Why are all the buildings brown? Of course, they aren’t all brown, but this earthy color is often seen because not only does it blend in with our desert landscape, but early buildings were often crafted with the very earth beneath settlers’ feet.
Brown Buildings with Adobe
Adobe has a long history of being used to create buildings in the Southwest, beginning with the Spanish who colonized the region and brought the building technique with them in the 16th century. While tall trees were not in abundance in this area to build homes, clay, sand, and straw could be mixed, molded, and dried to make adobe bricks.
During the 19th century, Albuquerque was growing, and many adobe buildings were constructed. These buildings were used for both residential and commercial purposes and their design reflected the Spanish colonial influence in the region. Many of these adobe buildings were large, multi-room structures with courtyards and balconies that provided shade and comfort in the hot desert climate.
In the 20th century, during a period when “old” was out and “new” was in, many adobe buildings were demolished or altered. Fortunately, in the latter part of the century, people became interested in preserving the city’s cultural heritage. Today, you can find adobe homes that have been restored to their original condition, as well as a variety of public buildings.
Adobe Buildings You Can Visit in Albuquerque
One adobe building you can explore in Albuquerque is one of the city’s oldest surviving buildings, San Felipe de Neri church. The current church was built in 1793, although it was preceded by one constructed in 1706 that collapsed during a rainy summer in 1792. Of course, renovations have been done over the centuries, but the church’s website says, “Except for its tin ceiling, brick floor, and south entrance, today’s church is the same structure as in 1793.” Visit the church and its museum while you explore the Old Town Plaza.
Another of the city’s oldest buildings is now a café housed in the Casa de Ruiz. It is believed to have been built in the early 1700s and was the home of the Ruiz family until Rufina Ruiz died in 1991 at the age of 91. This structure, also in Old Town, was built with terrones, a style of adobe bricks made from sod or cut from riverbanks. In this case, as areas of the Rio Grande at this time was a marshy swamp, the materials came from there. Originally a U-shaped building, part was destroyed in a flood in 1920. Now, you can enjoy New Mexican cuisine here, perhaps reminiscent of what the Ruiz family cooked themselves.
San Ignacio Church, at 1300 Walter N.E., was built in 1916 using more than 5,000 adobe bricks. It features a four-story bell tower, stamped tin ceiling, and wood molding stenciled with grape leaves. It is located in the historic Martineztown-Santa Barbara area of Albuquerque. The church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979 and is also on the State Register of Cultural Properties.
These are just a few of the historic adobe buildings that can be found in Albuquerque. Learn more about building with adobe and adobe buildings throughout New Mexico here.
So, all the buildings in Albuquerque aren’t brown, but it seems many of the most interesting ones indeed are!