as the Spanish-Pueblo Revival and Territorial Revival styles, and modern architectural styles, such as the Contemporary style and the International Style.

The original plat of the Vista Larga Addition was recorded in 1947 and encompasses 80 acres, including 15 residential streets, nine of which run through the historic district. These include the mostly east-west trending streets: Haines and Hannett avenues and Vista Larga Drive. The remaining streets in the district trend north-south: Vista Larga and Harvard courts and Columbia, Stanford, Cornell, and Harvard drives. The university-named streets indicate the neighborhood's close proximity to the University of New Mexico, located less than a mile south. Unlike the gridiron plan of streets in the residential areas to the east and south in the Haines Tract and Lobo Addition, Vista Larga's streets are wide and gently curving with circles and cul-de-sacs forming courts. The north side of the addition is bounded by Indian School Road, which is a major east-west arterial through the city. The neighborhood has no house lots facing this thoroughfare. The university's North Golf Course flanks the subdivision on the south and west and its mature, tree-lined fairways accentuate the neighborhood's "long views." House lots along the golf course boundary are oriented with their backs to the course. Subdivision covenants required 25-foot front setbacks and a minimum house size of 800 square feet, although most of the homes in the subdivision measure at least 1,500 square feet. Sidewalks were built throughout, although there are no service alleys as you would find in pre-war neighborhoods. A number of lots in Block 1 (facing Girard Boulevard (and outside the historic district boundaries) were set aside for apartment buildings. Vista Larga was one of the earliest subdivisions in the city to utilize these "suburban" street patterns and irregularly shaped lots.

The subdivision was laid out with curvilinear streets, circles, and cul-de-sacs that followed guidelines for subdivision development set forth by the Federal Housing Authority before the Second World War. The layout of Vista Larga reflected the natural terrain of the Northeast Heights in order to minimize the effects of flash floods that rushed through small arroyos that traversed the property. These drainages can be seen in the natural terrain. The neighborhood's rectangular lots measure 100 by 120 feet, however, because of the winding street patterns many of the lots are irregularly shaped, often providing additional square footage for building. These lots are significantly larger than the 50 by 110-foot lots in the adjacent Lobo Addition.

Home construction in the district began in 1947 starting in the east half of the subdivision and proceeding west. The earliest houses constructed within the district were completed in 1948, including the houses at 1511 Columbia Drive and 1400 Stanford Drive. Three houses were completed in 1949. By 1955, most the lots north of Haines Avenue and east of Princeton Drive were developed (in an area outside the historic district boundaries). Roughly 65 percent of the lots on Columbia, Stanford, and Cornell drives were completed or were under construction. Aerial photographs from that year show that the lots at the west end of Vista Larga and Harvard drives and Harvard Court have yet to start construction. A 1959 aerial photograph shows that house construction is approximately 50 percent complete along these streets, while less than half a dozen lots remain vacant by 1963. According to county assessor records, home construction peaked in 1956, when 20 houses were completed. Most of the subdivision was developed by 1964, with the last house, located at 1428 Columbia Drive, completed in 1967.

The Ranch House, which was popular from the late 1940s through the 1960s, was a new modern house type. It is characterized by a long and low, one-story form that encloses clearly delineated public and private living spaces. The zoned interior includes public rooms, such as the kitchen, living room, and dining room, which may be open and flow into one another. Private rooms, such as bedrooms, may be located in a separate wing. The Ranch House is also defined by its ability to integrate indoor and outdoor space by using large picture windows, sliding glass doors, and patios and terraces.

Ranch Houses were built in a variety of forms, such as rectangular, linear, U-shaped, L-shaped, and rambling and were covered with low-pitched hipped or gabled roof, with wide overhanging eaves. Variations in lot sizes sometimes dictated the size and shape of the Ranch House. Smaller lots might include a more compact rather than elongated house. Some Ranch Houses were sprawling models, called Ramblers, which sprawled across large corner lots.

