ANYONE can buy or builD a house –
A great property must evolve
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history and connecting is important in the huning castle neighborhood
A SIMPLE 300 YEAR PROPERTY HISTORY
A heavy metal stake driven deeply into the ground in the backyard of 1514 Silver marks the spot near what might have been the corner of Gold Avenue and South 17th Street had the course of history been different.
In 1928 this stake marked the areas western extent of the city limits of the comparatively new City of Albuquerque, an emerging metropolis located almost entirely within the more ancient five square mile area known as the Town of Albuquerque grant.
Actually the real history is far more convoluted and complicated, but the important thing is that 1514 Silver is both centrally located and is located on a spot of land that has been a dedicated urban area for 312 years and counting.
The property is an easy 3/4 of a mile walk to the Central bandstand in Old Town, the exact center of the Albuquerque grant, and less than 1.1 mile to the site of the old Alvarado Hotel and the Albuquerque train depot – the center of the much newer, Anglo inclusive, railroad city.
FRANZ HUNING, His CASTLE and the addition
Franz Huning was a merchant in Old Town. As his financial success in life grew he decided to build a very grand house on his property along Railroad Avenue, the main street between Old Albuquerque and the new Albuquerque, a street later renamed as Central Avenue.
Central Avenue had a streetcar line running down it in Huning’s day, first horse-drawn, then electric. Huning’s house had electricity of course, but it was made of adobe, actually ‘terrone’, which is actually a mud sod. The exterior covering, and design, made it look like a castle, and Huning called the place Castle Huning – almost everyone else called it Huning’s Castle.
A great civic, even regional plan, created the MRGCD, the Middle Rio Grande Conservancy District circa 1925. The idea was to ‘drain the swamp lands’ of Albuquerque, meaning mostly the forested area of the meandering river, making it possible to control floods and create a vast downstream reach of new farmlands, including near the Bosque del Apache.
For Huning the result of the MRGCD efforts was to leave his property high and dry. This new high and dry land was soon sold to the Keleher and Hebenstreit families who formed the Huning Castle Addition Company, a New Mexico corporation, with the intention to sell lots. The property was platted in 1928, and by the late spring of 1929, the ground had been leveled, streets graded, and the sale of lots finally began. An Albuquerque Journal ad boldly proclaimed the vision.
On March 1st 1928, Block 15, Lot 8 and Lot 7 were created, laying the groundwork for what was to become the property at 1514 Silver.
the hard work of a depression
Some might say that the Huning Castle Addition, or the Country Club neighborhood as some people started calling it, was ill-timed. Just six months after its founding the stock market fell.
The reality is that the neighborhood that was built would probably never have been built without the stock market crash and the Great Depression that followed.
What the depression did was create a disciplined force of very hard working and talented people that could, and did, work very hard for comparatively little money. This simple fact made remarkable houses in the Huning Castle neighborhood possible. The best of these houses were made of brick, the best of the brick houses were made by skilled craftsmen trained in the Arts & Crafts tradition.
Other remarkable houses in Huning Castle were made of hollow brick, and a few special houses imitated the spirit of Huning and were made with adobe. The choice of materials was driven by an effort to create both attractive, and fireproof, durable structures.
All houses have a history, but not all house histories are recorded or storied. Special houses keep their memories, especially when the memories are pleasant.
The Langs bought Lot 8 in 1938. The 60 foot lot width was not what they needed to build the custom house that they wanted, so they then purchased the west 15 feet of Lot 7 to complete the land purchase for the house, walls, and gardens that they were planning to build.
The objection can be raised that gardens are not “built,” but are planted. That’s the difference between landscapes and hard-scape. The point is best illustrated by the term “garden wall.” Even the most ancient gardens were marked by their walls.
This “curtiledge” has long been legally defined as the enclosed space of ground and buildings immediately surrounding a dwelling-house. The “enclosed space” refers to the gates and walls. The concept has roots in the notion of a home being a castle. A castle within a castle is a “keep.”
The property at 1514 Silver can be seen, or viewed, as a castle within a castle, a “castle keep.”
The original walls of this castle were built for the Langs in 1938, at the time the house was built and the first gardens planned and planted. At first they had no next door neighbors. The Lang House on the south side of Silver was the first house on the block, or at least the part of Block 15 that faced Silver, not Park.
After about 14 happy years in the house the Langs moved away, literally going off to see the world. Happily the house was then bought by Mr. Korber, legendary merchant and department store owner with locations in the bustling downtown of postwar Albuquerque.
Mr. Korber was a more modern type person. He wanted air-conditioning not just a swamp cooler. He wanted a private bath, not just a bath down the hallway. He wanted modern forced air gas heat, and not the old boiler with all the brass fittings connected to steam.
And most of all Mr. Korber wanted room for his very large car, so it could be parked in the garage, out of sight and out of mind, like most everyone does with their cars in Huning Castle.
And also, since everyone else seemed to be doing it, he decided to create a new room, a sun room, where the back porch used to be. He made many of the walls with glass and imported internal cherry wood doors from Japan to hide family storage. His idea of a family kitchen was bright yellow formica, but he kept the old green linoleum floor.
With his choice of colors its not surprising that his ‘claim to fame’ in the neighborhood was his generosity to the neighborhood children. He gifted each child, every Easter, with a small basket of real chocolate candy.
O’Connell is a good Irish name, and the O’Connells were good Irish Catholics. They bought the house after the Korbers, and after they retired and their children had moved away.
Their eldest son was Michael O’Connell rector of the Basilica of St. Mary in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Mrs. O’Connell loved cooking and entertaining, especially for neighborhood friends. Mr. O’Connell was one of a large group of neighborhood Rosarians, and the O’Connells also planted rare patented Iris’s in the 1514 Silver gardens, where they still grow today.
The beautiful wood burning fireplace was a burden to Mr. O’Connell in his later years, so he had the fireplace fitted for gas. The gas logs have now been replaced by a very efficient, enamel, wood burning stove.
The Claytons purchased the house in the summer of 1999. Paulette Clayton was a teacher at Manzano Day School, so the location enabled her to walk to work.
Her daily passages passed by the beautiful parks of the neighborhood, and various architectural wonders, on her way to the original house near Old Town, now the site of the school, where Confederate troops were fed and quartered during their ill-fated effort to make New Mexico a part of that long-ago lost cause.
The house and grounds of 1514 Silver were updated and enlarged under Donald Clayton’s careful eye for design and building and engineering background tutelage.
The house itself, and its furnishings are in large measure a reflection of Donald Clayton’s numerous residences and earlier far-away travels.
moving on and moving in
It’s time for the Clayton’s to move on, to be closer to family, if not to very dear old friends. And after eighteen years as stewards of this remarkable property they are looking for new stewards, new owners, to replace them.
They hope it could be you, if you are a match for what this property is, and for what it represents.
In order to help with that decision this web site has been created.
Begin the Journey HERE.