Home Sweet Hacienda
In Albanys Pine Hills neighborhood, there sits
a mysterious and enchanting community of Depression-era
love the Southwest. Can’t get enough of it. And when I relocated
to this area from Albuquerque, N.M., what I missed most
were green chilies and the peach-pink hue of its landscape—geographically
My first home in that high-desert dream-world was a spunky
short-spired stucco number with curved red tiles like those
captured in photos of Mediterranean domiciles. Tiles were
a main part of the Southwestern-style theme (“Southwestern-style”
being the punch line to a joke that would send me and my
friends into fits of laughter, as it’s a term utilized to
sell the folksy image of the area, even when referring to
a flaw—we had a “Southwestern-style” hole in our wall, for
example). Tiles were inside, outside, on the chimney, on
the floor—and it added to the mythology that the mysterious
region holds its inhabitants in a sort of magical trance.
So, when wandering around my mother’s Pine Hills neighborhood
after moving back, I nearly cried when I stumbled upon an
Albuquerque doppelganger. In this little enclave tucked
behind the Madison Theatre (just one screen back then)—composed
of a mix of Dutch colonial, colonial and Victorian architecture—sat
a whole block filled with my beloved desert dwellings. Those
pastel-colored stucco homes with those red-tiled roofs that
I had left behind welcomed me.
As I was too poor to buy or rent one, I moved to Arbor Hill
and got on with my Northeastern-style life, embedding myself
further by buying a brownstone a few years later. I would
pass those houses occasionally, and others that huddled
in clumps throughout the Albany area, but they were still
as mysterious as the arid region they seemed to migrate
It was through my circle of friends that I came to learn
the history behind those houses, as Dan and Larry Winchester
(Dan of knotworking, the DelMars and Looks Great Sportswear;
Larry of Coal Palace Kings, Crabapple and Looks Great Sportswear)
were descendents of the man who built them. It was their
great uncle Dan H. Winchester, and he named them Winchester
The history behind Dan the elder is full of quirky tales
about a child genius. As a tot, I’m told, he was constantly
inventing and creating new things, and one story has it
that in order to finish a tower he was building in the backyard,
he got on the horn and requested samples from various companies.
His parents were surprised to learn that the building-supply
salesman at their front door was there to see little Danny.
In 1928, Winchester, who was a major part of his family’s
printing business (JB Lyons Co.), embarked on his vision
to create a community of Spanish-inspired bungalows (an
architecture style popular in California, the Southwest
and Florida in the ’20s and ’30s). He bought some undeveloped
land—Hansen and Woodlawn avenues, bordered by South Main
Avenue and Erie Street—laid out 60 sites, and began construction.
He boasts like a proud father in his brochures, which were
created to inform the home-buying public about Winchester
Gables: “On both sides of Woodlawn and Hansen avenues sixty
beautiful bungalows of Spanish architecture with artistic
and unique design are being built with patios, minarets,
quaint outside chimneys, painted shutters and balconies.”
It continues, “There will be no monotone—no monotonous sameness
in that aspect. Each bungalow is refreshingly different
from its neighbor.”
Buyers could choose brick, stucco or wood shingles as their
exterior material, and a smart buyer would choose the sunken
living room option, which created a roomy effect when joined
with the room’s high arched ceilings. Important to those
buying one-story homes, it would seem. (Actually, I know
this. The people I spoke to who have lived in a Winchester
home mentioned this exact feature.)
Scads of wall space is another boasted feature for each
of the six large rooms of the house. For example, under
the Dining Room heading: “As in all high class homes this
room is accessible both from living room and kitchen. Large
pieces of furniture can be placed on either of three walls.
Windows throughout the homes are of steel, equipped with
screens. Radiation located under windows.”
The bedrooms? “Spacious bedrooms are a feature in Winchester
Gables Bungalows. Walls are insulated to insure cool sleeping
quarters in the summer and warmth in winter. Wall decorations
may be had in Texture, Paper, or Paint.”
list goes on and on. Numerous electric outlets, roomy closets—“all
constructed so ingeniously that none of the spaciousness
of the rooms is sacrificed”—additional bedrooms for an added
cost, modern kitchen equipment.
in a beautiful color scheme, has a wainscoting four feet
high of Keene cement,” the booklet says about the kitchen.
“There is a full enameled gas range and spacious built-in
cupboards with sink. Room is provided for Electric Refrigeration
with electrical connection.”
And, leave it to a guy to come up with this, it seems the
basement puts the inferred gleam in Winchester’s eye. “Light,
airy and dry [and] of a height that will permit the construction
of a billiard room, play room, den or maid’s quarters with
bath. . . . A coal bin is conveniently located. Laundry
tubs are furnished with a platform.” And the garage is heated.
These weren’t words intended to simply lure bodies into
houses. Winchester meant them, and proved it by living in
one himself. Three of his four brothers also bought homes
on the block. All in all, 27 homes were built, and the remaining
undeveloped portions were sold off in the ’40s.
What makes this cluster of houses unique today is that they
don’t often exchange hands, which helps keep them unchanged.
Many of the homes still have the wrought-iron lighting fixtures,
steel casement windows, arched doorways and wood-burning
fireplaces, all of which are unusual for homes of this age.
Many of the neighborhood’s houses built in other styles
have been sectioned up, reworked, and would be unrecognizable
to an original owner.
My friend Karen Hudacek bought a Winchester home roughly
five years back, and she was only the fourth person to own
that home. Many of her neighbors have either lived in their
Winchester homes for years or passed them down through the
generations, and if they resemble hers at all, they’ve maintained
much of their initial luster. The arched windows, the arched
doorways, those roofs—they’re all still there, as they were
when a pint of Winchesters lived in them.
Hudacek wasn’t even in the market for a single-family home
when she bought it. But, when it was listed, she leapt at
the opportunity. “They never went on the market,” she says
in explanation of her purchase.
I’m not in the market for a single-family home, either,
but one day I’ll be financially liquid enough to dwell in
one. I wouldn’t even mind a Southwestern-style hole in the