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Historic Office

History of the O’Rielly House

The O’Rielly House, which is the current home of the Fine Law Firm, is a handsome and distinctive residence, a neighborhood landmark, which is important both as an example of Queen Anne styling in Albuquerque and for its interior work. It is registered in both the National and State Registers of Historic Places.

It is documented that hotel magnate, Conrad Hilton, was a regular visitor to the O’Rielly House in that he was courting one of the occupants. The courtship did not result in marriage.

The area between Old Town and New Town, the railroad center, developed slowly during the years between 1880 and 1910, reaching its peak as a residential area around 1910, when it became, and for long remained, Albuquerque’s most affluent and desirable neighborhood. The O’Rielly House, built in 1904 during a period of considerable growth in the area, is a fine gentleman’s residence, and a good example of late Queen Anne styling.

The three lots upon which the house stands, part of the New Mexico Town Company holdings, were first sold to W.S. Strickler in 1903. In 1903 Strickler sold the lots for $1,200.00 to H.H. Tilton, a notary public and employee of the Citizen Newspaper. Tilton came to New Mexico in 1895 and invested in real estate, building many cottages on Railroad Avenue (Central).

The O’Rielly House was one of Tilton’s building projects; it was built between 1904, when Tilton bought the property, and 1906, when the City Directory lists Joseph H. O’Rielly as the house’s first resident. O’Rielly did not buy the property until 1909, but Tilton may have built it specifically for him and his family.

Joseph H. O’Rielly was a colorful and influential citizen of Albuquerque. A June, 1907 article in The Albuquerque Morning Journal describes Joseph H. O’Rielly’s miraculous escape from a carriage accident in the Sandia Mountains. He owned the J.H. O’Rielly Company, at the corner of Second and Gold, billed in the newspaper advertisements as The Busiest Drug Store Between Denver and Los Angeles.

During the period of his residence at 220 9th Street, N.W., O’Rielly also assumed the position of Secretary and General Manager of the Occidental Life Insurance Company.

According to an article in The Albuquerque Morning Journal in June, 1907, Manager Joseph H. O’Rielly returned yesterday from an extended business trip through Arizona in the interest of the Occidental Life Insurance Company, the young home organization which in a few months has become a formidable rival of the old line companies which have been doing business in the territory for years.

Occidental Life was responsible for two of Albuquerque’s most handsome commercial buildings, the Old Occidental Building, a handsome brick expression of Chicago school architecture, now demolished, and the Occidental Life Building, a Trost and Trost adaptation of the Doge’s Palace in Venice to downtown Albuquerque (National Register, 1-30-78).

In 1917, O’Rielly sold the house to E.D. Sisk, who lived there a year and then sold it to Theresa and Emmett Vaughey. Vaughey, who was Vice President of the Stockmen’s Guaranty Loan and Secretary-Treasurer and Manager of the Albuquerque Investment Company, died in 1919. His family continued to live in the house until 1926, when Theresa Vaughey sold the property to Frank and Florence May Stortz.

Stortz was the manager of the Elks Club when he purchased the property; he later worked for the State Highway Department. The Stortz family lived in the O’Rielly House until 1950 and presumably were responsible for the late 1920’s remodeling, which added the north bay and the east frame addition, as well as the bookcases and staircase in the entry hall.

In 1950, the house was sold to Fred Perro, a carpenter, who sold it almost immediately to William and Alice Brennan. William Brennan, a bookkeeper for the State Department of Public Welfare, and Alice, office manager for the Albuquerque Bus Company, raised their family in the house, but later moved out and subdivided it into apartments. For a period of time the Brennan’s grandson, District Court Judge John Brennan, resided in the O’Rielly House. In 1978, the house was purchased from the Brennans’ by Prof. Hal Rhodes, a former teacher of political science at the University of New Mexico and a KNME-TV personality.

Prof. Rhodes, who played a significant role in the rehabilitation of the O’Rielly House, sold the home to the Fine Law Firm in 1989. Under the supervision of general contractor, Dan Dalen, Fine Law Firm initiated a rehabilitation program which included new heating, cooling and electrical systems, significant stripping of wood and refinishing, landscaping, and demolishing the apartments and restoring the integrity which the O’Rielly House enjoyed in the late 1900’s.

As part of its rehabilitation program, the Fine Law Firm installed, in each room of the O’Rielly House, fixtures and furnishings which were used in the early 1900’s. The furnishings included four roll-top desks, numerous turn-of-the-century light fixtures, more than thirty antique chairs and couches, old pictures and antique tables.