La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Trail
For more than 400 years, there has been a fonda—inn or hotel—at the intersection of what is now East San Francisco and the literal end of the Old Santa Fe Trail. That first inn was constructed of adobe blocks, which were made of mud, shaped by hand and dried in the sun. Some would have had animal prints embedded from nocturnal visits by wildlife. The 1921 floor plans indicate there was a courtyard entrance, but that has since been enclosed. Although the original structure was replaced, and the hotel has undergone several renovations, it maintains the adobe architectural design that predominates in Santa Fe.
For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, it is a gathering place. After a strange and frightening event at High Desert Country magazine office, Rachel Blackstone and her office crew met in the La Fonda bar where they could enjoy the fireplace and sample the Mexican beers.
The lobby of La Fonda is more than a large hallway drawing guests away; it acts as the heart of the hotel with La Plazuela restaurant, the newsstand, the bar and many specialty shops that attract an international crowd. The tile floor has felt the footsteps of both the famous and the infamous: from Spanish conquistadores to the creator of the Santa Fe Trail, William Becknell, to modern-day celebrities such as Shirley MacLaine, Larry Hagman, Diane Keaton and Linda Hunt. And while it is rumored that Billy the Kid worked in the hotel’s kitchen, there is no proof that he ever washed a dish.
La Plazuela was first a courtyard, some referred to it as the back yard. It was the sight of at least two deaths, but more on that in our ghost story segment. Eventually, a massive skylight was built over the courtyard so guests could eat among the sunbeams, a stark contrast to the lobby’s dark handcrafted
beams which are detailed with carvings. The front desk is a treasure of rich wood made by authentic craftsman. The hand-crafted chandeliers are constructed of tin, copper and glass, adding both light and ambience.
Mexican and Spanish influence is found everywhere in the furnishings, artwork and religious artifacts. In fact, several artists, most notably Gerald Cassidy, Paul Lantz, Vladan Stiha, also a resident at the hotel, have added paintings, murals, and painted panels that make La Fonda one of a kind. Ernesto Martinez is the current La Fonda artist. His work is most evident in the creative motifs found on the glass panes surrounding the restaurant. La Fonda continues to be both museum and posada (lodging).
J. Robert Oppenheimer, the renowned physicist of the Manhattan Project, reportedly hung out with his colleagues at La Fonda’s La Fiesta Lounge, federal agents in tow. But you can sip a margarita and listen to music, sans feds.
The Bell Tower on the fifth floor is the perfect place to appreciate beer and stunning sunsets at the same time. The view encompasses Sandia to the south and the Jemez to the west. After the hot colors of the sunset, stay for the indigo sky with a billion stars to keep you company. But should you venture out alone, beware the door. Mind that it’s not locked prior to closing it behind you. I have some personal experience with being locked out. Not a problem until a storm moves in or nature calls.
Like most storied buildings, La Fonda is a place of legend and myth. It has been the site of traders and cowboys, conquerors and native. It goes a long way back and will likely go way forward. It is reputed to have tunnels leading to the courthouse and the Palace of the Governors, and maybe even a dungeon-like room or two. Rowdy cowboys could be hustled away inconspicuously to sleep it off.
La Fonda was a Harvey House for more than four decades. Currently, it is a Historic Hotels of America, a Preferred Hotel Group brand, a program of the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Even if you don’t stay at La Fonda when you visit, you must see it, write a post card while sitting in one of those vintage chairs in the lobby, browse the many shops and immerse yourself in the three cultures (Pueblo Indian, Hispanic and Anglo) that exist in this city. It continues to surprise first-time visitors and long-time residents. And like wine, it improves with age.
For more information: http://www.lafondasantafe.com/
— G G Collins
Ghost Story of the Week: Sharpen those psychic skills for the upcoming question.
While La Fonda has stood the test of time, it has also racked up a good number of ghosts. There are so many that we’ll cover just a few this time.
During the 1800s a gambling hall was part of the hotel. As we all know, for every person who wins, there are many more who do not. In one particular incident, a man was hung in the courtyard (sometimes referred to as the backyard). Maybe it was thought he was cheating, but whatever the reason, he was lynched. It has been reported that some guests to La Plazuela have seen the shadow of a man hanging.
The Hon. John P. Slough, who was a chief justice of the Territorial Supreme Court, was shot in the lobby and later died of his wounds. He insulted Capt. Rynerson, also with Territorial government, calling him dishonest. Rynerson took offense and shot the judge. Guests say they’ve seen a man walking the hotel dressed in a long black coat (robes perhaps?).
