The Whittlesey House, home of the Albuquerque Press Club
201 Highland Park Circle SE, Albuquerque, NM 87102
The Whittlesey House was designed by architect Charles Whittlesey and built as his family residence in 1903 on the western edge of the Highland east of Albuquerque. It is a three-story frame structure designed after a Norwegian villa. Low-pitch roofs with exposed log fronting, rough log-cut facades and a wide porch, which surrounds its eastern rooms, characterize the house.
For the Whittlesey family this rustic and rough-texture structure was, no doubt, a change in lifestyle from their previous Chicago residence. It stood, at that time, virtually alone on the Highland — the town not having grown in that direction. There was no vegetation or trees in the area. The view east to the Sandias and west to the town, river, and volcanoes was unobstructed.
Of the Whittlesey family, only the two daughters, Enid and Beatrice are alive today. The following are excerpts from correspondence with Enid Whittlesey. They provide some insight into the family lifestyle.
“The Rattlesnake’ — I came from San Francisco with a French governess soon after you (Enid) had your accident, and returned before June 1904. It was while I was there in Albuquerque that Austin (Whittlesey’s son) shot the snake. You were living in the big log house on the edge of the mesa. The living room was sixty feet (actual size) long with an immense fireplace with log stumps on the hearth where we used to crack nuts in the evening, or make candy and tell stories. There were great many large easy chairs, Indian rugs, huge baskets and pottery, making it cozy although it was so large. Surrounding this room on three sides was a ten-foot veranda. It was all very beautiful with a marvelous view.
I saw a huge rattlesnake lying across the beams, head raised, mouth wide open with a forked tongue lashing in and out, and the poor little bird, not a foot away, trying to keep it from her nest. I immediately called the family. Edie (Whittlesey) was down sewing, and Austin had just come in and still had his cowboy hat on. He couldn’t have been much past eleven, if he was even that, but he had manly ways, and felt his responsibilities, his father being away from home a great deal. He naturally took the lead, got his gun and shot the snake at the first aim; then he skinned it and found four of the bird’s eggs inside.
The Xmas before (1903) my horse jumped over the fence opposite the University, I grabbed the saddle went over and I was dragged a block with my foot in the stirrup. Dad on a fast horse met us near the big bar (a stable Whittlesey built below the house structure.). He started carrying me up the hill. ‘I am all right, I can walk.’
For a while the plumbing was not in and my mother had to dump the buckets on the cobblestones away from the house. Nothing grew around the house — no trees. Below the hill toward the University was a tiny park – green.”
In 1908 the Whittleseys sold to Theodore S. Woolsey, Jr., who owned the house for the next twelve years. Of Woolsey, nothing is known except that for part of these years, he was Assistant District Forest Ranger USFS. Early photos suggest that he added the addition to the south side of the house and framed out the northwest corner of the main porch. Records show that in 1916 he leased the house to Mr. Andros, President of Whitney Hardware, and in 1917 to Mr. Raynolds, President of the First National Bank.
Albuquerque was known nationwide at this time for its good climate, conducive to the treatment of certain diseases. Located on the Highland near the house were two sanitariums. Indications are that Woolsey leased the house, with its wide porches and open areas, to many people who came to this city for convalescent reasons. One particular nurse who came West with a patient and stayed on to become head nurse at the Albuquerque Sanitarium, passed the house each day on her way to work She informed a suitor that if he bought the ‘log’ house she would marry him. Arthur B. Hall bought the house from Woolsey in 1920 and she married him. Clifford Hall, A.B.’s wife, lived in and eventually owned the house during the next forty years. It was ‘home’ to her more than to any family prior to or after her ownership. She brought the house through periods of extensive remodeling and interior style changes.
During the twenties the Halls were owners and proprietors of Hail’s Royal Pharmacy, corner of Gold and Second. They kept the interior of the house predominantly Indian – much as Whittlesey had done. Navajo rugs covered the rough wood floors; the shelves lined with pottery by Maria, Tonita, and Santa; Mexican furniture was common and wrought iron lights used when gas was added. Early New Mexico artists, such as Hogner, Redin and Van Hesler, were welcomed to the house, often painting and working on the wide porch The Halls also collected Chinese furniture, some pieces having been left in the house by earlier lessees who had died there. Much of the Chinese and American Indian furniture is still in the family today.
In 1930 Clifford was divorced from A.B. Hall. By 1935, she was remarried to Herbert McCallum, but this too would end in divorce in 1938. As a source of income during these years, she would rent out portions of the house. The south porch was framed out and part of the first level was sealed off to make a separate apartment The original stable was renovated and added to, making it an apartment complex. An additional apartment was built adjacent to it. As new building materials were introduced, Clifford resurfaced the interior walls of the house. ‘Whittlesey’s rough wood and burlap surfaces were covered by celutex, plaster and wood planking.
By the middle forties Clifford McCallum was working for Vanlandingham Studios, first as a seamstress and eventually, owner. During these years the rough wood floors were resurfaced with oak strip flooring. Knotty pine siding was introduced to some wall surfaces. An earlier color scheme of gold and red was accentuated through new furniture and draperies. Marble-topped European furniture pieces fill the main room. This, of all the rooms in the house, was the visually richest. The immense lava rock fireplace, the filled bookshelves lining the walls, and the rustic hark wall surfaces were contrasted against the golds and reds of the floor, furniture, draperies, and incidentals.
The Highland Park ‘log’ house was a show place during the thirties, forties, and fifties. Clifford McCallum spent a great deal of her time, money and energy in maintaining the house and its surroundings. She opened her home to many people, among them William Lovelace, who brought his international guests to view the house. The Mayo brothers, whose clinic is known worldwide, were frequent visitors. William Keleher, Clyde Tingley and even Clinton Anderson, in his early political years, were friends and visitors to the house.