The asymmetrical facades include a variety of window styles and sizes, such as large picture windows, high clerestory windows, sliders, and double-hung sash windows. The exterior walls were clad in wood, board-and-batten siding, brick, stone, and stucco. The front entryway is often recessed with a porch that may be supported by decorative wrought-iron posts. Architectural planters may be integrated into the main facade. Large chimney slabs pierce the roofline. Ranch Houses accommodated the automobile with carports and one- and two-car garages.

The Ranch House was designed in a variety of architectural styles, including historical revival styles, such as the Pueblo-Spanish Revival and Territorial Revival styles, modern architectural styles, such as the Contemporary style and the International Style, and Plain with no style. Although designed in various architectural styles, the house types remains a Ranch House because of its one-story height and interior plan, which remain the same.

The Plain Ranch House includes the character-defining features of the house type, such as long, low proportions, hipped or gabled roof, a prominent chimney, recessed entryway, picture window, and other decorative details, but it does not include elements of a specific architectural style.

Two styles of architecture found in the Vista Larga neighborhood and throughout Albuquerque are the Spanish-Pueblo Revival style and the Territorial Revival style. The Pueblo-Spanish Revival style is characterized by a flat roof and a stucco exterior with rounded corners that suggests adobe construction. Wrought-iron details are also common. This style was popularized by the renowned Santa Fe architect John Gaw Meem in the 1920s and 1930s. This style is ubiquitous in New Mexico. The Pueblo-Spanish Revival-style Ranch House at 1427 Stanford Drive was constructed in 1953 and includes stucco with rounded corners, a flat roof, and wrought-iron posts.

The Territorial Revival style was also influenced by the work of architect John Gaw Meem, who popularized this architectural style in the 1930s. This style is characterized by a flat roof, stucco exterior with sharp corners, brick coping and, pedimented windows. The latter are frequently omitted in mass-produced houses. The brick coping is the defining style element. The house at 2316 Hannett Avenue was built in 1961 and is an excellent example of a Ranch House in the Territorial Revival style.

The Modern Movement of architecture began in the first decades of the 20th century in Europe, with avant garde architects forsaking past architectural styles in favor of a new style of architecture that would appear as modern as the new century. This was expressed in bold geometric forms without ornament or references to past architectural styles. In the United States, modernism emerged after the Second World War because it appeared new and urbane and its emphasis on modern building materials enabled buildings to be constructed faster and less expensively. Modernism was embraced by all facets of society so that many downtown skyscrapers, civic buildings, schools, commercial buildings, and houses included some references to modern design.

The Contemporary style is a modern style of architecture that draws from Modern Movement in America. This style features several variants, including a long and low form with a low-pitched gable or flat roof with overhanging eaves, sometimes exposed roof beams, clerestory windows, and decorative screen walls. An example of a Contemporary-style Ranch House is the house at 2515 Vista Larga Drive, built in 1953. Its rectangular form, overhanging eaves, and clerestory windows are characteristic of the style.

The Contemporary-style Ranch House at 1417 Columbia Drive, built in 1952, features a large picture window, with a chimney situated prominently in the center of the facade. In addition to the flat roof, the house incorporates decorative screen walls, a common element of the Contemporary style.

Another variant of the Contemporary-style derives from the work of San Francisco Bay developer Joseph Eichler, who sought to distinguish his developments with stylish houses designed by modern architects. This version of the Contemporary style features three distinctive rooflines: front-gabled, which was well suited to large expanses of glass; flat roofs with overhanging eaves and exposed rafter ends or roof beams; and shed roofs, which may be combined with other roof forms. The asymmetrical facades utilize natural building materials, such as wood, stone, and brick, and often feature large expanses of uninterrupted wall surface. Entryways are recessed or obscured by other architectural features, such as screen walls. Glass surfaces are often prominent, sometimes extending from the floor to the ceiling under a gabled roof. Contemporary-style houses may appear closed off and private on the main facade and open up to a private rear yard with courtyards, porches, decks, and patios.

The International Style, which developed in Europe and appeared in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s, became the dominant means of architectural expression in Western architecture through middle decades of the 20th century. This style centered on a radical simplification of form, emphasis on modern materials, especially glass, steel, and concrete, acceptance of industrialized mass-production techniques, honest expression of structure, and the rejection of ornament. This doctrinaire form of modernism appeared in American cities as rectilinear buildings with open plans, and covered with large areas of glass. Houses in this style were built low with flat roofs, clad in stucco or brick, with clerestory windows. The use of brick was especially popular in Albuquerque, where it was produced locally.

