Gertrude Zachary's "Skid Row" Castle
August 20, 2013 8:20 PM   Subscribe

You might recognize the name Gertrude Zachary if you've been in the Albuquerque, NM area and have seen the billboards for her jewelry, or if you watch Breaking Bad, you might have noticed one of her shops (more location details). If you've driven around the Old Town are of Albuquerque, you might have seen the purple and green jewelry store (Google maps streetview), vaguely reminiscent of the pueblo deco style. But Zachary's greatest architectural legacy is her European-style castle on "skid row", seen in this photo gallery and profiled in this local news segment.

As noted in the Wall Street Journal piece, Gertrude Zachary's father was Julius Witzky, an engine designer for Daimler-Benz.

Zachary passed away earlier this year, and the fate of her castle (Google maps streetview) is uncertain.
posted by filthy light thief (19 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
The assessed value of the home and land is $1.3 million.

The assessed value of the home and land is $1.3 million.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:30 PM on August 20, 2013

Ahh, I had no idea the eyesore on 2nd and Lead was her's. I wonder if her jewelry is as garish and ugly?
posted by hellslinger at 8:35 PM on August 20, 2013

The "Sanitary Tortilla" place across the street from the castle makes the imagination race.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:41 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Huh. So there that is. I didn't even look on the other side of the street from the castle.

According to Yelp, it's a restaurant. Here's a review from 2007:
I haven't eaten here for years but if it is still in business it rocks. Great Mexican and of course TORTILLA. They are delicious and CLEAN!! Check it out for lunch, I don't think they offer dinner.
So, there's that.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:46 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

The thing that bothered me about that castle wasn't the neighborhood (not as "desolate" as that WSJ article claims) nor the style (it could be a giant fake adobe castle, after all) castle, it's .....who wants to live that close to the Lead Avenue overpass? Drivers can see inside your windows!
posted by heurtebise at 8:48 PM on August 20, 2013

I remember hearing about her death and wondering who the hell was going to buy a place like that. Unless they turn it into some sort of Gertrude Zachary museum (which sounds oddly plausible, at least as long as the Breaking Bad Buzz continues...) I can see it being demolished in a few years.

Something oddly poetic about building a European-style castle with poured concrete; perhaps she knew the house was doomed from the start and she wanted to ensure no one got sentimental about its inevitable destruction.
posted by anewnadir at 8:52 PM on August 20, 2013

The Sanitary Tortilla Company of San Antonio advertised "Pure and wholesome tortillas made without the touch of human hands by the Sanitary Tortillas Mfg. Co." So maybe its the same thing with the Sanitary Tortilla restaurant in Albuquerque.
posted by Ranucci at 9:45 PM on August 20, 2013 [2 favorites]

Wow; very cool history of the tortilla company!

As to Zachary's mansion, I wonder what it would take to make it a useful city property? Some eccentrics have donated their houses to make eg children's museums, seems like that would be a happier fate for it than to be torn down.
posted by LobsterMitten at 9:55 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

My step-father and his friends all liked to take lunch at the Sanitary Tortilla Factory. The food was awesome.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 11:02 PM on August 20, 2013

Did they wipe their hands on Sanitary Napkins afterwards?
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:27 PM on August 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Can't help but wonder how this could have been worked into That TV Show That Everyone's Talking About These Days.
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:06 AM on August 21, 2013

I worked for Gertrude briefly in 2000 at the antique store; I remember her being incredibly tight with a dollar and not caring much about the people who worked for her... but having said that, I remember also that she had a fascinating sense of style when it came to the things she collected there. There were rooms and rooms of Old World style furniture, salvaged architectural details, and one of the finest collections of crystal chandeliers and candelabras I'd ever seen. Outside there were fountains, and sculpture (often knockoffs) and some really odd items like a French urinal. It was a cool place to work, just to be in.
It's been many years since I've been down there; I had no idea she'd built a house. Back then she had an apartment over the shop that took up the entire upper floor with a small rooftop terrace. I can't imagine anyone wanting more than that, but she never seemed like the type to be content.
Reading the post and links fills in a lot of details and helps me understand why she acted toward people as she did.
posted by cybrcamper at 7:19 AM on August 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pruitt-Igoe: The assessed value of the home and land is $1.3 million.

Well, the main house is 8,500-square-foot, plus there's the guest house, a pool, and a courtyard garden behind those 10 foot tall walls. I imagine it would be worth a lot more if it was located elsewhere in the Albuquerque region.

Speaking of location, Ms. Zachary noted that cities such as Paris and New York have homes in industrial areas, and she was trying to bring some big city flair to Albuquerque.

As for tying the place to Breaking Bad, and making the place a museum, I think the two would pair well. The house is GIANT, and it could be a tribute to unusual aspects of Albuquerque, both cinematic and real life. I figure the location would be fitting for a Breaking Bad museum, as I don't imagine anyone in Jesse's TV neighborhood wanting much more attention and traffic than they already get.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:25 AM on August 21, 2013

It just seems low. You couldn't build that for $1.3 million, regardless of land value. And it seems like the worst thing people are saying about the neighborhood is that it's kind of empty and dead, and near a freeway overpass.
posted by Pruitt-Igoe at 8:24 AM on August 21, 2013

Looming over a barren industrial neighborhood locals call skid row, stands Gertrude Zachary's castle.

As far as I'm aware there is no neighborhood in Abq that locals refer to as "skid row."
posted by forkisbetter at 11:22 AM on August 21, 2013

By saying "locals call it Skid Row," the author of the WSJ piece is distanced from the label, even though they may have made it up on their own.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:21 PM on August 21, 2013

You wouldn't want to eat at the UnSanitary Tortilla Factory, now would you?
posted by yohko at 12:05 AM on August 22, 2013

Gertrude Zachary's castle is near the rescue mission, but if you go 2 blocks north there's overpriced condos, a pleasant sidewalk cafe, and a yoga studio. The empty lot to the Northwest shown on google maps now has a "green" apartment complex with gardens and terraces. It's not in the nicest location, but it's hardly isolated in the middle of an industrial area.

Drivers can see inside your windows!

I wish! You can't get a good look inside from the road.
posted by yohko at 12:26 AM on August 22, 2013

'skid row'? No such thing...
posted by judson at 6:43 AM on August 22, 2013

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