And yet another man lost his life in what is now the restaurant. Originally it
was the courtyard and in the center was a well. Apparently a businessman lost his company’s money in a round of cards. He was so distressed, he jumped into the well to his demise. Although the well was filled in long ago, you can still see where it was. Look at the fountain in the center of the restaurant. It even closely resembles the look of the well in the postcard shown. Hotel staff and guests have seen a ghostly figure cross the room to the site of the old well and watched as he disappeared into the floor.
The Southwest Ghost Hunters Association conducted an investigation into La Fonda in 1998 and found the strongest suggestion of paranormal activity in the parking garage. During its construction, human remains were found there. This happens from time to time in Santa Fe and environs. All work ceases until the remains can be recovered.
Psychic question of the week:
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: The Longest Yard, a perfect score by everyone!
Tent Rocks: Hoodoos, Earth Pyramids and Fairy Chimneys
Now that you’re confused and wondering what all this has to do with our Reluctant Medium, well, the Kasha-Katuwe Tent Rocks
was another location where Rachel Blackstone searched for clues to her brother’s unexplained hasty departure from the Santa Fe City Hall.
It’s time for us to get back on the bus and make the short excursion from Santa Fe. The national monument is located about 40 miles west of the city. We’ll take I-25 to the Cochiti Lake exit. From there, it’s gets kind of fretful as we drive along the base of the Cochiti Dam. Try not to think about how much water pressure is on that dam. It has a capacity of 718,000 acre feet. Yeah, I don’t know what that means either, but that’s a lot of water. And it’s the 11th largest earthen dam in the world: Just a little dirt between us and all that H2O. It’s a bit freaky.
Well, moving along. We do have good luck on this trip. For years, the last five miles of this journey were washboard rough. It was a 5mph kind of road. My first several visits were bumpy at the finish. In 2010 someone had the bright idea to pave it. Your kidneys will thank them.
When Rachel Blackstone arrived at Tent Rocks, dark was fast approaching. Today, we’ll see it in daylight; not nearly as spooky. Kasha-Katuwe means “white cliffs” in Keres, which is the long-established language of the northern New Mexico pueblo Native Americans.
Some six or seven million years ago, the Jemez Mountains to the west, blew their stacks. In the pyroclastic flow that followed there was enough ash and tuff dumped to have buried a medium-sized city. Reportedly, it was a quarter-mile thick (about .402 kilometres). Time, wind and rain, over many years, have created the conical shapes. Although basically a grey color, there are shades of pink mixed in. Some reach 90 feet in height.
Apache Tears, a black obsidian stone or volcanic glass (when tumbled, it is quite smooth and a black-brown color), can be found throughout. Pick it up and admire it, then return to the ground. Leave only footprints. It gets its name, Apache Tears, because of its shape and some believe it can act as a healing stone, helping one move through grief. According to folklore, anyone who carries Apache Tears will never have to cry, because the Apache tribe has cried enough tears for us all.
Many of the tent rocks have peaks which come to a point, giving them the look of a tent. But you’ll also notice that some balance a caprock on that tip, much as a seal balances a ball on its nose. A few of the towering rocks have been carved out leaving chambers much like those lived in earlier eras. But these have been used as camping quarters by more recent humans.
If you’d like a fine photo op, there is a trail through a slot canyon. This is a bit over a mile, but is rewarding as you can photograph the monument from above getting some fantastic pics. It’s a majestic sight.
Here’s something fun. Check out the Ponderosa pines. If you’re not sure they are Ponderosa, lean forward and sniff the bark—that’s right, sniff the bark. If you catch the fragrance of vanilla, it’s a Ponderosa. This will be most easy to detect during the warmer part of the day. So if you see people standing around the pines with their noses against the bark, they aren’t out of their minds, just enjoying the fragrance.
There are a variety of small animals in the area such as chipmunks and rabbits, but in quieter times you might see a strolling coyote. One early morning, I was certain I saw a bear. I elected to go to breakfast rather than becoming breakfast.
Tent Rocks is a magical landscape that you might think belongs in another world, but it’s here in New Mexico waiting for you to discover it for yourself.
For more information: www.explorenm.com/hikes/TentRocks/ www.nm.blm.gov/recreation/Albuquerque/Kasha_Katuwe.htm
— G G Collins
Ghost story this week with another chance to practice your psychic expertise:
Many people don’t realize the New Mexico State Penitentiary is near Santa Fe. It’s usually the last thing on anyone’s mind as they drive into Santa Fe enjoying the clear skies, high desert air and anticipating a few days of nonstop green chile and margaritas. But in February 1980 one of the worst prison riots in the US happened here. At least 33 people were killed, but the total couldn’t be certain. Two hundred were treated for their injuries. The convicts in Cell Block 4 were targeted because that was where the snitches were isolated from the general population.
