'Distinctive, gracious living' - Albuquerque Journal

‘Distinctive, gracious living’

This Mossman-Gladden home, on Pickard NE, is one of about 7,500 built in the Northeast Heights. (Pat Vasquez-Cunningham/Journal)

Several thousand homes built by what undoubtedly was Albuquerque’s most prolific homebuilding company more than a half-century ago remain as popular today as they were when each nail was hand-pounded during the city’s boom years following World War II.

Mossman-Gladden homes – and there were about 7,500 such Albuquerque residences built here – were constructed during the mid-to-late 1940s through early 1980s. The homes form the backbone of a half dozen Northeast Heights neighborhoods with fanciful names such as Stardust Skies, Highland North, or Bear Canyon Village. The city of Farmington has another 2,500 Mossman-Gladden residences.

“Distinctive and Gracious Living” was the promise in the company’s sales brochures, and indeed, many original buyers never bought another home from a different builder.

This is the current interior of a Mossman-Gladden home on Pickard NE, showing some of the builder’s common elements.

The reputation of Mossman-Gladden Custom Deluxe Homes was built not only on the use of high-quality construction materials and workmanship, but also on unusual and innovative designs that proved to be forward-thinking for their time. Design details included bathroom vanities, French doors leading to spacious backyards, generous closets, step-saving kitchens, cathedral ceilings, and hardwood floors that have been rediscovered by second-generation buyers as they tear out carpet in remodeling projects. Other Mossman-Gladden markers might have included irrigation meters, acoustical ceilings, garden walls, custom-crafted fireplaces and brick paneling.

The company’s founder, a rancher from South Dakota with an eighth-grade education, was Fred A. Mossman. He designed and built his first barn at age 19, then honed his building and engineering skills by constructing wooden highway bridges. Mossman moved to Albuquerque in 1937 with his ailing first wife, Edna, as they sought a cure for her tuberculosis. Mossman, already an experienced carpenter, broke into trades here by building Safeway stores across the state for contractor K.L. House.

Mossman married again after Edna’s death and his second wife, Mary, helped found the family construction company. The humble beginning was one property lot and one house, quite a contrast to the banner year of 1965 when Mossman-Gladden Homes built 350 homes and managed a workforce of 350 employees.

New home prices varied and reflected the company’s diversity and many home styles. In 1957, Mossman pondered if he was pricing himself out of business by asking $12,000 for a spec home. A year earlier, a larger Mossman-Gladden home in the 2800 block of California NE sold new for $19,000 – the same home brought $155,000 last year.

Realtor Pam Gentry of ReMax Masters says current prices for older Mossman-Gladden homes range between $150,000 to more than $300,000 depending on size and location. The company also built custom homes, as well as the Immanuel Presbyterian Church at 114 Carlisle SE which was designed by John Gaw Meem and is now on the National Register of Historic Places.

“My dad was first and foremost a builder,” said his son, Fred M. Mossman, known as “Junior” to avoid confusion as he grew up in the family’s residential construction business. The younger Mossman eventually took the reins of the company. Fred A. Mossman died in 1984.

1965 brochure highlighted the features of the unpretentious but livable homes built by Mossman-Gladden. (Courtesy of Mossman family)

An integral addition, as well as a name change, came to the company in 1948 when the senior Mossman’s son-in-law, Edward Gladden, came onboard. Gladden, characterized by Mossman Jr. as a great contributor to the company’s success, specialized in handling many of the administrative tasks ranging from land and permit acquisitions to in-house sales. The Mossman-Gladden partnership continued until the company stopped building houses in 1984, ending with a townhouse project in Bear Canyon Village. The men’s wives, Mary Mossman and Phyllis Gladden, worked as designers and helped develop floor plans. Over the decades the building team expanded to include Mossman Jr., his wife, Janie, their four sons, and a team of superintendents so loyal and reliable that many had streets in the various developments named in their honor. Ever driven down Hermanson Place, Inman Court, Carriveau Avenue, Woodford Street or McNerney Avenue?

“I love my Mossman,” says Realtor Ida Kelly of Ida Kelly Realtors. “I’ve bought and lived in three of them now.”

Realtor Pam Gentry estimates she has sold 350 of the sought-after homes in a career that has spanned more than 30 years. Her mother still lives in the Mossman-Gladden home the family bought in 1967, little changed but for the replacement of the original pink appliances. Today, Gentry lives with her own family in Stardust Skies cul-de-sac community near Pennsylvania and Hendrix. She can recall walking to Sandia High School in the early 1970s, passing an army of tractors and pavers as hundreds of Mossman-Gladden homes marched eastward on the then-vacant East Mesa.

The largest grouping of Mossman-Gladden homes comprise several neighborhoods generally between Candelaria to Osuna and Wyoming to San Mateo, said Gentry.

Mossman Jr. credits his father’s success to the high quality but unpretentious, livable homes he built, as well as an uncanny knack for keeping track in his mind of logistics, crew schedules, development details, and a thousand other bits of information. He was a savvy businessman, and he expected the best work from his employees.

“He always said ‘You can’t supervise it if you can’t do it,'” said Mossman. “He had to be completely satisfied before he’d put his name on it. If someone came to him looking for a job as a carpenter, dad would hand him a framing square and see how he did with it.”

Various Mossman-Gladden crews specialized in all aspects of homebuilding except the electrical work, including building all cabinets, milling their own door frames, hand-nailing all timber and shingles even after the availability of the nail gun, and framing their own pitched roofs. The hardwood floors were built atop a two-inch interlocking subfloor. By the late 1960s the family business had expanded into the installation of swimming pools. Presently, the family operates Mossman Enterprises, a company specializing in commercial property development.

“When a load of lumber was delivered, he would hand-select every piece of wood himself,” said Mossman of his father. “We’d go through every single piece of wood, putting different grades in different piles depending on where they would be used in the home.”

The wives came up with color schemes that were quite different than the white-painted walls found elsewhere in Albuquerque.

“Pastels were popular in the 1960s,” said Realtor Gentry. “The kitchens and baths had unusual colors – pink and grey, blue and yellow, and lavender.”

Ample attention was paid to storage, privacy and yard size.

“We never did grandiose designs,” said Mossman. “These homes were not cute and they were not trendy. These were homes where people raised their families.”

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