Wells Park is a historic neighborhood located just north of downtown Albuquerque.
Its current boundaries were established in 1979 by the newly formed Wells Park Neighborhood Association, which are 12th St. on the west, Highway 40 on the North, Mountain on the South and First street on the East. The area had been farmed for many centuries by Native people, Spaniards and Mexicans and there was an acequia (irrigation ditch) which traversed part of it. Mountain Road was the main thoroughfare connecting the mountains to the Plaza Vieja (Old Town), where horses and livestock were stabled in order to keep Old Town free from manure.
Toward the end of the 19th century the agricultural landscape began to change when the sawmill was built northwest of 12th and Bellamah (formerly Old Sawmill Road) in 1892 shortly after the railroad came to Albuquerque in 1880. The sawmill became the largest in the Southwest for a time covering 110 acres. Tomas Durán opened his store, La Tienda de la Máquina de Rajar at the corner of 12th and Bellamah and built his home next to it in 1900. Several years earlier, Manuel Garcia built a Victorian home on Mountain Road which he sold to the With family in 1901. Around 1923 they built a grocery store on the corner of Forrester and Mountain.
An electric trolley along 12th street brought workers to the mill from 1904-1927.
In 1927 the area north of Mountain Road to Bellamah Road was incorporated into the City of Albuquerque. Small homes sprung up quickly from 1920-1944—mostly adobe or frame. There were shops sprinkled around the neighborhood to meet the needs of the diverse population: Viviani´s, With´s, Heinz, Charley´s, Knapp Shoe store, auto mechanics, refrigerator repairman, etc. From 1945-1969 the residential area continued to grow along with industrial businesses after the sawmill closed down in 1945.
The Church of the Nazarene, at 6th and Kinley, was the only church in the neighborhood. Some children attended the Fourth Street School, while others went to Lew Wallace Elementary. All went to Jefferson Middle School and Albuquerque High. In their oral histories, the men growing up in the 40s, 50s, and 60s, recounted the wonderful times they had playing in the streets with their friends. Men and woman talked of how friendly the neighbors were. The area which became Wells Park seemed like a small village to them.
In 1951, the park at 6th and Mountain, where men gathered to play horseshoes, was given the name Wells Park in honor of Charles Wells, the City Manager from 1934 to 1952. A Wells Park Recreation Center was established in 1956 which later became the Wells Park Community Center, converted from the Wells Park Fire Station. It was very popular in the late 50s and early 60s with teenagers who loved to dance rock and roll. In 1968 there was a Wells Organization for Recreation and Development which extended up to Old Town. However, the neighborhood now known as Wells Park came from the Wells Park Neighborhood Association Board in 1979.
From 1979 to the present the Wells Park Neighborhood Association Boards have tried to improve the neighborhood and keep it desirable for residential living as well as promoting the adjacent industrial area. In 1979 the WPNA Board tackled the absentee landlord problem, high taxes for low income families, drugs, and gangs. Many of the nearby commercial establishments were causing air and groundwater pollution. There were missing sidewalks and street lamps and a need for beautification. Subsequent boards in the 80s and 90s and into the 2000s dealt with some of these problems. A real victory in 2007 was the closing of Ponderosa Products which took 20 years.
In recent years the Well’s Park Neighborhood Association has facilitated several tree planting programs, added missing sidewalks and xeriscaping along Bellamah, hired local artists to paint murals along the railroad tracks and with the help of Albuquerque’s 1% for the Arts installed the large roadrunner sculpture at 6th and I-40.