The city was founded in 1706 as the Spanish colonial outpost of Alburquerque; present-day Albuquerque retains much of the Spanish cultural and historical heritage.
Alburquerque was a farming community and strategically located military outpost along the Camino Real. The town of Alburquerque was built in the traditional Spanish village pattern: a central plaza surrounded by government buildings, homes, and a church. This central plaza area has been preserved and is open to the public as a museum, cultural area, and center of commerce. It is referred to as "Old Town Albuquerque" or simply "Old Town."
The village was named by the provincial governor Don Francisco Cuervo y Valdes in honour of Don Francisco Fernández de la Cueva, Duke of Alburquerque, viceroy of New Spain from 1653 to 1660. The first "r" in "Alburquerque" was dropped at some point in the 19th century, supposedly by an Anglo-American railroad station-master unable to correctly pronounce the city's name. Some New Mexicans still prefer the spelling Alburquerque; see for example the book by that name by Rudolfo Anaya. In the 1990s, the Central Avenue Trolley Buses were emblazoned with the name Alburquerque (with the extra "r") in honor of the city's historic name.
During the Civil War Albuquerque was occupied in February 1862 by Confederate troops under General Henry Hopkins Sibley, who soon afterwards advanced with his main body into northern New Mexico. During his retreat from Union troops into Texas he made a stand on April 8, 1862 at Albuquerque. A day-long engagement at long range led to few casualties against a detachment of Union soldiers commanded by Colonel Edward R. S. Canby.
When the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1880, it bypassed the Plaza, locating the passenger depot and railyards about miles ( km) east in what quickly became known as New Albuquerque or New Town. Old Town remained a separate community until the 1920s when it was absorbed by the City of Albuquerque, which had been incorporated in 1891. Albuquerque High School, the city's first public high school, was established in 1879.
Early 20th century
New Albuquerque quickly became a tidy southwestern town which by 1900 boasted a population of 8,000 inhabitants and all the modern amenities including an electric street railway connecting Old Town, New Town, and the recently established UNM campus on the East Mesa. In 1902 the famous Alvarado Hotel was built adjacent to the new passenger depot and remained a symbol of the city until it was torn down in 1970 to make room for a parking lot. In 2002, the Alvarado Transportation Center was built on the site in a manner resembling the old landmark. The large metro station functions as the downtown headquarters for the city's transit department, and serves as an intermodal hub for local buses, Greyhound buses, Amtrak passenger trains, and the Rail Runner commuter rail line.
New Mexico's dry climate brought many tuberculosis patients to the city in search of a cure during the early 1900s, and several sanitaria sprang up on the West Mesa to serve them. Presbyterian Hospital and St. Joseph Hospital, two of the largest hospitals in the Southwest, had their beginnings during this period. Influential New Deal-era governor Clyde Tingley and famed southwestern architect John Gaw Meem were among those brought to New Mexico by tuberculosis.
Decades of growth
The first travelers on Route 66 appeared in Albuquerque in 1926, and before long dozens of motels, restaurants, and gift shops had sprung up along the roadside to serve them. Route 66 originally ran through the city on a north-south alignment along Fourth Street, but in 1937 it was realigned along Central Avenue, a more direct east-west route. The intersection of Fourth and Central downtown was the principal crossroads of the city for decades. The majority of the surviving structures from the Route 66 era are on Central, though there are also some on Fourth. Signs between Bernalillo and Las Lunas along the old route now have brown, historical highway markers denoting it as Pre-1937 Route 66.
The establishment of Kirtland Air Force Base in 1939, Sandia Base in the early 1940s, and Sandia National Laboratories in 1949, would make Albuquerque a key player of the Atomic Age. Meanwhile, the city continued to expand outward onto the West Mesa, reaching a population of 200,000 by 1960.
As Albuquerque spread outward, the downtown area fell into a decline. Many historic buildings were razed in the 1960s and 1970s to make way for new plazas, high-rises, and parking lots as part of the city's urban renewal project. Only recently has downtown come to regain much of its urban character, mainly through the construction of many new loft apartment buildings and the renovation of historic structures like the KiMo Theater.
During the 21st century, the Albuquerque population has continued to grow rapidly. The population of the city proper is estimated at 494,236 in 2005, up from 448,607 in the 2000 census, and is projected to reach 540,279 in 2010. Also, the metropolitan area population is estimated at 799,260 in 2006, up from 712,738 in the 2000 census, and is projected to reach 883,295 in 2010, and surpass 1 million by 2020.
During 2005 and 2006, the city celebrated its tricentennial with a diverse program of cultural events.