ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — We moved around the city a lot when I was younger.
I attended five different elementary schools. Not so great for making friends, but great for seeing and experiencing different parts of the city. We lived in Westgate throughout my middle school years – Go Truman Tigers! – and a favorite activity during that time was driving down the hill along Bridge Boulevard to stay the night with one of my classmates. She lived with her grandma near Bridge and Goff Boulevard and it always felt like an escape to another world. There were no sidewalks along the road and most people had dirt driveways and clumps of trees sprouting around their sizeable yards.
We loved to walk around the neighborhood and Goff Plaza was a frequent destination. I don’t remember what was there during the early ’80s, but I never forgot the name. It’s because my brain wanted to call it Golf Plaza. I thought maybe someone made a mistake.
They didn’t, obviously.
The plaza and the street that passes in front of it were named for a family of mostly educators that spent decades in the South Valley and is still there today living along that same road. The road starts at 5 Points Road and goes south to Isleta Boulevard.
According to Ancestry.com, Goff is derived from a Welsh word that is used as a nickname for a red-haired or red-complexioned person.
Many of the books and resources I consult didn’t have any mention of the road, but luckily there are people still living there who can recall some of its history.
One of those is former County Commissioner and Rep. Art De La Cruz, who has known members of the Goff family and they shared their stories with him.
The first mention of the Goff family in the South Valley is a July 4, 1920, Albuquerque Journal story about a party at the home of W.A. Goff and his wife who lived in Ranchos de Atrisco.
A 1944 obituary for W.A. Goff said he lived in Albuquerque for 26 years after arriving from Missouri. He was also a deacon at the Riverside Baptist Church, which still stands about a block east of Goff on Bridge Boulevard. His death certificate says W.A. Goff lived at Bridge and Goff, and lists his occupation as grocer and furniture salesman.
One of his children was Russell V. Goff, who would go on to become a reverend in Albuquerque.
W.A. Goff’s brother, Robert, a carpenter, would follow him to New Mexico in 1920.
Robert Goff’s son, Harold R. Goff, became a respected Bandelier Elementary principal and “pioneer” in the New Mexico education scene. He was responsible for the passage of the original New Mexico Educational Retirement Act and was chairman of the state’s Educational Retirement Board for 20 years. He died at the age of 98 in 2007.
I did find mention of the street in just one book, “Stories Behind the Street Names of Albuquerque, Santa Fe, & Taos” by Donald A. Gill. The copy I have was published in 1994 and according to the back flap, Gill had a doctorate and was a professor of linguistics at the University of Louisiana at the time. He agrees the street is named for a family that has lived in Albuquerque for many years. But he also makes a connection to famed New York artist and sometimes Albuquerque resident Lloyd Lózes Goff who died in 1982. He moved to Albuquerque from Dallas with his family when he was 17 years old sometime in the mid-1920s. Searching birth records, obituaries and newspaper articles, I could not find any connection between Lloyd Lózes Goff and the South Valley Goff family.
De La Cruz said the land where Goff Plaza now stands was once owned by the Goff family and had a single white farmhouse. The house was moved just down the block on Bridge Boulevard, and given a coat of brown stucco. I found the house next door to Casa Liquors and sadly looking abandoned. A chain link fence with a no trespassing sign surrounds the property and a downstairs window sits with a gaping hole.
Goff Plaza was built in 1961 and opened with retail giants Furr’s Supermarket and Montgomery Ward as its anchors. This was when malls were on the cusp of taking over the American shopping experience. Winrock Mall would open the same year and Coronado Mall in 1965.
De La Cruz said in the ’70s the plaza was THE place to be and constantly bustling with activity. He and his friends used to ride bikes there. The plaza’s glory days are at least three-decades in the past, but it still offers a place to shop. There’s Family Dollar, Indoor Mercado and Familia Mexkana as well as an ATM machine.
And of course Goff Boulevard is still there.
It’s well-traveled by South Valley residents, including the descendants of the original New Mexican Goffs.
Curious about how a town, street or building got its name? Email staff writer Elaine Briseno at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3965 as she continues the monthly journey in “What’s in a Name?”