Once upon a time in Al­bu­querque


De­sign a house for the wife and the home will be a happy one. That idea was cen­tral to the dar­ling houses built by Dale Bel­lamah in Al­bu­querque’s Princess Jeanne Park sub­di­vi­sion about 60 years ago. Many of them are fea­tured in pho­tog­ra­pher KayLynn Deveney’s All You Can Lose

Is Your Heart (Kehrer Ver­lag). Deveney started her ca­reer as a staff pho­tog­ra­pher for the (now-de­funct)

Al­bu­querque Tri­bune, and the book’s es­say is writ­ten by her friend and fel­low Tri­bune vet­eran, Hank Stuever, who shares a long­time in­ter­est in the Princess Jeanne neigh­bor­hood. In the es­say, he notes the “hap­pily-ev­er­after life­style” im­plied in the Bel­lamah Cor­po­ra­tion’s ad­ver­tis­ing for the “wife-planned” de­sign of the homes in Princess Jeanne Park.

Stuever dis­cusses the houses con­ceived in the con­texts of the Atomic Age and Dis­ney fan­tasy, and points out that they also had very lit­tle to do with the high-desert land­scape around them. With their yel­low, pink, creamy tan, and blue-painted fa­cades and their shake roofs, th­ese res­i­dences were built “to give off a pleas­ant whiff of the Teu­tonic, the Snow White magic, the sim­ple vil­lage sweet­ness.”

“I had known about the Princess Jeanne houses be­cause when I was at the news­pa­per, the houses in that neigh­bor­hood were rec­og­nized in an ex­hi­bi­tion at the Smith­so­nian Institution about mod­ern science in the 1950s and 1960s in Amer­ica,” Deveney told Pasatiempo. “They no­ticed those houses be­cause they were some of the first to have mod­ern ap­pli­ances like garbage dis­pos­als and some of the first to use more mod­ern ma­te­ri­als. As a Tri­bune pho­tog­ra­pher, I had been sent to that neigh­bor­hood to learn more about them.”

Their cre­ator, Ab­dul Hamid “Dale” Bel­lamah (19141972), was the son of a Le­banese im­mi­grant. He be­gan build­ing homes in 1947, but his sig­na­ture de­vel­op­ment was Princess Jeanne, which opened in 1954 in Al­bu­querque’s north­east heights. He named the neigh­bor­hood for his wife, and he aimed its ad­ver­tis­ing at other wives, promis­ing con­ve­niences to save them from the “drudgery of house­hold chores.” (He be­gan also build­ing in south­side Santa Fe af­ter the city ap­proved the 600-acre Bel­lamah an­nex­a­tion in 1959.)

Al­bu­querque wasn’t unique for th­ese “sto­ry­book ranch houses.” A sim­i­lar ap­proach to Bel­lamah’s mo­ti­vated Jean Val­jean Van­druff at about the same time in Southern Cal­i­for­nia. Dur­ing Deveney’s re­search, she found the web­site of Van­druff, in­no­va­tor of the Cin­derella Home. “All my re­search was done from Al­bu­querque back­wards. First I pho­tographed houses here, then I went to the Cen­ter for South­west Re­search at the UNM li­brary, then it was talk­ing to peo­ple lo­cally and work­ing back­ward. I found Van­druff search­ing for sto­ry­book homes and gin­ger­bread

houses. He was won­der­ful and he’s amaz­ing: He’s in his nineties and he emails and has an iMac. I made a couple trips to Cal­i­for­nia and he drove me around and showed me his homes.”

In their dis­cus­sions, Van­druff lamented the changes that th­ese houses have un­der­gone in the nearly six decades since they were built. But their out­ra­geous de­sign el­e­ments still set them well apart from their neigh­bors — th­ese in­clude cedar-shake shin­gles, deep roof over­hangs, and gables (and tacked-on fake gables) adorned with scal­loped barge boards, some­times with crazily ex­ag­ger­ated length, pitch, and po­si­tion, and of­ten longer on one side for a whim­si­cally lop­sided as­pect.

The first of hun­dreds of Van­druff’s Cin­derella Homes was built in 1954 in Downey, Cal­i­for­nia, and fea­tured such ameni­ties as a fire­place with a built-in bar­be­cue, made of pet­ri­fied wood and Pa­los Verdes stones. An open floor plan aided the suc­cess of the wife, the home­maker: “She must not be iso­lated from her hus­band and chil­dren while pro­vid­ing for them in the kitchen,” he wrote to Deveney in an email ex­plain­ing the history of the homes he built. He added that the Cin­derella Home was “specif­i­cally de­signed to bring far more hap­pi­ness, pride, joy, and fam­ily to­geth­er­ness to its oc­cu­pants. It must make the wife/mother happy and ful­filled. A happy woman makes a happy home.”