The Vista Larga neighborhood includes several International Style houses. The house at 1418 Cornell Drive, built in 1955, is a long and low, flat-roofed International Style Ranch House clad in red brick and a Masonite-like material. A continuous row of clerestory windows appears above a planar brick wall. The garage projects from the main block, forming an L-shaped plan.


Vista Larga's location two miles east of the downtown reflects the changing socio-economic patterns occurring in Albuquerque in the mid-20th century. The dramatic population increases following the war necessitated large-scale residential expansion in the Northeast Heights, which then promoted commercial development and new infrastructure, such as paved roads, new water and sewer service, and shopping nodes. The Vista Larga Addition, which was part of a large-scale development of the East Mesa, was located near the University of New Mexico, Nob Hill Business Center, and Indian Plaza shopping center. The neighborhood was close enough to downtown so that residents remained close to professional offices and shopping. In the early 1960s, the city's large shopping malls, Winrock Center and Coronado Center, were built on the East Mesa.

The Vista Larga Addition was originally an 80-acre parcel first patented by Lewis H. Chamberlain on October 19, 1894 (Certificate 1697, Record Book 22, Page 507, Bernalillo County). It is not known what improvements, if any, Chamberlain made to the property, however, on August 14, 1903, he sold the property to Celia W. Taylor Goodman. Three years later, Taylor Goodman split her parcel of land and sold the northwest quarter (40 acres) to Ernestine Renner. This smaller land parcel was sold several times between 1917 and 1941. On December 16, 1941, W. C. Oestreich and his wife, Rose, sold the unimproved land to local real-estate developer R. B. Waggoman.

The owner of the adjoining 40-acre parcel, Celia Taylor Goodman, died in 1918, and her husband, John Goodman, who inherited the land, died in 1938. The heirs, because of back taxes on the property, decided to sell the 40 acres at public auction on August 5, 1941. The land was bought by the local real estate company P. F. McCanna, Inc. for $513.73. On February 19, 1942, McCanna sold the land to R. B. Waggoman, who then owned the original 80-acre parcel.

On July 16, 1947, Waggoman successfully petitioned the city to annex this property on the basis that it was contiguous to the city's existing boundaries. On July 21, 1947, Waggoman filed a replat for the Vista Larga Addition, with the intention of selling lots to create a new Albuquerque housing subdivision. Vista Larga consists of architect- and builder-designed houses situated on large lots. In 1956, the west half of the Vista Larga Addition between Cornell Drive and the west boundary of the Addition underwent a second replat that changed the alignment of Harvard Drive so that it had direct access to Indian School Road. The plat also changed the name of Vista Larga Place to Haines Avenue. Additional plat changes enlarged lots along Cornell and Stanford avenues, doubling their original size to accommodate larger houses.

By the mid-1940s, housing tracts adjacent to Vista Larga were under construction or in the planning stages. The Haines Tract to the east was subdivided into the Marberrys and Weeks Park additions and included a new elementary school, Montezuma Elementary. To the south, the Lobo and Sunset Terrace additions were quickly built with low-cost American Small Houses, with standardized two-bedroom plans and minimal Pueblo-Spanish Revival details. These houses helped relieve the postwar housing shortage and satisfy the demand for houses in university area. These were inexpensive houses situated on small lots along a gridiron plan of streets. Beginning in the late 1950s and continuing through the early 1960s, the Netherwood Park Addition located the north of Vista Larga was constructed with architect-designed modern houses.

The Vista Larga neighborhood is flanked on the south and west by the University of New Mexico North Golf Course. The university's original 18-hole golf course was developed in the 1940s on the east and north sides of campus, south of Lomas Boulevard. The need for more university buildings after the war necessitated the demolition or realignment of a number of holes resulting in a remodeling of the course in the early 1950s. This restricted the course to the north side of Lomas Boulevard on the south and east sides of Vista Larga. Soon thereafter the medical and law schools appropriated land from the golf course, reducing it to nine holes.

