What may be Corrales’ most iconic historic commercial building, El Portal, now has a plaque proclaiming it. A blue plaque was attached to the facade by the Corrales Historical Society in early June. Research indicates it was built as a two-room trading post around 1860. Over the years, the building has been used as a general store, dance hall, Sunday afternoon poker venue, art gallery, community theater and coffee house. The U-shaped structure at 4686 Corrales Road, adjacent to the elementary school property, is known locally as “El Portal.” It’s historical name is the Lopez Building, after Octaviano Lopez who bought it from Jennie Weiner in 1910.
Corrales Historical Society records trace the building’s owners and uses over the years. “With the exception of Kris Dale’s completion of a partial second-story addition during the late 1970s, the Lopez Building has not changed significantly since 1927.”
“Earl Works ran a grocery store here after World War II where locals would often convene for a Sunday afternoon of poker. The Adobe Theater used the north hall for a while. In the 1960s, David Dale bought the building and called it the ‘House of Maya.’” Dale also bought the building on the other side of Corrales Road which today is still known as “Mercado de Maya.”
“As he and his wife raised their family here, they leased parts of the building for an art galley and coffee house in the early 1970s.” Architect designer Gay Wilmerding bought the building in 1983 and undertook a major restoration that included installing interior beams and posts to relieve weight on the original adobe or terrón walls. El Portal is now owned by Mike and Adriana Foris who bought it from Wilmerding in 2004.
“Gay won an award for historic preservation/restoration of the building,” Mike Foris recalled. “Recently we converted the entire building to a heat pump system such that each suite has refrigerated air conditioning as well as an upgraded heating system. Previously it had evaporative cooling and radiant heat panels. This has significantly reduced the building’s electrical demand, a savings which we have passed on to our tenants.
“We installed a mini-split system which allows each tenant to control the temperature of their suite and which had a minimal impact to the esthetics of the building, which was a major consideration when we did the upgrade. “The building is fully occupied and almost all of our tenants have been with us for a number of years.”