Eighteen years later, former Gov. Johnson closed the prison due to “uncontrollable disturbances.” The inmates were moved into new facilities. After that, the old prison became a filming location for movies as well as a training center for police. One movie extra decided to explore, walked into a cell, the door closed behind him. Once a guard let him out, he left the set and did not return. Other reports of cell doors opening or closing, apparently on their own, lights coming on or going off without reason, unexplained sounds and even shadowy figures that suddenly disappear. Most disturbing are the burn marks on the floors where inmates died that cannot be cleaned or painted away. The marks always return.
Other deserted prisons are considered haunted. Maybe life sentences extend into the afterlife.
Psychic question of the week (notice, I’ve discovered the “poll” feature):
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: Weeping Willows. That was a tough one, but I bet you got it right.
Next week a new series begins.
Go “On Location” with the Reluctant Medium.
The ghost story and psychic question continue!
Jackalope: Not just shopping, it’s a party!
Jackalope is one of the many delights of Santa Fe. The slogan “everything under the sun” is not an exaggeration. It may begin with pottery and blankets, but it doesn’t stop there. Treasures from New Mexico, Central and South America, Asia, Africa, Europe and everyplace in between, make Jackalope a destination. Even the non-shopper can dig in here and max out the old credit card.
It was here that our intrepid reporter, Rachel Blackstone, found another clue to the mayor’s disappearance. The mayor just happens to be her brother. As you may remember, Rachel attempted to return her dead father and blundered, allowing a ghastly spirit to slip through the open threshold. Since then, it’s been one thing after another.
So climb aboard our shuttle and will make the short drive southwest of downtown to Jackalope. Even the City Different has a motel row and Cerrillos Road happens to be that street in Santa Fe. Despite the motels and tourist traps, there are some good places to eat along the way. Two places Rachel enjoys are The Pantry (the green chile is hot and delicious) and Tortilla Flats.
While we’re making the drive, let me just tell you about the creature, the jackalope. It is the result of the rare mating of a female antelope and a male jackrabbit. I know, I know, difficult to believe, but just go with it. If you’re still with us, then try this on for size: they only mate during lightning strikes. That could explain the scarcity of the animal: a rabbit with antlers! Okay, moving along.
Jackalope, is the brainchild of Charles “Darby” McQuade, who was born into
a family of 15 children in West Virginia. He was an entrepreneur before the term became a part of the vernacular and preached about at business conferences. Resourceful even as a child, McQuade sold cucumbers and worms for fishermen. After getting his business degree he moved to New York City, but it wasn’t his thing. He bought a motorcycle and a pair of cowboy boots and saw Europe. Eventually, he returned to the States and by 1976, he was a Santa Fean. He originally sold pottery and other items from Mexico at the downtown Plaza out of his truck.
Well, from humble beginnings…. Now, Jackalope has grown into a village of shops. Where else can you get an egg salad sandwich, a Guatemalan coin purse and watch prairie dogs play? And you wouldn’t be the only one; Jackalope is the 5th biggest draw to visitors coming to Santa Fe.
And speaking of the prairie dogs, they have their own union and are bargaining for a flat screen TV and a hot tub. That’s right. How cute would that be; prairie dogs in a hot tub? Next, it will be margaritas! But we mustn’t forget the little guys played a role in a key scene when Rachel was searching for her brother.
Allow a half-day at least for a visit to McQuade’s “little” Mercado (market). There is truly something for everyone at Jackalope. As our Reluctant Medium knows, it’s where you buy pottery, but there’s also a colossal inventory of rugs, blankets, handcrafted international folk art, tasty treats from the Southwest, Christmas ornaments, handmade furniture, nursery plants—I’m running out of breath—and roasted chiles in season. In addition to the prairie dogs, are animals which sometimes submit to petting and are always fun to watch.
Jackalope is a colorful merging of crafts, arts and fun. Enjoy yourself and watch that credit card limit.
For more information, go to http://www.jackalope.com/
— G G Collins
Another chance to practice those psychic skills:
This week we have another Santa Fe ghost story. In 1898 a rancher built a house at what is now 122 Grant Avenue, a few blocks from the Plaza. Seven years later a young family moved in. Their son was sickly and required a wheelchair to move about. Unhappy, he was known to beat the walls of his upstairs bedroom to get his mother’s attention. Despite her constant ministrations, the lad died and his parents moved on. When the house was vacant, the neighbors reported seeing lights in the boy’s former bedroom.
