New Mexico New Deal Sites November 2018 - Photo #132 - Old Albuquerque Municipal Airport

Photo: 12 November 2018
Old Albuquerque Municipal Airport Building (William Cutter Memorial Building), 2920 Yale Boulevard SE, WPA 1937-1939.

"This place is extraordinary, a reminder of the days when air travel was a special occasion for which one dressed up. There's a fireplace in the comfortable waiting lobby, and fountains where you stroll outside to board the planes. It's built with traditional adobe methods, with an abundance of artfully crafted detail. There's also quite a bit of artwork, much of it New Deal-era, displayed in the former waiting lounge. The building currently houses Homeland Security for the Albuquerque Sunport airport, but it is open to the public (sort of.) You can walk in, and walk around the building. The hitch is that there's no parking, and no public transportation to take you there. There is, however, a post office nearby, so you can stop in and buy some stamps and take a walk across the street."[1]

"The 1939 [Albuquerque] municipal airport building is a flat-roofed, two story Pueblo Revival style structure that was designed by City Architect Ernest H. Blumenthal and built of adobe brick and other local materials by WPA workers. Adobe bricks were made on site and covered the reinforced concrete frame. Vigas and other wood elements were cut in the Jémez Mountains and milled or hand carved on site. The flagstones for the floors were cut and brought from the nearby Sandía Mountains. The interior is also Pueblo Revival with viga and herringbone pattern latilla ceilings and walls of roughened stucco above tongue and groove wainscoting. The lobby was decorated with tinwork chandeliers, Indian rugs and hand-carved wooden screens and WPA created furniture. At some point, there were large paintings created by Pop Chalee which now hang in the current Albuquerque airport, but she reported she was commissioned to paint those by Howard Hughes, pilot and movie producer."[2]

"In 1937, the city reached an agreement with Transcontinental and Western Airlines (TWA), the major east-west carrier then operating out of Albuquerque, by which TWA sold land to the city for a new municipal airport, to be built by the city with federal funding from the Works Progress Administration. Of the numerous public works completed in New Mexico with funding from New Deal agencies, the Albuquerque Municipal Airport received the most, with a total budget of $864,000 allocated between 1936 and 1939. ... Responding to a program that was both practical and symbolic, Blumenthal adapted the romantic southwestern imagery of the Spanish-Pueblo style to the functional requirements of a modern airport terminal. It is the only WPA-funded terminal built in this style. While the tan stucco (imitating adobe), projecting vigas, and stepped massing loosely evoke pueblos, the facade's portico, stepped parapets, and tower more specifically draw on Spanish Colonial architecture. ... The completion of the Albuquerque Municipal Airport coincided with the outbreak of World War II in 1939, when it was designated an Army Air Station and occupied by the Army Air Corps."[3]

  1. Municipal Airport (former) - Albuquerque NM, Living New Deal website, accessed 26 November 2018 (most or all of the art alluded to is no longer there).
  2. Kathryn A. Flynn, Public Art and Architecture in New Mexico 1933-1943: A guide to the New Deal Legacy, Sunstone Press (2012), p.32.
  3. Old Albuquerque Municipal Airport Building, Society of Architectural Historians, SAH Archipedia Classic Buildings website, accessed 26 November 2018.