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La Posada: A Restored Fred Harvey Railroad Hotel in Winslow, Arizona (Route 66 History Combined With Art)

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I've lived in Arizona for 69 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books and travel.

History of La Posada Hotel

La Posada Hotel opened in 1930, as a Fred Harvey Hotel on the Santa Fe Railroad line in Winslow, Arizona. The name La Posada is Spanish for "resting place" and was in keeping with the Fred Harvey Company tradition of giving their hotels Spanish names.

The hotel and its furnishings were designed by Mary Jane Coulter who had already gained fame for the Fred Harvey buildings she had designed and decorated at the Grand Canyon. Coulter considered La Posada her "last and best." (I agree with her assessment.) The 60,000 sq. ft., 70 room hotel was built at a cost of one million, and its furnishings cost another million. It was truly a luxe hotel with all the amenities that were available in 1930.

A furniture factory was set up on the construction site, where Native American and Mexican craftsmen created lighting fixtures, benches, chests, chairs, wrought iron lamps that resembled yucca plants, and ashtrays that resembled jackrabbits. Images of San Ysidro, the patron saint of farmers, were placed in each room. Each room contained a Navajo rug along with drapes and bedspreads which featured Native American designs. The entrance and lobby had flagstone floors, while the floors in hallways in the hotel's "wings" had cut linoleum in Southwestern colors that resembled tile. (Parts remain lovely today.) The lush grounds provided an orchard, flowers, and vegetable and herb gardens. Opening Day was May 15th, 1930.

The basement of the hotel was a "salesman's sample" room where salesmen displayed their goods for local and area merchants. The barbershop and shoeshine stand were usually busy. The hotel was a grand place not only for rail travelers, but also for those who visited to arrange Fred Harvey trips to the nearby Meteor Crater, Painted Desert, Petrified Forest, and the Navajo and Hopi reservations. Local clubs in Winslow met there, and it was a fine place for special occasions.

World War II

World War II brought new challenges to La Posada, as 14–16 passenger and troop trains stopped at La Posada every day. One Harvey Girl, (Fred Harvey's famous hotel waitresses) recalled resetting the dining room every 30–40 minutes to accommodate passengers on the next train. She stressed that the Fred Harvey serving system of efficient small details such as having cup handles turned one way for coffee and the other way for tea allowed them to serve 200–300 on a troop train in less than 30 minutes. Even though the troops were served spam sandwiches as authorized by the US Military budget, the military was served in Fred Harvey style. By the end of 1946, the age of the automobile had begun and train travel was rapidly declining.

A Closure Followed by a New Beginning

By 1957, the Fred Harvey Company had added dining cars to the Santa Fe Railroad LIne, passengers were declining and the hotel was closed. It was occupied as Santa Fe Railroad offices, but when Santa Fe announced that it would no longer maintain the beautiful grounds and the furnishings were sold off, it seemed the La Posada was really finished.

Before a new owner was found, every credit should go to a volunteer group called the Gardening Angels from Winslow who continued to trim and water the grounds. In 1997, La Posada was bought by Allan Affeldt and his wife Tina Mion, and they began restoring La Posada to its former glory.

Flights, Fame, and Freight Trains

It's difficult for visitors to Winslow today to imagine what the city was like in its heyday. For one thing, Winslow was once the largest city in Northern Arizona. Howard Hughes and the famed aviator Charles Lindberg and his wife Anne Morrow spent a good deal of time at what is now Lindberg Field developing the Winslow airport which would be used for the TWA airline for Howard Hughes. Soon there would be nine TWA flights daily out of Winslow.

Many movies stars like John Wayne, Roy Rodgers, and Jimmy Stewart, politicians such as Franklin D. Roosevelt, and other famous stayed at the hotel, and their pictures are displayed at La Posada, and the rooms have been named for the famous who stayed at the hotel. La Posada is located on the historic Route 66, which continues to attract roadside aficionados to all the important attractions.

