Editor’s Note: This is the first in a two-part series on the Corrales Historical Society, which is celebrating 50 years this Saturday at the Old Church.
The Corrales Historical Society is making some history of its own, marking its 50th anniversary with a celebration at the historic Old San Ysidro Church that was so central to its founding.
The historical society grew out of a successful effort to purchase and restore the old church. And that remains its mission today.
“Our mission is not only to maintain the old church, but as the group in the village that maintains the history and educates people about its culture,” said Ken Martinez, the society’s current president. “The society is the keeper of the history of the village. It’s so important for our future to know where we came from. Sometimes we lose sight of those things.”
And that’s not all they do. The society is active in the community, collaborating with village events or hosting them at the old adobe church, including the upcoming Winter Craft Show Dec. 1-3 and the Festival of the Nativities Dec. 16-17. They also host Heritage Day in May and events around the Fourth of July and Harvest Festival, as well as concerts, theatrical performances and a speaker’s series.
The Nov. 18 celebration at 4:30 p.m. will reflect on the society’s own history, honoring past presidents at the catered affair. About a dozen of them or their surrogates will be on hand for the festivities, which will include a video put together by the historical society and music by Mezcla Latina Quartet.
Also honored will be a Member of the Year. It’s the group’s annual meeting, so elections will be held for the executive board.
A true original
Alice Glover was there at the beginning and had a hand in helping get the Corrales Historical Society started as a non-profit organization in 1974 with a mission to maintain and restore the old church, which was originally built in 1868.
She and her husband moved to the village just before it was incorporated as a village.
“These people were talking about what to do with this building,” she said during an interview at the old church. “They were talking about forming a nonprofit to purchase the church.”
One of them was Alan Minge, whom Glover met in 1971. He was the historian for Kirtland Air Force Base at the time, but had done extensive academic work in both old and New Mexico. She said he had been looking at buying the church since 1960.
“Being a historian, he knew what could get done with this building,” she said. “And he was our intermediary with the Archdiocese.”
Minge, who died in 2021, already owned Casa San Ysidro across the street from the church. It is now operated by the Albuquerque Museum.
A plaque on the wall inside the church near the front door recognizes Minge for his “crucial assistance” in purchasing and restoring the church from the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, founding the historical society and serving on its executive board for a decade.
There were others who helped form the nonprofit and get the historical society off the ground, Richard Perea, Helen Madison and Oscar Carter to name a few. Carter was the village’s Parks and Recreation director, and Glover said Corrales’ first mayor, Barbara Tenorio Christianson, and Village Council helped put them over the finish line.
Glover said the sale price for the church was $9,500, but that was a lot of money back then. A fundraiser she helped organize at Casa Vieja raised $3,000. But it was the mayor and Village Council that agreed to put up $6,000 that made the sale possible. As part of the deal, the Village owns the property and the historical society manages it.
The sale began the transformation of the old church, which is located at 966 Old Church Road.
“We did a lot of things, but the first thing we did was gauge the temperature about what to do with the church,” Glover said.
The feelings of descendants of the people who kept up the church throughout the years, some of whose ancestors were buried under the floor of the church, were important to the new caretakers. Glover hosted one meeting to get the parties together at her home.
“We wanted to make sure they didn’t have any concerns about us purchasing it,” she said.
Glover, who served two stints as president of the society, has been a valuable member throughout the years.
Debbie Clemente, who handles publicity for the historical society, said few can match Glover’s passion and energy. Her heading the docent program is testimony to that. The docent roster has doubled in size and is up to 43 active members, with 11 new recruits this year.
“This lady stepped in two years ago and worked her magic. She revived that group,” she said. “She has the gentlest way of twisting arms.”
Not one to take credit, Glover didn’t deny her persuasive powers exist. But she emphasized that the Corrales Historical Society has flourished because of its members.
“It’s still alive and kicking, but it really does take a village,” she said. “We’re 100% volunteer and we wouldn’t have been able to do what we have and do what we do today without everybody’s help.”