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U.S. Historic Courthouse

By Edith Cherry and James See – May 22, 2020

Previous Names: 1930 Federal Building; Old Courthouse Building  

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421 Gold Ave. SW, Albuquerque, NM 87102

 Access: (505) 348-2000 | Security screening is strictly enforced.

Special arrangements needed to access historic Courtroom.

This 1930 courthouse was the first one built in Albuquerque that acknowledged a southwest architectural heritage by using earth-toned exterior materials and artistic details taken from Native American motifs. This six-story, simple volume, was designed to be viewed from all four sides

The architectural formula for higher buildings of this period followed architect Louis Sullivan’s approach that distinguished base, shaft, and cornice. The two-story base is tan glazed terracotta tile atop a tan limestone base. The shaft is faced with glazed brick in an unusual pattern, while the cornice is marked with an eave decorated with brackets and circles, a red tile roof, and a cupola with a gold-leafed dome.

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The main entry on Gold Avenue is a two-story limestone arch with bronze doors. Above the arch are two terra cotta panels, matching the brick color, depicting a Native American thunderbird motif.


The motif is also used in decorative tiles throughout the building, along with other traditional native symbols and designs found on ancient pottery and petroglyphs in the Southwest.

Other important artwork includes the WPA-era murals in the building.

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The sixth floor courtroom is the most significant interior space. It has been restored to its original design after having been divided into office spaces when new courtrooms were built nearby. The pottery light fixtures are of special interest. On the exterior, the arched windows signal a special space.


 Completed: 1930
Architect: James A. Wetmore
Contractor(s): seeking info*
Remodel Completed: 1981
Remodel Architect: Channell Graham Architecture, PA
Remodel Contractor: seeking info*


New Mexico Society of Architects, Award of Honor for the Restoration of U.S, District Court, 1981

Historic Registers:

National Register of Historic Properties:  #80002533 (1980)
NM State Register of Cultural Properties:  #480 (12/3/1976)

Public Art:

Entry Lobby Mural “The Rebellion of 1680” (“The Pueblo Revolt”) by Loren Mozley.
Sixth Floor Lobby Mural: “Justice Tempered with Mercy” by Emil Bisttram.

Learn More:  

2012 Dodge, William A., “Historic and Architectural Resources of Central Albuquerque, 1880-1970.” National Register of Historic Places, Multiple Property Documentation Form:


1978    Bergman, Edna Heatherington, The Fate of Architectural Theory in Albuquerque: Buildings of Four Decades, 1920-1960, Master of Architecture thesis, University of New Mexico.







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