The Whittlesey House was designed by architect Charles Whittlesey and built on his family’s property in 1903 on the western edge of Albuquerque’s Highlands. It is a three-story frame structure that was designed after a Norwegian villa. Low pitch roofs with exposed log fronting, rough logcut façades and a wide porch surrounding its eastern rooms characterize the house.
For many years, the house stood virtually alone on the Highland hill, Albuquerque not having grown in that direction. There was no vegetation or trees near the house, so the view east to the Sandias and west to the town and river was unobstructed.
The Albuquerque Morning Journal described the house in an article titled “Bungalow Barracks” on March 24, 1903. It reads:
Up on the very first of the foothills that start the rise to the mesa and with a view that is unsurpassed in the Rio Grande valley, Bungalow Barracks is rapidly becoming one of the most autocratic bits of architecture in New Mexico. Charles F. Whittlesey, who owns the place, and for whose clerk and draughtsmen it is being built, is here just now to give his personal supervision to the structure, and it soon will be ready for the architects to take possession. The barracks is even more attractive than the plans would have indicated. There are no smooth boards in the place. It is all rough pine logs with the bark on, and it is built with the fewest number of nails possible. Whenever it is possible, the logs are put together with wooden bolts, and there are all the picturesque features of the old-time log cabin with a whole lot of modern conveniences. For instance, the fireplace in the living room, made in the roughest possible style of the unhewn black rock from the lava bed over east, is reinforced by a very modern and well-built steam heating plant so that one may have the picturesque without any of the usual discomforts of a frosted back. This living room is a marvel of light in spite of the low ceilings and deep windows. These windows face the four winds and command the best views of the valley that can be had.
The dining room looks down over the town, and the valley and the sleeping rooms are all light and airy. Around it all is a deep veranda, built of rough logs like the rest, and the most attractive feature of the house for here is the promise of cool summer days when the valley below is roasting and of equally comfortable summer nights. It is going to be the very swellest little clubhouse in New Mexico and will be one of the sights. The barn-like house is built of rough logs, and it will give room for a dozen of the hill ponies that the architects use for their outings.
In 1908, the Whittlesey sold to Theodore S. Woolsey Jr., who owned the house for the next twelve years. Some early photos suggest that Theodore added the addition to the south side of the house and framed out the northwest corner of the main porch. Historical records also show that he leased the house to Mr. Andros, president of Whitney Hardware, in 1916.
Albuquerque was known nationwide for its good climate, which was believed to be conducive to treating certain diseases such as tuberculosis. Located on the Highland near the house was the Albuquerque Sanitarium. The head nurse at the sanitarium passed the house each day on her way to work, and she quickly fell in love with the place, so much that 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. During those years, she brought the house through periods of extensive remodeling and changes of the interior’s style.
Not all was well in Clifford’s life, though, as her success in love often seemed to fall short. 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, and an additional apartment was built adjacent to it.
During the following years, Clifford resurfaced the interior walls of the house. Celotex, plaster and wood planking covered the building’s rough wood and burlap surfaces. By the middle of the ’40s, the rough wood floors were resurfaced with oak strip flooring. Knotty pine siding was introduced to some wall surfaces. The colors of gold and red were accentuated through new furniture and draperies. Marble-topped European furniture pieces filled the main room. This, of all the rooms in the house, was visually the richest.
The immense lava rock fireplace, the filled bookshelves lining the walls and the rustic hark wall surfaces were contrasted against the floor’s gold and reds, furniture, draperies and incidentals.
During the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s, the Highland Park “log” house was a showplace, and Clifford spent a great deal of time in her house and its surroundings.
In 1960, Clifford sold the house. Her increasing age, the extensive upkeep on the structure and numerous other reasons contributed to her decision.
The Zeta Mu Zeta House Corporation of the Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity purchased the house as soon as it was put up for sale. The building’s apartment-like situation suited the fraternity’s interests perfectly. Eventually, though, the fraternity moved closer to the University of New Mexico. They sold the house in 1966 to John T. Roberson, who leased the structure for the
next several years. The Albuquerque Press Club eventually purchased the Whittlesey House in the 1970s.
This post was updated from the 2002 version and is an excerpt from my book Haunted Albuquerque.