Travel Tangent: Gutiérrez-Hubble house reinvented as educational center

A volunteer works in the demonstration gardens beautifying the house
A volunteer works in the demonstration gardens beautifying the house
Sometimes I just have to get off the beaten path for an adventure. I left I-25 just west of the Rio Grande near Albuquerque and headed north on Isleta Boulevard. There were surprises in store for me.

The first was a sign that told me I was on El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. I don’t know about you, but I’m always excited to find another segment of the 400-year-old highway to explore.

Less than a quarter mile farther along was another sign indicating this was also pre-1937 Route 66. Before road engineers in that year realigned the highway straight from Santa Rosa to Albuquerque, Route 66 wandered north to Romeroville, then south through Duke City to Los Lunas, and finally west again.

There was a third surprise ahead. I came upon a historic adobe with a sign introducing the Gutiérrez-Hubble House History & Culture Center in the village of Pajarito, deep in the South Valley. We’ve all seen pictures of curious cats with their heads stuck in some box or jar. I’m that kind of curious, so — of course — I had to stop.

The Gutiérrez-Hubble house is 160 years old, meaning it was built before the Civil War. It sits on ten acres of agricultural land owned by Bernalillo County and managed by the Hubble House Alliance. It is a mere shadow of its former self.

The adobe hacienda and its 40,000 acres was assembled by Josefa Baca. A display calls her “A bold, young woman.” In the early 1860s, she certainly would have been.

Josefa’s granddaughter, Josefa Apolonia, married Clemente Gutiérrez, a wealthy traveler from Aragon, Spain. They expanded the family’s land holdings, built acequias, and became prosperous farming and raising sheep and cattle.

Their 5,700-square-foot house was also a trading post, stagecoach stop, and post office. Their story is typical of landed gentry in territorial New Mexico. It tells of intrigue between powerful families and struggles to survive as Union and Confederate armies engaged the length of New Mexico.

The Indian trader part of the story is another fascinating aspect of this family. Clemente and Josefa willed their 40,000-acre-estate to Julianita, their sixteen-year-old great granddaughter. Within a few years, she had married James Hubble, a Connecticut Yankee who was a captain serving with Stephen Kearney. Fluent in Spanish, he was known locally as Santiago. Their second son was Juan “Lorenzo” Hubble, who like his father became a merchant and trader with the Navajo. Juan — better known by the Anglicized John — opened the first trading post on the Navajo reservation in Ganado, Arizona. Today, the Hubble Trading Post is a national historic site.

(Above) Like many haciendas, most of the windows and doors of the Gutiérrez-Hubble house open to an interior courtyard. (Below) Hollyhocks grace a garden wall.
(Above) Like many haciendas, most of the windows and doors of the Gutiérrez-Hubble house open to an interior courtyard. (Below) Hollyhocks grace a garden wall.
The house was home to successive generations and, in 1996, Louisa, the last Hubble to live here, died. A developer acquired the property with intentions of subdividing most of it and converting the house to a restaurant and bar. The people of Pajarito didn’t want to lose a part of their history. They formed the Pajarito Village Association and led a movement to save and rehabilitate the house. They were successful, getting the county to purchase the property and establishing the alliance.

Besides an interesting collection of historic furnishings and artifacts, the Gutiérrez-Hubble house is a natural focal point not only for preserving its history, but also maintaining open spaces that protect wildlife and teaching agricultural heritage.

There are presentations and workshops on the site’s history. There are demonstration gardens and a heritage orchard. There are backyard farming workshops during which experts provide practical gardening information while participants get their hands dirty. There’s a local food festival and field day, featuring food tasting, contests, and lots of other activities.

The home also serves as a community gathering place for family reunions, weddings, retreats, and seminars.

As usual, I was not surprised at the friendliness of enthusiastic volunteers who are always engaging and animated in telling the story of yet another part of New Mexico’s history.

The Gutiérrez-Hubble house is open Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. Admission is $3 for adults and $2 for seniors and children. Leave I-25 at Exit 213 and drive four miles north on Isleta Boulevard. You’ll be as surprised as I was wandering off the beaten track.