Editor’s Note: The Journal continues “What’s in a Name?”
The French surname Girard means ‘courageous lance’, but for Albuquerque drivers it has nothing to do with France or bravery or spears or weapons of any kind for that matter.
In this town, Girard tells us that we are next to the University of New Mexico, or that we are about to venture into Nob Hill.
New Mexico saw an influx of European immigrants from the mid to late 1800s. They came here looking for opportunities to work in the woods, as traders, on the railroad and many more. professions created by the industrial revolution.
The Girard family was one of these immigrants. There is no official record linking the Girard family to the road, but personal family histories and circumstances make it likely.
Rosemary McNerney Winkler, member of the Albuquerque Genealogical Society, included the Girard family in her book “Stories of Early Albuquerque”. She included an article by François-Marie Patorni, which says the road was most likely a tribute to the Girard siblings who came to America from 1872. Patorni has written extensively on French heritage in New Mexico, including his book “The French in New Mexico.”
“In Auvergne, central France, and the Alps, New Mexico was a relatively household name,” he said. “He was known by word of mouth from priests and the legendary Bishop Lamy of New Mexico, originally from Auvergne.”
Patorni received a cardboard box with photos of the Girard family that someone found at a garage sale. He was also contacted by a descendant of the Albuquerque Girard family and was able to reconstruct part of their life here.
The first to arrive was Joseph-Ferdinand Girard, whose first stop was Saint-Louis, where he met his Irish wife Mary Russell. The couple moved to Albuquerque a few years later at the invitation of his wife’s brother.
Girard’s full brother, Jean-Pierre, came to Albuquerque in 1881 to help him. The two operated the Girard House Hotel, a stone building on Gold Avenue between Second and Third Streets, and built a life here. They advertised that the hotel was “first class in all respects”.
“The Girard House is packed with guests, and yesterday two gentlemen were unable to find lodgings at this popular guesthouse,” a Nov. 18, 1887 memoir said in the Albuquerque Journal. “The servers are constantly busy meeting the needs of the customers, and you can really tell that the Girard house is experiencing a boom.”
A March 22, 1901 blip in the Albuquerque Citizen stated, “JF Girard and his family are moving into their beautiful new residence today. The building is on the corner of North Fourth Street and Mountain Road and is an improvement that adds significantly to the locality.
The family roots go back to the towns of Ancelle and Chorges in France and the brothers were two of eight siblings.
An obituary of November 10, 1921 for Joseph-Ferdinand Girard, does not shed much light on his personal or professional life. Girard had just returned from a trip to his childhood home in Chorges, with his brother Jean-Pierre, who died during the trip.
Just a note that there is no relationship between the Albuquerque Girard family and the famous architect Alexander Girard, who lived in Santa Fe.
The road did not appear on an official map until the late 1920s and early 1930s, but Girard Avenue was mentioned in newspapers from 1916. An article in the Albuquerque Morning Journal of 23 May talks about extending a water pipe to Girard Avenue, a street in the new University Heights subdivision. Today, this new addition is the neighborhood located directly south of UNM and east of Yale Boulevard. It is a popular meeting place for students who want to study, eat or have a beer. They also live in this neighborhood on streets bearing the names of prestigious colleges like Princeton, Columbia, Harvard and Stanford.
Boulevard Girard, which started out as an avenue, was probably built by Colonel Daniel K. Boone Sellers, who laid out and named these university streets and the neighborhood that became chic and trendy Nob Hill. An article from March 31, 1921 in the Albuquerque Journal said this about the plans of the seller: Avenue Girard.
Perhaps one day we will discover more about the Girards, their life in Albuquerque and the contributions they have made here.