Vista Larga was several miles from the city's downtown shopping district, however, there were new businesses in the area, such as small grocery stores, to meet the needs of the residents. Almost immediately following the initial wave of home construction, the Rhodes Super Market, a small, 3,600 square-foot building, was opened on the corner of Girard Boulevard and Hannett Avenue. In the 1950s, the supermarket was named Carson's Super Market and North Girard Supermarket. It continued to serve as grocery store until the late 2000s, when it was converted to a restaurant. Soon thereafter, a small gas station opened at the corner of Girard Boulevard and Indian School Road, along with several other small storefronts. Life-long residents of the Vista Larga neighborhood remember shopping at the Lucky Super Market, built in 1956, at the corner of Lomas and Carlisle boulevards. It was in a small strip shopping center that also included a Russell's Bakery. In 1961, a larger strip shopping center, Indian Plaza, with its distinctive oversized arrow projecting from the parking lot, was opened at the corner of Indian School Road and Carlisle Boulevard, less than a mile east of Vista Larga. Indian Plaza included Barber's Super Market, a large chain store. New subdivisions in the 1950s, like Vista Larga, also enticed downtown business to relocate to the East Mesa. Encino Medical Arts Square, for example, located one mile west of Vista Larga, was built between 1950 and 1953, and brought a suite of medical offices to the East Mesa.

The visual appearance of the Vista Larga subdivision was codified in a list of protective covenants written by R. B. and Helen Waggoman. These were recorded in the Bernalillo County Clerk's office in 1956.

A summary of the covenants state: Most lots were restricted to residential buildings and each lot was allowed one two-car garage —

  1. Four-unit apartment buildings were allowed on 30 specific lots within Blocks 1 and 2, and a church could be built on Block 5;
  2. Building plans and specifications had to be approved in writing by a committee composed of R. B. Waggoman, Helen Waggoman, and Lillian M. Baker. The plans had to include the building's location on the lot and its "conformity and harmony of external design with existing structures in the subdivision;"
  3. Lots required a 25-foot setback;
  4. No lot owner could live in a trailer, basement, tent, shack, garage, barn, or other building, and all dwellings had to cost a minimum of $3,000;
  5. An attached Schedule "A" listed the minimum floor area for a dwelling erected on a particular lot, with a minimum size of 800 square feet. A number of lots in Blocks 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and 14 had a minimum dwelling size of 1,000 to 1,200 square feet and;
  6. No part of any lot could be used or occupied by any person "descended from any African or Oriental races." Servants of any race could reside in a dwelling during their period of employment. "Descendent" was defined in the covenant as anyone having "one-eighth" or more of "Negro or Oriental" blood.

These protective covenants were deemed to be in effect until January 1, 1972 at which time they would be automatically extended for another ten years unless changed by a majority of the property owners. Federal fair housing laws negated racially based restrictive covenants by the 1970s.

Waggoman's vision for Vista Larga promoted orderliness, quality of architectural design and construction, the appearance of affluence, and the racial composition of the neighborhood. The Vista Larga Addition quickly became an up-scale neighborhood that catered to working professionals. Long-time residents referred to the neighborhood as "Pill Hill" because of the many physicians that lived in the neighborhood. Vista Larga was conveniently located to the university, medical facilities, and the downtown business district. Most of the lots in the neighborhood were developed by the mid-1960s, so the neighborhood quickly formed a stable population that enjoyed the conveniences of suburban living in modern-style Ranch Houses.

‡ William A. Dodge, Consulting Cultural Historian, William A. Dodge Consulting, LLC; Maryellen Hennessy and Petra Morris, Senior Planners, Historic Preservation, Department of Planning, City of Albuquerque; Steven Moffson, State National Register Coordinator, New Mexico Historic Preservation Division, Vista Larga Residential Historic District, Bernalillo County, New Mexico, nomination document, 2014, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
Columbia Drive NE • Cornell Drive NE • Haines Avenue NE • Hannett Avenue NE • Harvard Court NE • Harvard Drive NE • Indian School Road NE • Stanford Drive NE • Vista Larga Avenue NE • Vista Larga Court NE