It seems the park service intends to remove the parking lot we use, replacing it with grass. This is a really big deal to us and, we believe, to the greater City of Albuquerque.
What the parking lot provides:1. Quite regularly there are events at the Hotel Parq Central, in the park itself, or at the APC that already fill the surrounding streets after having filled the parking lot.
2. EDO increased the parking density significantly. Existing businesses on Central already regularly fill the street parking on Elm, extending around the corner onto Gold in both directions.
3. Weddings in the park regularly use the parking at the top of the hill for the wedding party.
4. The historical nature of this road through the park continues but, will be damaged. Historically the road (now parking lot) was used by men to show off their cars, it still is used that way today. Historically the road was used to provide a view of the park, it still is.
5. The city, in the 1970's, eliminated the portion of Elm St. that extended Southward through the park, reducing our available parking significantly. At that time they (the city) agreed to slightly widen the eastern portion of Highland Park Circle (which they did) to provide some additional parking. This did not fully offset the parking they removed, it was a compromise.
What the APC provides to the city:
The APC, in the historic Whittlesey House, has fulfilled a variety of unique community uses in the past, and continues to fulfill many of the historic uses of the Highland Park .
When listening to the stories of Mary-Lou Heaphy (as a child she grew up in the Whittlesey House) one learns of the rich history of both the Whittlesey House and the park (the park was designed by Mayor Tingley in cooperation with Mary-Lou's mother Ms McCallum). She speaks of the people and their interpersonal interactions, of the music and the relaxing times, and of the children at play. Today families and communities are different but the importance of community remains.
There is a strong and unique bond between the park and the Whittlesey House. The story is, Mrs. M., the then owner of the Whittlesey House, donated the land that encompasses the park to the city, as a park, back when her friend Clyde Tingley was the Mayor. The park and the Whittlesey have, ever since then, been intertwined in their activities.
The Highland Park was, and is, about more than children.
The Whittlesey House played a significant role in the lives of many, and functions of the park in the past, it also does today. The Albuquerque Press Club works hard to maintain that tradition. As the House was a draw on residents throughout Albuquerque 90 years ago; it continues to be today. The Whittlesey House was a hub for social and cultural interaction 90 years ago; it remains that today.
We members of the Albuquerque Press Club oftentimes refer to the TV show “Cheers” when describing our club. For the regulars, it is a place “where everyone knows your name”. Yes, we are “Cheers”, yet we are so much more.
The Whittlesey House provides a space for community growth in partnership with Highland Park.
Weddings are held in Highland Park with the reception at the Whittlesey House (recently we had a wedding in our front yard, again with the reception at the Whittlesey House). For those who attend these events the Whittlesey House continues to be a unique social and cultural venue.
Adult birthday parties, anniversaries, weddings and receptions, wakes: all these (and more) regularly happen in our clubhouse. Our layout and policies allow a type and level of interaction not found in other venues around town. Special events are encouraged to bring their own food or provide catered foods.
The Whittlesey House continues to be a venue for regular gatherings.
A Toastmasters group meets in our boardroom bi-weekly. A motor-scooter group meets in the boardroom and poolroom weekly. A spelunker group meets monthly in the clubhouse. We’ve had a Volkswagen group meeting a dart club, neighborhood association meetings, and other regular meetings held in our clubhouse. We continue to welcome to these types of events into our clubhouse.
The Whittlesey House continues to bring art and community together. Mary-Lou talked of the artists on the front porch. Come to our clubhouse on warm nights in the spring; summer; fall; you will find groups of people sitting at the tables on our front porch interacting and a rotation of art hanging in our shared spaces.
Music was and continues to be a significant attraction at the park, the Whittlesey House in particular.
We host a Ukulele Club meeting in our front room on alternating Thursdays; on alternating Tuesdays we host a Big Band Rehearsal and a Rockabilly practice session in our front room. We also have DJ events in our front room. The variety of musical events come and go as peoples’ wants and needs change. We’ve had “garage bands” of professional adults who just want a place to play their music for themselves and their friends. We’ve hosted open-mic nights for musicians who wish to participate in an evolving musical scene. We’ve hosted aspiring music groups who want a place to practice and play for their friends, while hoping to use our venue as an entryway into larger venues.
Sometimes it’s just a pianist who plays the piano, or a small group of friends playing their guitars.
In the past, we’ve held music events on our patio, or on the front porch playing into our front yard and Highland Park. These are always popular and well attended.
Table games continue to live in the park at the Whittlesey House. Visitors to our clubhouse find groups playing rummicube, scrabble, and other board and table games. Not so visible are the twice weekly Bridge games in the card room.
The Whittlesey House is the location of annual fund-raising events for a large groups of locals who contribute to a variety of charitable causes. They hold a large party for their members, providing food and entertainment, asking for contributions from their group in return. Our involvement consists of providing an historic and appropriate space for their events and the type of interactions it requires for these organizations to succeed and grow.
After 107 years, the Whittlesey House is still a center of community activity and is the most effective part of the Highland Park in its mission to develop and promote a sense of community.
As the Albuquerque community has grown up around the house, the community services provided by it have become both less significant and more important. We offer a venue not available elsewhere. We offer a sense of belonging to a combined stable and transitory community of individuals and groups.
We continue to be a Press Club, affiliated with the National Press Club but we are so much more. Our membership consists of Professional Press, Associate Media (affiliated with the press but not directly involved), and Social (unconnected to the press). Our mission has expanded beyond our initial statement of “Promote fellowship and understanding among men and women engaged in journalism and its allied fields; to sponsor such cultural educational and social activities as may promote good fellowship and professional growth among members...” to include those outside the journalism fields.
The APC is a community building, self-supporting, historically relevant business. Of course we struggle with the task of fulfilling our mission. We are a non-profit, depending on members’ donations of time, expertise, and money on a volunteer basis. In addition to the substantial donations from our membership, the services we provide to our community are funded by our membership dues and sales at our bar. The cost of maintaining our 107 year old historic treasure is substantial. We are not eligible for grants (at least none we have found) or government funding. We aren’t eligible for tax credits available to for-profit business and local personal residences in historic buildings. Maintaining the substantial services to our community requires expensive maintenance of our historic clubhouse, and that requires a successful business model. Unlike the city owned portion of the Highland Park, which can continue for years with little use while relying on taxpayer funding for maintenance, our portion requires constant and continuing use by substantial numbers of people to fund the maintenance of our historic structure and our community programs.
Parking is critical to our success in maintaining the contributions of the Whittlesey House. Though some may say the parking lot is underutilized, I would suggest that it is the most utilized part of the park and is critical to the success of the entire park, including the Press Club. Our community events regularly fill the parking lot, oftentimes spilling onto the surrounding streets. Walk-able communities are great in concept but in reality, people drive to community spaces. If we define community as being a very small geographic area, then little parking may be needed. If we define community more broadly - considering differences in human needs, wants, desires, and interactions - travel and parking are critical to creating successful communities.
The Whittlesey House today more than ever hosts a unique and valuable community presence. The very existence of the Albuquerque Press Club, the longest resident of the Whittlesey House, is testament to that fact. The Albuquerque Press Club and the City of Albuquerque share a common goal in maximizing the fulfillment of community needs within Highland Park area. We ask that our substantial, continuing contribution to the many communities of Albuquerque receive the consideration and support from our community that we continue to earn.