Once known as bustling New Town, the downtown area of Albuquerque, stretching along Central Avenue between the train tracks and Marquette Avenue, was the city’s commercial center.
Central was crowded with mule-drawn streetcars, bargain hunters, and wheeler-dealers from the East Coast. Then, in the 1950s and 1960s, shopping plazas in Nob Hill and the Northeast Heights began drawing business away; by the 1970s, downtown was a wasteland of government office buildings that was utterly desolate after 5 p.m.
But thanks to an aggressive urban-renewal scheme initiated in 2000, the neighborhood has regained some of its old vigor, and Central is now a thoroughfare best known for its hip bars and lounges.
By day, you won’t see too many specific attractions, but a stroll around reveals an interesting hodgepodge of architectural styles from Albuquerque’s most optimistic era.
At Central Avenue and 4th Street, two versions of Route 66 intersect. When the original highway was commissioned in 1926, the road from Chicago to the West Coast ran along 4th Street; after 1937, the route was smoothed so that it ran east–west along Central.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition