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Monte Vista Elementary School
Aiming to attract young families out to what was still a remote suburb, the developer William S. Leverett Sr. set aside a triangle of land for an elementary school at one corner of the Monte Vista Addition.
The original Monte Vista School had eight classrooms arranged in a butterfly plan on two levels. The plan centers on an entrance pavilion and tower that face east across a lawn to the intersection of Campus Boulevard and Monte Vista Avenue. The steel-frame structure, with stuccoed brick walls and red clay tile roofs, is in the Spanish Colonial Style popularized by Bertram Goodhue at the 1915 Panama-California Exposition in San Diego. The Churrigueresque ornament of the glazed terra-cotta entrance portal and the crowning cupola with its scroll brackets are characteristic elements.
The building’s Dutch-born architect, T. Charles Gaastra, had grown up in the Midwest and spent seven years designing schools in Chicago before moving his practice, first to Santa Fe in 1918 and then to Albuquerque in 1927. Conversant in many revivals, Gaastra’s choice of Spanish Colonial recalls the adoption three decades earlier of the closely related Mission Style as an appropriate image for New Mexico in such works as the Alvarado Hotel (1901–1902, Charles Whittlesey). By 1930, however, these Californian borrowings were becoming less common, as local architects turned to the Pueblo Revival and the hybrid Spanish-Pueblo Style as more authentic expressions of New Mexico’s regional identity. Gaastra recognized, however, that the California styles had continuing appeal to homeowners in the Monte Vista Addition, where variants called “Mediterranean” stayed in demand through the 1930s.
The premise of a neighborhood school proved successful and, as an elementary school, the Monte Vista School has been expanded three times (1947, 1974, and 1986). The original building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1981.
Bergman, Edna Heatherington. “The Fate of Architectural Theory in Albuquerque, New Mexico: buildings of four decades, 1920-1960.” Master’s thesis, University of New Mexico, 1978.
Davis, Mary, “Monte Vista School,” Bernalillo County, New Mexico. National Register of Historic Places Inventory–Nomination Form, 1981. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
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