In l981 the property was bought and renovated. It became the Grant Corner Inn, a bed and breakfast which hosted such notables as Dennis Quaid and Meg Ryan (in better days), and illustrator Garth Williams. It had a knockout breakfast which was open to the public. But the problems did not abate. In Antonio Garcez’s book Adobe Angels: Ghosts of Santa Fe and Taos, he related the experiences of the former caretaker. He told of hearing loud noises, sudden dips in the air temperature that could kill indoor plants and the stench of rancid meat.
Several years ago, the Andrew Smith Gallery bought the property and moved into the house. No further reports of disturbances have been disclosed. Perhaps the boy is now at peace.
Using your psychic skills, what kind of tree was cut down in front of the house at 122 Grant Avenue?
(c) Weeping Willow
For the answer, check back next Sunday.
Answer to last week’s psychic question: La Llorona. Did you get it right?
Today we begin our Reluctant Medium “treasure hunt” tour. The clues will remain safely tucked into the eBook, but we’ll visit the places where Rachel Blackstone found the clues. And you’ll have a chance to practice your psychic skills at the end.
Rachel is our Reluctant Medium. Her first career is as a journalist and now she seems to have a part-time job as a medium, much to her disdain. We pick up where Rachel found the first verse of clues to find her brother.
It seemed a normal day, even though Rachel had already been visited by the evil spirit. She ran into the Santa Fe New Mexican, the city’s daily paper, to drop off her story sources for review. Before Rachel could leave the newspaper office, the receptionist stopped her, giving her an envelope with the first clue to where her brother was.
The New Mexican’s office is found on Marcy Street near the downtown Santa Fe library in an unremarkable building. However, in its 158-year history it has occupied several locations including in the Plaza and on Palace Avenue.
Let’s walk a block and make a left onto Palace Avenue. The Palace Avenue site was later inhabited by the Manhattan Project during top-secret development of the atomic bomb in Los Alamos during WWII. Mail came to a P.O. Box rather than to the covert headquarters. It’s now the home of The Rainbow Man, since 1945, where the shopper can buy jewelry, folk art, masks and pottery. I dare you not to buy anything.
Another clue was waiting for her at the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi
or commonly known as the St. Francis Cathedral. The cathedral dominates the downtown Plaza area. It’s one of the first stops made by visitors to the City Different. It’s on Cathedral Place, within our sight as we stand on the sidewalk under the portal (porch). Cross the street. Okay, everyone run up the steps!
The cathedral was built around an adobe chapel. When the new structure was
complete, the small church, called La Parroquia, was dismantled and torn out except for a small chapel now on the north side of the church. The Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy (you’ll hear the Lamy name everywhere) had the cathedral built, not in the adobe style, but in Romanesque Revival. The yellow limestone was quarried near the current town of Lamy (told you, it’s everywhere). A statue of Lamy keeps vigil in front of the church.
The lovely rose window over the entrance was imported from France. Sadly, due to a lack of funds, the towers were not finished. The church was designed with two 160-foot steeples. But when construction stopped, it left one tower a single row of bricks shorter than the other, making one wonder if the money ran out abruptly. Can’t you just visualize (of course we can, we’re mediums, albeit reluctant) someone blowing a whistle, the bricklayers throwing down their trowels and climbing down?
The interior of the cathedral contains elegant Corinthian columns and round arches. It is a humbling structure and quite spiritual to sit in. Take a few minutes to look upon the grandeur that is the St. Francis Cathedral. The Baptismal font was added about a decade ago and is made of Brazilian granite.
Candles are available just inside the church. You may light one for a loved one before we go.
For more information on the St. Francis Cathedral, check out: http://www.cbsfa.org/home0.aspx
— G G Collins
Here’s your chance to try out your psychic skills—or Google skills?
There are many ghost stories in Santa Fe. A few blocks from the St. Francis Cathedral, along the Santa Fe River, is a story that endures. I’m told there are more than 40 variations on this ghastly tale and it is a favorite throughout the southwest.
Many years ago, the poor would park their wagons along the Santa Fe River (more of a trickle most of the time). According to the story, a woman from one of those wagons met and fell in love with a Conquistador. After having two children with him, she found he had been unfaithful (isn’t that just always the way?). In her sorrow, she took her children, and drowned them in the river. There are two versions of the ending: either she rejoiced that they were gone, then fell and suffered a fatal injury, or she hung herself in regret.
There are reports from people walking in the river park that they heard a woman calling for her babies, but saw no one. She has been seen at the nearby PERA Building. Workers have reported she is a dark shape and messes with the lights in the building. This ghost is known as the Weeping Woman.
Using your psychic abilities, the name of the Weeping Woman was:
(a) La Plazuela
(b) La Llorona
(c) Las Golondrinas
For the answer, check back next Sunday. And, we’ll travel to another stop on Rachel’s journey to save her brother.
See you Sunday. G G Collins