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Stillness settles over a Corrales landmark

The exterior of the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales has looked the same since 1929 when the pitch roof was put on and the towers seen here were added to support the facade. (Courtesy of The Corrales Historical Society)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — It was 1971 and a group of Corrales residents had an idea.

An idea they hoped would impact residents for generations to come. They accomplished their goal.

They called themselves the Corrales Historical Society and they had formed to buy the old San Ysidro Catholic church that the Archdiocese vacated in 1961 after building a larger, more modern replacement along Corrales Road.

Historical Society president Nan Kimball said the goal was to preserve the church, which was built in 1868 on land donated by several families in the village after their other church was destroyed by a flood.

“After the new San Ysidro church was built, the Archdiocese removed all components that made the Old Church sanctified and abandoned the property,” Kimball said. “Although several individuals were interested in purchasing the property, the Archdiocese was reluctant to sell because they were concerned about how it would be used.”

By 1974, the historical society had collected a good portion of the money and the village stepped up to provide the rest. Four decades later, the group is putting on its fundraising hat again, this time to replace income lost because of the pandemic.

Pies await participants during the popular Harvest Festival pie walk, which helps raise money for church repairs.

The Historic Old San Ysidro Church is now on the National Register of Historic places and in the decades since it was built, it has withstood battering by powerful wind gusts and torrential rains, vandals and plain old time. But the group has never faced a challenge quite like this.

Debbie Clemente, publicity chair for the society, said the pandemic has made it impossible to host even small events.

“It’s been a struggle,” Clemente said. “It’s hard when all our income goes out the window.”

Kimball said they don’t see things changing in the immediate future and it’s completely unknown how long the church will be closed.

The historical society is responsible for the maintenance and repairs of the building, which includes the annual mudding. The group relies on income from events and rentals to fund the upkeep. Kimball said they raise between $20,000 to $30,000 a year.

The group has sent out a flyer outlining a variety of ways to help.

“I haven’t had any company since March!,” the flyer reads. “That means no rentals or other fundraising event to fund and keep my 152-year-old bones in shape. I really miss you and I need your help!”

The information and donation links are available at but here’s a rundown of the options:

• The first way is through the Smith’s Rewards Card Inspiring Donations program. Reward card members can designate the historical society as their charitable organization and Smith’s will donate .5% of each purchase to the group. Participants must sign-up for a Smith’s card (it’s free), create a digital account, and link the card to the Corrales Historical Society.

• Amazon has a similar program with its Smile campaign. It will donate .5% of every purchase to the historical society. Residents can also donate a car or give money directly to the organization.

Kimball said the church is a popular venue because of its calm and peaceful location along Old Church Road and its simplicity.

Visitors take in the displays at the annual Fine Arts Show at the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales.

The church is rented for weddings and memorial services and hosts several annual public events, including Heritage Day, the Harvest Festival, the Old Church Fine Arts Show and Festival of the Nativities. It’s also home to the monthly Music in Corrales concert series, which is planned a year in advance. No concerts have taken place since March according to Music in Corrales artistic director Mike Foris. Music in Corrales has been around for 34 years and he said the old church has been its home the entire time. He called it an ideal location for musical performances.

Volunteers mud the wall outside the Historic Old San Ysidro Church in Corrales.

“The sound quality is very good,” Foris said. “Almost all artists are uniformly impressed with the building and its warmth and charm.”

Not having the ability to raise any money since March has been a distressing development, but the group has tried to take it in stride. On the flyer, above a small photo of the church, it reads “I’m so lonely.” Not far from that is this: “It’s me, the Old Church, singing the Pandemic Blues.”

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