Monday, September 05, 2005

Name This Park

DOWNTOWN--Besides Old Town and the other little plazas that are strung along the old Camino Real in the valley, Albuquerque is largely the work of developers. And while impact fees may seem like a new idea, developers historically have contributed in many ways to the community donating land for parks.

This is the story of Albuquerque's first city park, except for the venerable Old Town Plaza. And it was donated by developers. The land was set aside in 1881 by the townsite company organized by Eleas Stover, Franz Huning, William Hazeldine, and F.H. Kent. It was an odd-shaped piece of land that the developers assumed would be in the very center of town. But it was only a stand of burdock so thick it was impossible to walk across.

The wives of the developers and other women formed a park association with dues of 25 cents/year. Children from the Congregational school next to the park planted trees. The boys dug the holes; the girls planted them. After school they carried water to these little cottonwoods in buckets. Eventually a barbed wire fence had to be put up around the site because it seemed every family owned a cow and they would visit the park on their way back and forth from Huning's pasture where most of them grazed. The cows were actually eating the park.

The park needed money for improvements and the association decided to hold a fund-raiser, a contest during the time of the Territorial Fair to name a Queen. The candidate who collected the most votes/money would get to name the park. One of the women who had worked especially hard was nominated. She declined...and had another idea. They nominated the daughter of a vice president of the Santa Fe Railroad, Lena Robinson. Mr. Robinson bought a lot of votes, and Miss Robinson won the election. This "centrally" located triangular piece of land is now called Robinson Park.

Information for this post was taken from "The Albuquerque Herald" July 16, 1923; Do You Remember? series by Erna Fergusson.

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