A landmark Corrales building that dates to the early 1800s was destroyed Sunday in a fire that started in the early morning and burned stubbornly for more than 16 hours before firefighters extinguished it completely.
The Rancho de Corrales, perhaps best known for the days when it was the Territorial House restaurant and bar, caught fire shortly before 3 a.m. Sunday, said Corrales fire chief Anthony Martinez. Firefighters put out the fire’s final hotspots about 7:30 p.m.
Martinez said fire marshals are investigating the cause of the fire, but it does not appear to have been set deliberately. As the building has been remodeled over the years, Martinez said new roofs have been stacked on top of each other. He said that the fire seemed to have started between two layers of the roof near the kitchen and that all the layers of construction made the fire hard to fight.
In addition to the Corrales fire department, firefighters from Rio Rancho, Albuquerque, Sandoval County and Bernalillo County all helped put out the blaze. Two firefighters were taken to the hospital for heat exhaustion, but both were expected to be fine, and there were no other injuries.
Corrales Mayor Phil Gasteyer said the building was “certainly one of the landmark structures in the village.”
He said the loss will be significant, both economically and historically.
“In recent years as an event center, of course, it contributed to the revenues in the village,” Gasteyer said. “So it’s going to be an economic loss for the village and of course is a sentimental loss for a great many people. It’s a real municipal tragedy, I’m afraid.”
Mary Davis, who is involved with the Corrales Historical Society and has written a book on the village, said it is hard to pinpoint exactly when the original structure was built, but it is believed to date to the early 1800s, when it was built as a farmhouse. Specifically, the owners of the original home had orchards.
She said part of what made the building so beloved is its colorful — and sometimes violent — history.
Locals have long claimed that the building is haunted by the ghosts of Louis and Louisa Emberto, who met violent ends in 1898 as two sides of a love triangle. And original Territorial House owner Bob Gilliland died of a heart attack there in 1975 after a shootout that killed two other men.
The building was the popular Territorial House from 1972 to 1987, and was one of the only places west of the Rio Grande for live music and entertainment, according to a Journal story in 2005.
The hotspot did have some trouble with nearby residents, and several times in the 1980s neighbors complained that it was violating the village noise ordinance.
At one point, the bar held thumb-wrestling tournaments while bands were playing, because the noise ordinance stated that sporting events were exempt from noise limits.
In 2005, the building was purchased by Winnell and Tom Adair, a Texas-based couple who invest in commercial real estate. They re-opened the bar portion of the building as the T-House Saloon, then renovated the rest of the building for special events. A wedding reception had been held there Saturday night, before the fire started.
Tyler Hoyle and Breanah Schall, of Albuquerque, had planned to be married there on Aug. 3, but will have to find another venue. The couple watched firefighters douse the blaze Sunday morning, and Hoyle later posted pictures to his Facebook page. He wrote that he is “not upset” about the fire and that it happened for a reason, and asked his Facebook friends for alternative venue ideas.
Winnell Adair, reached by phone, said she and her husband are “very saddened” by the fire. She said that she would stay in Texas to handle paperwork and that her husband was on the way to Albuquerque on Sunday evening.
“We’ve put a lot into it, and we’re disappointed,” she said. “It’s just a sad time.”
She said she has not had time to think about whether they will reconstruct the building, or what their next plan will be.
Davis, of the historical society, said she hopes something will replace the building so it won’t be forgotten.
“When buildings go, the history easily disappears,” she said. “If the building’s no longer there, we do forget quickly that something used to stand there. I’d love to see something stay there.”
Journal staff writer Colleen Heild contributed to this report.
— This article appeared on page A1 of the Albuquerque Journal