Editor’s note: The Journal continues “What’s in a Name?,” a twice a month column in which staff writer Elaine Briseño will give a short history of how places in New Mexico got their names.
A pact between three women would eventually become Netherwood Park, a neighborhood known for its unique homes and proximity to the University of New Mexico.
Educators Ada Cutler, Alcinda Morrow and Martha Taylor bought more than 400 acres adjacent to one another in the late-1800s. It was a portion of this property that decades later would become the Netherwood Park community.
The neighborhood is between Interstate 40 and Indian School Road and bordered by the North Diversion Channel on the West and Carlisle Boulevard to the East. Former Netherwood Park board member John Vittal has researched and compiled a history of the subdivision. He said the original vision of the neighborhood never materialized.
“The neighborhood is beyond anyone’s wildest dreams,” he said. “It was supposed to be a bunch of shotgun houses for factory workers where they would be able to walk to work, but that never came to be.”
Instead, many of the neighborhood’s approximately 1,200 residents are staff, students, professors or retirees from the University of New Mexico. There are no cookie-cutter houses either. No major developer built the houses. Vittal said custom homes occupy the lots of Netherwood Park.
As has been written many times in this column, the railroad changed the fate of Albuquerque, which could have remained a mostly rural town dependent on agriculture for its existence. Instead it became an industrial center with multiple professions and trades and plenty of opportunity for success. After the railroad arrived, most people sensed Albuquerque was on the verge of a real estate boom, but the exact location of that boom was a guessing game.
Cutler, who arrived in Albuquerque in 1891 to accept a teaching position at Albuquerque High School, was one of those residents who believed a real estate boom was unfurling, so she took a guess. She walked into the Bernalillo County courthouse on Jan. 14, 1896, slapped down $200 and bought 160 acres of land on the city’s East Mesa, according to a narrative history prepared by Vittal. The land was not far from the recently established UNM.
Cutler convinced fellow educators Morrow, who lived in the same building as Cutler, according to the 1895 city directory, and Taylor, to purchase land adjacent to hers. The women agreed to consult each other before selling their land.
The three women were educated, well-traveled and had led interesting lives before intersecting with one another in Albuquerque. It’s not clear what they planned or hoped to do with the land, but their education and experience may have fostered ambitious dreams.
Cutler, who was born in 1859 in Illinois, had taught in Silver City during its boom period, but left her post there to travel to Mexico City to work as a governess before arriving in Albuquerque.
Morrow hailed from Indiana and is credited with founding UNM’s English department. Before arriving in New Mexico, she taught at the University of Kansas and also in Paraná, Argentina.
Taylor was also a transplant. She came from Ohio and taught English, history and geography, and established UNM’s history department.
The three women were only here a short time before marrying and scattering across the country, but they held onto their land.
It would be Cutler who finally did something with it.
She married Edwin Netherwood in 1900 while living in Denver. The couple moved back to Albuquerque in 1908.
By 1910, the two other women sold their land and Cutler became the owner of it all. The Netherwoods decided to take a shot at making something of it.
A June 21, 1912 story in the Albuquerque Morning Journal talked about Mr. Netherwood’s plans of a “modern suburban residence district” with parks, tennis courts and automobile services nearby. In 1913, according to an ad in the Evening Herald, lots were being sold for $37.50 with a “modern bungalow” for $3,000.
Vittal said the effort was slow going. It would not be until the late-1950s and early 1960s, long after the Netherwoods died, when most of the homes were built.
There were some early takers, though.
There was Daniel Jacob Cook, who was a member and sometimes leader of the city band. He was also a maker of violins and a painter. W.H.H. Walker, a man who made his money mining in Wyoming, purchased a large block of lots in Netherwood in 1913 to build a house and establish a vineyard.
Mexican prize fighter Benny Chavez bought 26 lots there in 1913 saying he “believes in Albuquerque.”
There were even some colorful residents such as the likes of Mr. Frank Ault, proprietor of the Liberty Bar in Old Town. Not to be confused with Frank B. Ault, a World War I soldier and also a resident of Netherwood Park.
According to a Nov. 25, 1928 Albuquerque Journal story, the bar owner was arrested by the feds for bootlegging. Federal prohibition officers raided Ault’s place on Netherwood Park Road and found 100 gallons of whiskey.
But that wasn’t the end for Ault. His case was dismissed on a technicality related to the search warrant. Five years later, Ault was renting out his Netherwood Park home, which had six rooms, a large basement, trees all around, and most importantly, a SHOWER. But if you had dogs or children, forget it. Those weren’t allowed.
Today the neighborhood still has names honoring Cutler and Morrow. After Cutler’s husband died in 1926, she moved into the guest house on their Netherwood Park property and rented out the main house. She lived there until her death in 1937. They are buried side-by-side in Fairview Cemetery.
Curious about how a town, street or building got its name? Email staff writer Elaine Briseño at firstname.lastname@example.org or 505-823-3965 as she continues the monthly journey in “What’s in a Name?”