La Posada - A Journey into an Earlier Time

Saturday, November 01, 2014

I'm going to skip the middle part of my trip for now to talk about one of the most fascinating places we visited. This one had nothing to do with Navajo culture or natural wonders. This is about the wonder that is the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. Yeah, I know you want to start singing. Go ahead. Here, I'll help you:

Okay, back to our regularly scheduled blogging.

La Posada was originally constructed as one of the Harvey House hotels and restaurants. In the heyday of railroad travel, there was a need for high quality places to stop along the route. Initially, these were staffed by local men, but they were terrible at the job. Fred Harvey brought women from the east, experienced waitresses, to staff his facilities in the west. Harvey Girls became such a staple of American culture, a movie starring Judy Garland was made about them.

Interestingly enough, La Posada was designed by a woman, Mary Coulter. She wasn't allowed to be called an architect because, you know, she was a woman, and women couldn't do demanding jobs like architect. However, even without the title, she designed an incredible facility.

Unfortunately, it opened in 1930, right at the start of the Great Depression, and struggled despite it's location near to Arizona's wonderful landscape, which has always been an attraction to tourists. It closed in 1957, was transformed into offices for the Santa Fe Railway in 1961 by gutting it, and in 1993 the railroad decided to dispose of the building. Fortunately, Allan Affeldt had a vision for the building which, in his words, was a wreck. He wanted to restore it to its former glory. And, boy, has he!

There's a wall in one of the halls of the hotel listing all the famous people who stayed in it during its first incarnation. This included many of the movie stars of that era. They name the rooms after these guests. I stayed in the Douglas Fairbanks room.

I don't think he actually slept there, but it's possible. Because it was an incredible gorgeous room!

 The beautiful mirror isn't done justice in this photo.

Another beautiful mirror.

What more could I ask for? Oh, coffee. No in-room coffee. You had to go downstairs to the gift shop for your morning coffee. Or just wait for breakfast.

Which is what I did. The dining room is fabulous. For some reason, I didn't think to take pictures of it. Probably because I was too focused on the wonderful food. The night before I'd had prime rib, which was cooked to perfection. For breakfast I had "thin orange pancakes." Don't be fooled by the name. They were actually crepes filled with cottage cheese and topped with the most delicious orange marmalade, just the right blend of tart and sweet, that I've ever had. Supposedly this was a recipe served during the period, so Douglas Fairbanks or Mary Pickford could have had the exact same breakfast I did.

I did, however, take a picture of the view outside the window in the restaurant.

Yes, that's a train. Trains go by all day and all night. It's a railroad hotel, so you should expect it. They didn't keep me up at night, though. I think I was too tired from all the travel to be bothered by a little train noise.

The hotel is surrounded by gardens and statuary:

 This was taken from an upstairs window.

Apparently, there once was an actual cat who inhabited this garden and claimed lap space. When the cat passed away, this statue took its place in the garden.

The furnishings were absolutely amazing!

A piano in the ballroom.

Notice the old radio on top of this chest.

Have you ever seen anything so beautiful?
There was a lot more, but I think that's enough pictures for now. Needless to say, I want to write a book about the travelers who stopped here. There's so much romance associated with train travel. A murder mystery, of course. Piet showed me a great place to put a body. And, in case you were wondering, the trains still stop at La Posada. There's an Amtrak station in a room at the back of the hotel near the tracks.


Pam Bickell said...

Elise, What a great testimony to the place. I loved reading the article and especially enjoyed the pictures. Did you write about your tour on 'where to hide the bodies'?

Elise M Stone said...

No, I never blogged that portion, Pam. I have to keep some secrets, you know.

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