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Campus News
Your faculty and staff news since 1965
Current Issue: August 25, 2003
Volume 39, Number 3

Preservation equals heritage for UNM planner

By Dan Ware

Joe McKinneyMany New Mexicans view historical preservation as a hobby or a passion. For Joe McKinney it’s more than that, it’s heritage.

McKinney, a planner in UNM’s Department of Facility Planning, preserving historical buildings hits close to home. His home is a piece of history itself.

In 1987, McKinney and his wife Mary put a dream into action and began restoring their Pueblo style home in Albuquerque’s Watson District on 17th Street NW (see photos below.)

Their efforts are the subject of a recent segment on Home and Garden Television’s (HGTV) Restoring America.

During an 18 month period, the McKinneys, along with contractor McHenry and Co. painstakingly restored their home which was entered into the New Mexico State registry of historic places in the mid-1970’s.

The Watson District stretches north from Old Town to Lomas Blvd., including 16th and 17th streets and Chacon place. The area is named after developer Leon Watson who built the McKinney’s residence in 1941 as a model home for the subdivision. Watson’s homes reflected Pueblo style architecture and included use of native materials and craftwork.

The restoration process included rewiring and re-stuccoing the entire residence as well as replacing the original dirt insulated roof. The home’s original vigas and windows were still in good shape and remain as a testament to the care the building received over the years. Apart from the McKinney family, the house had only one other owner since it went on the market.

“The original owners had taken good care of the house, but over time, things begin to need replacement,” McKinney said. “We knew that this house could again become all it was designed to be.”

The project proved arduous especially since the McKinneys chose to keep living in the residence during the operation. Because 37 cubic yards of dirt had to be removed from the roof, plastic sheeting had to cover the ceilings to prevent dirt from falling into the house. Original wiring and plumbing had to be replaced, which meant digging into the adobe walls. The front portal had deteriorated, requiring it to be completely removed and replaced.

The McKinneys left one original feature of the home untouched. Part of the original design featured a bomb shelter, which was ahead of its time in the early 1940’s.

With state approval, the McKinneys added a new garage to the back of the residence and converted the old garage into a kitchen-dining area.

For their efforts, the McKinney’s home earned first place in the 1989 Albuquerque Board of Realtors Historical Home contest and a state Heritage Preservation award in 2002.

McKinney’s passion for historical preservation began at his boyhood home, McKinney, TX, named for ancestor Colin McKinney, one of the Lone Star State’s original settlers. McKinney went on to graduate from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, TX, with a bachelor’s degree in architecture and minors in city planning, urban history and architectural history.

As a planner at UNM for almost 35 years, McKinney has worked to preserve history so new generations can enjoy it. In the early 1970’s when it appeared several campus buildings, including Hodgin Hall might be demolished, McKinney labored to save the buildings because of their historical importance.

McKinney house in 1988 before restoration.



McKinney house in 1989.


McKinney house now.