Article in The Albuquerque Tribune: A castle in the Duke City

Everybody knows where the castle is going to be.

The claim comes from James Martinez as he glances out the front windows of his Fastsigns business, admiring what has been a Downtown curiosity for months.

Across the way, jammed into the southeast corner of Second Street and Lead Avenue Southwest like a grown tree into a flowerpot, is the structure inspiring his statement: a three-story, 8,000-square-foot home-to-be with towers and a mansard roof hinting more of a European castle than a Duke City dwelling.

“Everybody who passes by goes, `Uh, what is it?’ ” says Martinez. “We look at it every day. Everybody thinks it’s pretty cool.”

So cool, in fact, that a change to his business cards might be coming to capitalize on the behemoth’s visibility.

“As soon as the castle gets built, we’ll change them so they say, `Across from the castle,'” Martinez says.

The “castle” belongs to Gertrude Zachary, a successful local jewelry manufacturer and antiques dealer, but she prefers to call it her dream house.

“I spent almost a year with architects going back and forth,” said Zachary, who started her business venture in 1974 with jewelry production at her Second Street facility. “I spent a lot of time in Europe, and it just reminds me of Europe. It is things I’ve seen that I put together.”

The home will have gargoyles, an antique door from Chicago’s Kellogg Mansion and stained-glass windows from a 150-year-old church in Pittsburgh.

“I’ve always wanted to build a house,” Zachary said.

But one 20-year Albuquerque resident wonders, why there? Of all the places to build a home, why on a seemingly small lot within earshot of train tracks and rumbling engines?

“It just looks out of place, to be tactful,” says Jeanine Ingber, 53, as she walked a Downtown sidewalk. “It’s just really gaudy. It doesn’t fit in with New Mexico architecture.”

But Zachary wouldn’t have it anywhere else.

“I love Downtown, probably because I was raised in bigger cities,” Zachary said, noting the home will have dark gray stucco and a metal roof when finished next fall.

It’s also convenient having the house next door to her antique store.

It’s one of three shops she opened in the city following the success of her original jewelry manufacturing operation, which still thrives down the street from her new home.

That means an easy, five-minute car drive to work at two of her four operations, she said.

And as far as the train noise goes, she has this to say: “I’ve lived Downtown before. You always get used to all the noise. After a while you don’t even hear them.”

Rob Dickson, the man who launched the Lofts at Albuquerque High, points out the house is a powerful step toward further developing Downtown.

“It’s good because someone’s investing their dollar and is wiling to live there,” he said. “Downtown is inching in the right direction, but obviously there’s always room for more momentum.”

The momentum is already building. About 400 new residential units are coming in the next two years to the area near Zachary’s new home, according to an official with the city’s planning department.

“With this house and with those other two blocks developed . . . this will be a very strong housing area,” said Richard Dineen, planning director with the city. “It’s emerging as a little housing district.”

The house is the largest in its zone, Dineen said. Approving the permits, despite the home’s distinct appearance, required no special notification of neighbors or unusual reviews.

“I think it’s going to be a lot of fun,” he said. “People love this kind of stuff. It’s different and it’s different for Albuquerque.”

FACTBOX:

Local businesswoman Gertrude Zachary expects her 8,000 square-foot home at 414 Second St. S.W. to be finished in the fall.

The home, which will have gargoyles and is inspired by her trips to Europe, already has locals talking. Here’s what a few neighbors think.

Who: Stevan Gutierrez, 19, who lives in neighborhood.

Quote: “It doesn’t really fit in. It’s just different, I guess.”

Who: Sandy Hill, owner of Studio Hill Design Ltd., a business near the home.

Quote: “I think all infill is good, especially down here. For us, it will help people find our office. Take the Lead exit. Turn left at the castle. Landmarks are always good.”

Who:Jon Wilkins, front-desk employee with Los Chileros de Nuevo Mexico, a Southwestern cuisine business across the street from the house.

Quote: “I was surprised it’s a residence Downtown. The castle could be a start for new development. It’s great.”

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