La Placita Restaurant, Albuquerque, NM (History)

The Ambrosio Armijo House was built between 1880 and 1882 of adobe as a store and house complex. It originally consisted of two square shaped buildings with pitched and gabled roofs joined by a small structure or passageway in the center. The Sanborn Insurance maps of 1891 and 1931 shows that the building has undergone several renovations, additions and razzings over the years according to the functions that the building was serving at the time.

In the beginning the store was connected by a frame walkway to Casa Armijo. When the northwestern portion of Casa Armijo was razed or collapsed, the two buildings became more independent.

At one time the store had a New Albuquerque style wooden false front which is clearly visible in photographs taken in 1879. Casa Armijo was designed in the classic placita (little plaza) style, developed for defense against raiding by nomadic Native Americans.

Between 1908 and 1924 the southwest extensions of Casa Armijo had either fallen into ruins or been razed. The 1931 map shows only the west and south sides of the original structure remaining. The current northeast and east sides of the building are additions or restorations made in the 1940’s.

The 1872 New Mexico Territorial ordinance required county commissioners to function as a school board and Ambrosio Armijo lent the use of the existing south wing of Casa Armijo for use as a school building for 5 years until a permanent school was built.

According to Old Town Lore, the walnut staircase and the tiny nonfunctional second story of the store were built for the wedding of his daughter Teresa to Dr. John Symington of Maryland. It seems that Teresa had a beautiful wedding gown with a long train which could not be suitably displayed in any available building. Rather than displease his daughter, Ambrosio ordered the beautiful staircase, long enough to display the gown, and built the room at the top of the stairs so that she could make a grand entrance down the stairs and across the plaza to the church for the marriage ceremony.

The zaguan (carriage way) leading to the present day shops at the rear of the restaurant bears the date of 1855 and was the center for tourism back in the 1950s.

Nelda Sewell bought the decaying and partially ruined Casa de Armijo in 1930. Back then, the building was known as the Don Ambrosia Armijo store and home. With the help of some friends, Matt Pearce and Bill Lumpkins, they restored the old building and converted several of the rooms into studio apartments. A portion of it was opened as a restaurant around 1935 and was run by a couple of University of New Mexico alums, named Schaeffer and Rogers.

In 1939, the restaurant closed its doors and was once again put up for sale. It was reopened again in 1940, and grew from the original one room operation until it eventually took over the entire Casa de Armijo.

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