What’s better than a breezeblock wall? A breezeblock wall just at the golden hour, with three dogs and a cat greeting each other over it.
That guy doing his very best Wilson impression in the top photo is Bruce. He belongs to my preacher, Amy, who lives a couple of blocks down the street from us and has a fabulous hidden-circle wall around her backyard. Bruce and his housemates had a good time visiting with Ramona over the fence while Ron and I were walking the dogs yesterday evening.
Our dogs love this down time. We’re home a lot more than usual, and they’re getting a lot more attention. I finally had time to download the Hal Higdon app and start training for another marathon, which is something I’d been planning to do since Ramona was a puppy. I took her out this afternoon for our first scheduled run: a three-mile jog. She’s a good running buddy. If you’ve been thinking about taking up distance running (with or without your dog), now is a good time to do it. The weather is starting to warm up, but we still have a few weeks of fairly moderate temperatures, which gives you time to acclimate and build your endurance before it gets really hot.
We completed our breezeblock inventory this afternoon. By my count, Tucumcari (pop. 4,915) has 190 properties that feature either breezeblocks, shadow blocks, or some combination of the two — and at least 100 of them are within a mile of my house.
I knew we had a lot, but by “a lot,” I was thinking maybe 50. We have nearly four times that number — and I probably missed a few that weren’t visible from the street. Incredible.
Here are some samples from today’s explorations:
The top image is from a house down the street. The breezeblocks appear to be a later addition, as they don’t really match the architecture of the house, but I imagine they’d come in handy if you were fumbling with your keys on a stormy day.
The research for this project has been fascinating. I knew Tucumcari pretty well before I started, but systematically driving every street in town in search of one specific architectural detail has forced me to pay much closer attention to my surroundings. It’s also given me an appreciation for the ingenuity of the people around me, who are sculptors, muralists, architects, landscape designers, homesteaders, and creative problem solvers of the highest order.
No wonder I love this town so much. It’s full of kindred spirits.
Well, it’s all right, ridin’ around in the breeze.
Yeah, it’s all right, if you live the life you please.
— George Harrison
For the third day in a row, Ron and I worked on my breezeblock inventory. This time, we were in our own neighborhood. In an hour and a half, we covered all the east-west streets in an area six blocks wide and maybe a mile long. We found 52 properties with breezeblocks and one with shadow blocks. That brings our total to 139, with about 75 percent of the inventory complete.
Here’s a wall of tightly stacked snowflake blocks, protected by a ferocious guard dog:
I was really excited about these Pompeian (sic) blocks. (I was less excited about the manufacturer’s spelling.)
We also spotted some double-Ys:
Some newer walls featured styles I haven’t encountered in any of my research. This one looks like what you’d get if you crossed the arcs in a hidden-circle block and then flattened it out:
The pattern in the top image is another latter-day design. It looks like arch or cathedral, except it’s missing the diagonal reinforcements.
We got a late start today because of work commitments, but we’re hoping to go out earlier tomorrow and finish our inventory. Once that’s done, I can start designing my map. I’m really excited about this project. If it looks half as good on paper as it does in my mind, it’s going to be one of the coolest projects I’ve ever done.
Ron and I went hunting breezeblocks again this afternoon. My list now stands at 86 properties with either breezeblocks, shadow blocks, or a combination of the two. I have found 51 examples of hidden circles; seven examples of Empress; six of square-in-square; five of double-Y; two of double-X; one each of arch/cathedral and snowflake; assorted squares and rectangles; and a handful of mystery styles, including a couple of Empress variants I haven’t been able to identify. I also spotted at least nine examples of shadow blocks in varying patterns — and we still haven’t inventoried the mid-century subdivisions in the southwest quadrant.
The featured photo at the top of this post is one I shot in December of the front of my church — a gorgeous A-frame with a snowflake-pattern breezeblock wall out front. Here are a couple more views, showing that stunning backlit cross:
First Presbyterian doesn’t have the market cornered on ecclesiastical breezeblocks, though. Immanuel Baptist Church makes nice use of hidden circles here:
We also found quite a few commercial installations:
Motel designers were especially fond of breezeblocks:
And last but not least, here’s a pretty residential application:
It was at this point in the trip that I turned to Ron and said, “If he’d build it out of breezeblocks, I might have to rethink my position on Trump’s ‘big, beautiful wall.'” And then I had an idea for the greatest political compromise in the history of ever … but that’s another post for another day.
One of the delightful surprises about moving out here in 2017 was the discovery that Tucumcari has a plethora of breezeblock walls.
A few weeks ago, I decided it would be cool to spend part of my summer taking an inventory of Tucumcari’s breezeblocks and creating a Bob Waldmire-style map detailing the style and location of each. I figured it might help promote Tucumcari to mid-century modern junkies like me, and it seemed like the sort of thing Route 66 travelers would appreciate, given our fondness for all things retro.
With most of New Mexico shut down until further notice, Ron and I decided to take advantage of a free afternoon to start the inventory. After lunch, I got online, researched breezeblock styles, and made myself a little chart identifying all the patterns I could find. Then Ron spent about three hours systematically driving down every street on the north side of town while I rode shotgun with my iPhone and a notebook in hand. By the time we called it a day, we had a list of 40 properties, featuring 15 different styles of breezeblocks.
Here are a few highlights:
Hidden circles were extremely popular. I counted 25 examples today.
The Empress pattern looks similar to hidden circles, but you can tell them apart by looking at the diamonds between the circles: Hidden circles have a horizontal line bisecting the diamonds.
I found a couple of examples of the double-X style, which some sources identify by its Spanish name, Dos Equis.
The square-in-square style was identified by a couple of sources as “Vista Vue.”
I haven’t been able to track down the name or manufacturer of the breezeblocks screening the stairwells at Roadrunner Lodge (above). I’m also at a loss to identify the rectangular pattern on the blocks at the Pow Wow Inn (top image).
Tomorrow, we’ll explore the south side of town, including a mid-century subdivision that’s positively teeming with breezeblocks.