In 1960 Clifford McCallum sold the house. Her increasing age, the extensive upkeep on the structure and numerous other reasons contributed to her decision. Zeta Mu Zeta House Corp. of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity purchased the house. The structure with it many rooms and apartment-like situation suited the fraternity well. Little information was available about the fraternity’s activities, their members having moved elsewhere, inadequate fraternity records, etc. The fraternity sold the house in 1966 to John T. Roberson, who leased the structure.
The Albuquerque Press Club purchased the Whittlesey House in the seventies.
Charles F. Whittlesey, Architect
Charles Frederick Whittlesey was born on March 10, 1867 in Alton, Illinois. He studied architecture in Chicago under Louis Sullivan, whose influences can be seen in Whittlesey’s later concrete structures in California. The extent of friendship between Whittlesey and Frank Lloyd Wright, who also worked in Sullivan’s office during this time period, is unknown. But, the expertise that Whittlesey was to later gain in reinforced concrete in California, prior to its extensive use by Wright, suggests that the two friends shared information when their paths again crossed in California.
In 1891 (age 24) Whittlesey began his own practice. Within this decade, he married his first wife, Edith May, and began to raise his family — two sons, Harold and Austin and two daughters, Enid and Beatrice. He made his home in Riverside, a suburb of Chicago.
By 1900 (age 33) the Santa Fe Railroad, in recognizing Whittlesey’s originality and talent, appointed him chief architect in charge of hotels and stations. Thus, in 1901 he came to Albuquerque, New Mexico to supervise the construction of the Alvarado Hotel. This hotel was one of his most noted works, with its mission style and pueblo Indian motif, characteristic of railroad structures extending to and through California. During these early years of the century, Whittlesey conducted his business from Albuquerque, as might be noted by a classified ad appearing in the Albuquerque Journal Democrat during the first half of May 1902:
“Architect, Charles F. Whittlesey, Main off Albuquerque, Branch off Chicago, El Paso, Los Angeles, Patronage solicited all over the southwest. Wide experience to all kinds of building.”
Whittlesey’s family arrived in Albuquerque on May 8, 1902, just three days prior to the opening of the Alvarado Hotel.
‘Architect Whittlesey is happy for another reason besides the opening of the new hotel. His wife and children arrived yesterday from Coronado Beach.”
The family residence, it seems, would always be a distance from Charles Whittlesey’s active concerns. While the family resided in Albuquerque, 1902 to 1905 and possible as late as 1908, he was active supervising the construction of Harvey Hotels at Merced, Bakersfield, and Cochran, California; Trinidad, Colorado; Raton, New Mexico, and Shawnee, Kansas. It was in 1902, in Albuquerque, that he designed two structures in log and stone. The first of these was the El Tovar hotel at the Grand Canyon, a design still recognized today. The other was his Albuquerque residence, the structure covered by this survey.
By 1905 Charles Whittlesey was spending most of his time in Los Angeles. During these years, he observed, studied and tested the principles of reinforced concrete until he became convinced of its value as a building material. In Los Angeles, he designed and directed the construction of the Philharmonic Auditorium (1905) and soon afterwards, the Hunington Hotel in Pasadena (originally Hotel Wentworth). The Philharmonic Auditorium was designed with cantilevered concrete balconies (max. cantilever 28’ and concrete bowed beams (max. span112’). The Hunington Hotel used cellular concrete construction consisting of 6” bearing walls at each room partition, continuous floor slabs and no furred ceiling space. For their day, they were bold and innovative uses of reinforced concrete.
In 1906 Whittlesey went to San Francisco to assist in its reconstruction after the earthquake. The Pacific Building (still standing today at 421 Market, the southwest corner of Market and 4th SL), a ten-story concrete structure, is an example of his work there. His expertise in reinforced concrete was well noted by 1908, both in the many buildings that bore his name and in the various writings and expositions he wrote.
The Whittlesey family followed Charles from Albuquerque to Los Angeles and San Francisco. They lived there through 1920. Charles conducted his practice from the Pacific Building through 1912 and then from his residence. In 1912 his first wife Edith divorced him. He later married Mabel. His son Austin studied under him and later became an architect; Harold became a structural engineer, both collaborating on many designs built on the West Coast. Of Whittlesey’s life and work beyond this date, little information was available at the time of this writing.
For the record, the following four buildings designed by Whittlesey are listed:
In Los Angeles, the Mayflower Hotel (1926-27); the residence of Mrs. Bartlett; the Whittlesey Residence (corner of Pico Blvd. and St. Andrews Place (unknown if still existent); and the Green Hotel in Pasadena.
One final comment on Charles Whittlesey, taken from an article after his death on January 1, 1941 at the age of 73, might give some insight into his character:
“John B. Lyman, a Los Angeles architect who was once associated with him, sums up the character and stature of the man: ‘Whittlesey was a man of genius and very colorful character. He had no patience with carelessness, either in design or construction. Be was relentless in his supervision of concrete work.. There were many who did not understand him — as is often the case with great men. He was the type of person with whom you could be completely out of patience and yet love him deeply at the same tune. No one, however; could ever question his sincerity of purpose; honest convictions regarding the virtues of reinforced concrete or his rare ability to design and use it. “
Information used in this article was provided by MaryLou Heaphy, a lifelong Albuquerque Resident, and daughter of Clifford McCallum. Ms. Heaphy grew up in the Whittlesey House and has vivid memories of its colorful history.