Detective DAN hits the streets (and goes to the park)

Answering reader questions on lighting, medians, diamonds, and more
Mysterious metal rings
At Third and Cromwell in Barelas.

Alert Reader Steve wrote in to ask about the "little steel loops" embedded in the sidewalk at Cromwell and Third (hoops we've also spotted at Iron and Third and across Seventh from Café Lush). 

"They almost look like something you would tie a horse to, but the concrete is more like 1960s, so I don't know what they were for," he noted.

Theories abound, to say the least.

"They used to chain criminals to the ground," wrote Scott Cherry on the Albuquerque Memories Facebook page, where we posed the question.

It's a lock-down alright, but for trailers, countered Anthony Arthur Aragon. Or newspaper stands, added Mike Garcia and Robert Adams.

Matthew Schmader, a UNM professor and careful student of local history, figured they could have been used to tie down some sort of awning at an adjacent business. (The building at Third and Cromwell used to be a bakery and was a favorite of Sacred Heart Catholic School students back in the day, according to Julia Archibeque-Guerra, who was once one of those students herself.) Schmader even wondered about some kind of connection to the Santa Fe Railroad's nearby locomotive repair shops - now known as the Rail Yards. 

But Richard Flint, the co-author of a definitive history of the shops (DAN, 5/13/21), shot that idea down.

"We can be all but certain that employees of the shops once lived or had businesses on the properties in question and would have had appropriate hardware and skills to place the rings," Flint said. Still, "we doubt that the rings were directly associated with the locomotive repair shops."

The city, for its part, came up empty: "You may have stumped us," spokesman Johnny Chandler said.

In the end, however, a plurality of Facebook commentators agreed with Alert Reader Steve's initial thought: They're for horses, plain and simple. That seems to be the conventional wisdom about some very similar rings in Portland as well.

Thinking an extremely local angle was called for, we knocked on the door closest to one of the rings. It was answered by Brian Josephson, who it turns out knew nothing about local history but plenty about the underlying material, having worked as an estimator for a concrete repair company in Des Moises, Iowa, where he lives when not visiting Albuquerque.

The concrete in which the rings are anchored is definitely older, he said. Whether it's old enough for the horse and buggy days is another question, however, but given the right conditions, it seems plausible enough for him to throw a tentative vote to the horse tie-down theory.

"I'm at least confident enough to be quoted by a news organization 1,000 miles from my house," he said with a laugh.

Diamonds in the sidewalk
The diamonds are placed on the Central sidewalks between First and Eighth.
Alert Reader James was also curious about a detail underfoot.

"What's the story behind the sidewalks on Central Downtown, with the alternating colors and the artistic diamond squares?" he wondered.

This much we can say for sure about the diamonds: They're old. They are clearly visible on the first Google Street View images of Central, which date back to 2008. And at least two Downtown stalwarts - including OT Circus's Victoria Van Dame and Steve Vatoseow, whose family has owned Lindy's Diner for decades - told us they didn't know when or why they were installed. The city didn't know either, and a search of old newspapers turned up nothing.

The best theory we've got comes from Suzanne Sbarge, the executive director of 516 Arts: "I'm not sure, but I think it was a public art project from the 1980s or 1990s," she said.

The city's Jonny Chandler is betting it was a beautification effort:

"I think a lot of people would say it looks better than if you just had standard cement," he said. "It's attractive. It calls out a district in a way." 

Alert Reader James, meanwhile, would seem to agree: "I love walking along Central in the morning and noticing the different patterns inside the featured squares," he said. 
Medians: A brief history
At Lomas and Twelfth.
Alert Reader Jeff wanted to know more about the origin story of those concrete dividers in the middle of the road: "I've always been curious as to the history behind the medians that exist in parts of Downtown."

He wondered specifically about the narrow curb-like median at the corner of Lomas and Twelfth (above) and the wider concrete oval at Kit Carson and Alcalde.

Chandler said medians tend to come about for one of two reasons.

"One, it's beautification," he said, noting that - where possible - they include landscaping like small trees. "Two, it's a bit of a traffic control measure."

City planners install medians to separate opposing traffic and define turn lanes. They may also be added to safeguard pedestrians and cyclists, particularly along the Bicycle Boulevard.

"If you have a real thin median like you do on the east side of Twelfth and Lomas, it's because we're accommodating turn lanes," he added. "If you continue westbound, the medians get a little wider whenever you don't have a turn lane that's necessary to access side road traffic." 
City lights
Thanks to an Alert Reader, the perimeter lights at Tingley Park are brighter than ever.
Our final query comes from Alert Reader Libby, who wanted to know what was up with the perimeter lights at Tingley Field. When she asked about it in July, only about a quarter of them actually lit up at night, leaving much of the area - and, she feared, some suspicious activity - in the dark.

It turns out Albuquerque Parks and Recreation wasn't aware of the issue. Thanks to Libby and Detective DAN's inquiries, the lights have been fixed.

"Our electrician was sent out immediately and determined that the best course of action would be to replace the light bulbs. All 29 lights at Tingley Field will be replaced with more energy-efficient, longer-lasting LED light bulbs by the end of [August]," city spokeswoman Jessica Campbell said last month.

Libby subsequently confirmed that this indeed happened.

Campbell also noted that, since the department is responsible for lighting at nearly 300 parks, staff often don't notice problems as promptly as locals. 

"The City really appreciates residents' help in identifying things that aren't working correctly," she said. "They will always be the first to notice when something is awry in their neighborhood. Reporting any issues is fast, easy, and simple – call 311 or report it virtually at cabq.gov/311."

—By Karie Luidens
Valley policing council meets next week
The Valley Community Policing Council will be meeting this month on September the 23 at 6 p.m. to discuss policing, crime, and the city's progress with the Department of Justice legal settlement. Register for the webinar here.
Downtown Albuquerque News covers greater Downtown, which we generally define as the area created by I-40, the Rio Grande, and the railroad tracks. We publish weekdays except for federal holidays. If someone forwarded DAN to you, please consider subscribing. To subscribe, contact us, submit a letter to the editor, or learn more about what we do, click here. If you ever run into technical trouble receiving DAN, click here.
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