It is in­ter­est­ing how much Bel­lamah and Van­druff par­al­lel each other, in­clud­ing their ideas about wives and women in the home. Is there a link be­tween the two men? “None that I know of,” Deveney said. “Pos­si­bly Bel­lamah saw what was be­ing done at a home show. The ones in Cal­i­for­nia with the rooflines and cedar-shake shin­gles have a cot­tage-y feel, but the ones in Al­bu­querque are more ob­vi­ously pat­terns you as­so­ciate with gin­ger­bread houses. The brochure I found first was for Bel­lamah’s wife-planned home.”

Deveney worked at the Tri­bune from 1990 to 1999, and then de­cided she wanted to go back to school with an eye on teach­ing. She re­searched pho­tog­ra­phy mas­ter’s de­grees and ended up study­ing doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­phy in Wales. She earned a mas­ter’s and Ph.D. at the Univer­sity of Wales, New­port. When her Ph.D. su­per­vi­sor sub­se­quently started a new pho­tog­ra­phy pro­gram in North­ern Ire­land, he hired her. To­day Deveney is a full-time lec­turer in pho­tog­ra­phy at the Belfast School of Art, Univer­sity of Ul­ster.

Her mas­ter’s the­sis, about the pho­to­graphic diary as a method for doc­u­men­tary prac­tice, ap­pears in the 2013 book The Re­flex­ive Pho­tog­ra­pher. “That was look­ing at the way a doc­u­men­tary pho­tog­ra­pher could in­clude his or her own voice. The Ph.D. was called ‘Con­ven­tions, Con­fes­sions, and Cock­roaches: Re­flect­ing on Home

KayLynn Deveney,

con­tin­ued from Page 25 via Pho­tog­ra­phy and the Diary.’ That looked at some 19th-cen­tury ex­am­ples of pho­to­graphic albums that women had made where they re­con­tex­tu­al­ized stu­dio pho­to­graphs by cut­ting out the faces and putting them into pretty elab­o­rate il­lus­tra­tions to cre­ate a nar­ra­tive. The the­sis started with that and then it looked at con­tem­po­rary fine-art prac­tice and a few artists who are us­ing the diary as a way of pre­sent­ing work now.” In her first pho­to­graphic book, The Day-to-Day

Life of Al­bert Hast­ings (Prince­ton Ar­chi­tec­tural Press, 2007), Deveney doc­u­ments the day-to-day life of a Welsh oc­to­ge­nar­ian. “My pho­tog­ra­phy really started out with pho­tograph­ing my grand­mother, and I did an­other project called ‘Edith and Len’ — the two projects be­fore the houses had fo­cused on older peo­ple and in­ves­ti­gat­ing ag­ing.”

Deveney is now be­gin­ning re­search for an­other project re­lated to her new book. She in­tends to fo­cus on the houses in the last place she pho­tographed for the book: Del City, Ok­la­homa. “In 2014 the city passed a his­toric preser­va­tion ordinance to rec­og­nize this one neigh­bor­hood where ev­ery house is built in the sto­ry­book ranch style. I made one trip, and there are five pho­tos from Del City in the book. I’m really in­ter­ested in that place, be­cause it’s the first I know of that has been rec­og­nized as a sto­ry­book neigh­bor­hood that should be pre­served. I want to do more about the houses, but also about the com­mu­nity and what hap­pens to peo­ple who live there, what the so­cial pres­sures are.” Deveney signs copies of All You Can Lose Is Your

Heart at Photo-eye Book­store on Satur­day, Jan. 9. When you have a copy in hand, you will no­tice some­thing largely ab­sent from all but art books to­day: beau­ti­ful end­pa­pers, in this case a duo­tone col­lage of sev­eral of the houses she pho­tographed. “My book is a very tra­di­tional pho­tog­ra­phy mono­graph, but it’s nice to have some­thing that pushes that a lit­tle bit. For the end­pa­pers, I worked with a friend, Char­lotte Cobb, who was an il­lus­tra­tor for the Tri­bune for many years.”

On her web­site (www.kay­lyn­nde­veney.com), Deveney also is offering a tea towel printed with the end­pa­pers im­age. “That just seemed to fit in with the ethos of the orig­i­nal de­sign and mar­ket­ing of some of the houses to women, which I thought was a lit­tle ironic. Look at me. My hus­band and I have no chil­dren and I’m very mo­bile, liv­ing two-thirds of the time in Ire­land and one-third in Al­bu­querque. The way I live is a com­plete de­par­ture.”

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