Train buffs also love La Posada for its Santa Fe Railroad history. The Southwest Chief (Amtrak) makes a passenger stop there twice daily, and freight trains continue to roll past. Usually, 100 trains pass by every day. Of course, I have to confess that hearing the trains pass during the night, is a part of a stay at La Posada. In a bit of hotel humor, La Posada is sometimes called the "backward hotel" since the original front faced the train tracks but is now the back of the hotel and the former back is now the main entrance.

Restoration

The restoration at a cost of roughly $12,000.00 has been amazing. La Posada received the Governor's Award for the restoration and is on the National Register of Historic Places. The best of the old is honored including the various gardens which have been replanted. A history video of La Posada and the restoration of La Posada is continuously run in a room off the hotel's lobby. What's new are the fabulous paintings of co-owner and artist Tina Mion whose art was featured in a recent document in the Sedona International Film Festival. She also helped decorate the hotel. You may preview Tina's art at www.tinamion.com. The gift shop offers a wonderful selection of Native American jewelry, rugs and katchinas, Mimbres dishes, local Hispanic Santos, and books and videos about the hotel and the surrounding area.

The Turquoise dining room is Chef owned offers both sophisticated foods with a southwestern twist, as well as favorite standards. The wine list is impressive. For breakfast and lunch dining without reservations is usually available, but reservations for dinner are recommended.

The La Posada continues to evolve with the addition of the WAT museum (Winslow Arts Trust) behind the hotel. Allan purchased the Plaza Hotel on the Historic Plaza in Las Vegas New Mexico and the Castaneda ( Another Fred Harvey Railroad Hotel) in Las Vegas New Mexico. The restoration of both The Plaza and the Castaneda each have a restaurant and bar are also wonderful. The hotels are filled with antiques, Tina's paintings, and friendly staff. The historic Legal Tender Bar and Restaurant in Lamy New Mexico was another restoration project.

Kudos to Allan and Tina for their tireless efforts to offer history and hospitality.

Original Front of La Posada facing Santa Fe train tracks June 2011

Original Front of La Posada facing Santa Fe train tracks June 2011

Staying in a Historical Hotel

La Posada Map Winslow Arizona

El Tovar Hotel Grand Canyon

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 mactavers

Comments

Debbie on February 21, 2015:

You WERE just kids then. I know that for fact. I think it is very cool that you just happened to have The Turquoise Room Cookbook. See, you never know when a wall full of cobookoks comes in handy!!!!

mactavers (author) on March 07, 2012:

Thanks for your story about Winslow and La Posada. I watched the restoration and it's so beautiful. I try to stay there overnight at least once a year and eat there whenever we are passing through. I keep hoping that someone will restore Lindberg Field.

Linda Doile Morris on March 07, 2012:

Of course I am glad that the LaPosada is now reburshed. My mother was Fred Harvey Girl from 1933 to 1957 when the Hotel was closed. She was but 15 and freshly out of a orphanage in St. Jo, Missouri when she applyed and was sent to Needles & the Grand Canyon. Then to Winslow which she disliked at the time, she went to Albuquerque, the Queen of the Harvey Hotels. She married one of those forbidden railroaders and back to Winslow she went. Raised 2 daughters there. This year is my class 5oth at Winslow High and I am looking forward to 'running' the halls as the LaPosada.

Linda Doile Morris

daughter of Clarence Doile & Betty Louise Yeakley

Myra Morrison on February 23, 2012:

Just found in old family files, a picture postcard booklet of postcards published by Fred Harvey. Featured pictures include Casa Del Desierto, La Posada, Canyon Diablo, Navaho weavers and silversmiths, Santa Fe Trains and bridges,etc...very interesting from the 1930's

email:teenikens@aol.com

Eiddwen from Wales on June 16, 2011:

A great review and thaks for sharing.

Up/useful here.

Take care

Eiddwen.

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