ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Today, it’s one of the Albuquerque Police Department‘s smallest substations. However, the tiny and retro-looking building in Nob Hill’s Triangle Park actually has a much different past than most may be aware of.
Sitting near the corner of Girard and Central Avenue, APD’s Triangle Park substation has been serving the community for policing purposes for about 24 years. While it remains a functioning part of APD, the building is actually owned by the Albuquerque Museum. In the years before it was a police substation, the building was a privately owned diner called the Little House Café. It closed around 1993 and was donated to the Albuquerque Museum.
“We do have these wonderful, odd assortments of structures,” said Andrew Connors, director of the Albuquerque Museum. “And the ‘Little House Café’, which was a designed as a pre-fabricated diner, it was never seen as part of what the museum would be seen collection.”
Museum records indicate the former Little House Café was built around the era of World War II, in 1942. An eight-seat diner, the Little House Café was one of the dozens of prefabricated Valentine Diner buildings dotted across the United States.
Built in Kansas, several Valentine Diners made their way across New Mexico. Today, other similar pre-fabricated buildings can be seen from the roadside in Grants and Embudo among other communities.
Connors says Albuquerque’s Little House Café used to be downtown near what’s now the 8th and Central roundabout. For decades, the diner was operated by Joe and Della Hernandez.
“The Hernandezs really were a staple,” said Connors. “(A) Reliable place where people always knew they could always get good reliable food.”
While the building was in the Albuquerque Museum’s care between 1993 and 1997, it remained in storage with most of its inner content preserved. Around 1997, Albuquerque Police or other city officials suggested the building could be used as an APD substation.
Today, the substation’s interior has a remade diner aesthetic while the original items including menus and furnishing remain preserved in the Albuquerque Museum’s care. The substation remains in use for official police business.
“At this point, it serves its best purpose as an exterior structure so that people can see that fabric of the built environment of Route 66,” Connors said. “I think the exterior of the Little House Café really tells the story better than trying to recreate any interior presence for it.”
Some of the former Little House Café’s old menus and other items have been placed on public display in the recent past. In 2015, the museum displayed the diner’s memorabilia as part of the “Only in Albuquerque” exhibit.