Square frames trimmed in neon mark the Nob Hill district on Central Avenue at Girard Street and at Washington Boulevard.
The area began to grow after 1937, when Route 66 was rejiggered to run along Central; the Nob Hill Shopping Plaza, at Central and Carlisle, signaled the neighborhood’s success when it opened as the glitziest shopping area in town a decade later. The area went through a slump from the 1960s through the mid-1980s, but it’s again lined with brightly painted facades and neon signs, a lively district where the quirk factor is high—whether you want to buy designer underwear or an antique Mexican mask, you’ll find it here.
The eastern half of the strip hasn’t enjoyed quite the same renaissance, but wander down this way to see the Aztec Motel (3821 Central Ave. NE), a bizarre art project/flophouse decorated with an array of tiles, mannequin parts, plastic Christmas decorations, and rain-worn plush animals.
Then head off of Central on Monte Vista and keep an eye out for the Bart Prince house (3501 Monte Vista Blvd. NE), the home and studio of one of the city’s most celebrated contemporary architects, whose favorite forms seem to be spaceships and antennas—it’s the residential counterpart to the eccentric businesses that flourish in this area.
© Zora O'Neill from Moon Santa Fe, Taos & Albuquerque, 2nd edition