Blog Archives

Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum Hill

It’s Summer! Explore Museum Hill.

By G G Collins          (Copyright 2017)

Four world-class museums to discover the Native American Southwest and all it has to offer: arts, culture and history. Lunch at the Museum Hill Cafe. Listen to music as it floats around the huge plaza, compete with its on contemporary labyrinth.

Enjoy the sculpture garden at Museum Hill.

Museum Hill Mountain Spirit Dancer

 

Labyrinth Courtesy Museum of International Folk Art, Santa Fe, NM

And don’t forget the Santa Fe Botanical Garden just across the street. The Art Walk has changing exhibits.

Santa Fe Botanical Garden, Art Walk in Background

Have a great day exploring Santa Fe’s Museum Hill!

 

Santa Fe, New Mexico Famous Plaza

Summer is Almost Here

Santa Fe’s Plaza. Meet people. Watch people. Soak up the high dry mountain air and sunshine.

Santa Fe, New Mexico Museum Hill Photography

A Lovely Autumn Day in Santa Fe

Museum Hill Mountain Spirit Dancer

The Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer

Find the Apache Mountain Spirit Dancer in Milner Plaza at Museum Hill in Santa Fe. The big bronze is by Craig Dan Goseyun. The fringe seems to shimmy as the light changes.

Located at 710-708 Camino Lejo, off Old Santa Fe Trail; across from Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

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Christmas in Santa Fe

Happy Holidays From Santa Fe!

And the Reluctant Medium

Santa Fe Christmas Door

Santa Fe Christmas Door

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Travel: Santa Fe, New Mexico in One Day

Santa Fe in Only One Day

by G G Collins          (Copyright 2015)

The Shed Restaurant Copyright G G Collins

The Shed Restaurant
Copyright G G Collins

THE SHED: Eat at The Shed! It’s on Palace Avenue a couple of blocks from the Plaza.The Shed is known for their New Mexican cuisine: such as Carne Adovado. Inside or out, it’s colorful and fun. The chocolate fudge sundae for dessert goes beyond decadent. For more on the restaurant’s history and how it came to be called The Shed:

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2012/07/29/on-location-with-the-reluctant-medium-week-two/

Rainbow Man shop Former office of The Manhattan Project

Rainbow Man shop
Former office of The Manhattan Project

SHOPPING: If you enjoy shopping until you drop, you can do that in Santa Fe. A good place to start is Rainbow Man. It’s on Palace too. Be sure to look for The Manhattan Project plaque dedication. It’s at the back of the courtyard under the portal (porch in Spanish). Despite being a historical site, there is no sign to indicate that. If you can’t find the plaque, ask someone at the store. They’re happy to point it out.

For more on The Manhattan Project:

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2015/06/13/the-manhattan-project-70th-anniversary-santa-fe-new-mexico/

At Wind River, you can enter on Palace, walk through the store (this may take a while with all the jewelry, Native American art and chickens, yes, chickens), and exit on San Francisco across from La Fonda. From top-of-the-line clothing to kitchen items to kitsch, it’s all on the Plaza. The Marcy Card Shop on Marcy Street (a couple of blocks from the Plaza and close to the convention center) has a lot more than cards!

La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Santa Fe Trail

La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Santa Fe Trail

LA FONDA: Now, cross the street and walk through the lobby of La Fonda. This hotel has a loooong history in Santa Fe. Both the famous and the infamous have walked these Saltillo tiles. Look in the restaurant. See the fountain in the center? That used to be a well in an outdoor courtyard. A business man down on his luck threw himself in it and was killed. His ghost is said to still walk the halls. Oppenheimer and fellow scientists relaxed in the bar–under the close watch of federal agents. There is also a rooftop deck and bar for watching sunsets. Here’s more on La Fonda: 

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/on-location-with-the-reluctant-medium/

St. Francis Cathedral Copyright G G Collins

St. Francis Cathedral

ST. FRANCIS CATHEDRAL: The St. Francis Cathedral is worth a look. It’s beautiful inside and out. There are usually members there to answer questions and give tours. And if you are a candle lighter, there are candle alcoves just inside the entry. A labyrinth is in front of the church for contemplation. More on the cathedral:

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2012/06/30/reluctant-medium-virtual-treasure-hunt-week-one/

THE PLAZA: And don’t just walk through the Plaza. Take a few minutes and soak up the sun, be dazzled by the azure skies. The light, and the vibe, is the reason writers and artists have flocked to The City Different for years.

The Santa Fe Plaza.

The Santa Fe Plaza.

 

If you have time and are museum people, the Palace of the Governors is fascinating. There are holes in the floor and no one knows why (carefully covered in thick clear glass for a look-see). Wallace finished “Ben-Hur” at the Palace while governor. The Palace was on high alert and he covered his lamp to conceal the light as attack was imminent.

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/palace-of-the-governors-in-santa-fe-new-mexico/

All of this is within a few blocks. 

IF YOU HAVE A SECOND DAY:

Jackalope. Say hello to the prairie dogs!

Jackalope. Say hello to the prairie dogs!

JACKALOPE: Jackalope on Cerrillos Road is shopping, animals, oh heck, it’s a party. The owner’s story is a fascinating journey. The prairie dogs are a favorite with kids and adults alike. Check out Jackalope at: 

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2012/07/06/reluctant-medium-virtual-treasure-hunt-tour-july-8-2012/

Museum Hill Mountain Spirit Dancer

Museum Hill Mountain Spirit Dancer

MUSEUM HILL: Is so worth a good look. If you’re not up to the museum crawl, just go out and look at the outdoor art, eat at the restaurant and listen to the music drift on a breeze.The new Santa Fe Botanical Garden is just across the street. Great views of the Sangre de Cristos. Here’s more on both attractions:

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/santa-fes-museum-hill-botanical-garden/

Tent Rocks, Public Domain

Tent Rocks, Public Domain

TENT ROCKS: If you’d like a far-out hiking experience, go to Tent Rocks. Made of ash from a long ago volcano, the tent-shaped rocks are eerie and magical. It’s south of Santa Fe near the Cochiti Dam. You drive right by the dam and it’s a bit scary thinking about all that water behind the dam; so don’t. The car you’re in feels very small and insignificant. Now you can’t stop thinking about it.

https://reluctantmediumatlarge.wordpress.com/2012/07/13/reluctant-medium-virtual-treasure-hunt-tour-july-15-2012/

10,000 Waves Hot Tub

10,000 Waves Hot Tub

NEED DOWN TIME: If you can’t take anymore and need to relax, it’s 10,000 Waves time. Massage, hot tubs, facials and a gorgeous Japanese style mountain retreat. It’s on the way up to the Ski Basin, only a few miles. It’s heavenly.

http://www.tenthousandwaves.com/

Whatever you do in Santa Fe, remember, it’s mañana time. 

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Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road in Santa Fe

Christmas Eve in Santa Fe

By G G Collins (Copyright 2013)

Farolitos Line the Roof of La Fonda copyright G G Collins

Farolitos Line the
Roof of La Fonda
copyright G G Collins

It’s Christmas Eve and you’re in Santa Fe. Sunset is fast approaching and the air is frosty. There’s only one thing to do: wrap up warmly and go to the Canyon Road Christmas Eve Farolito Walk.

Forget trying to park. Stay at a nearby hotel or B & B. Otherwise prepare for frustration trying to park. There will be street closures and partial street closures. Last year Santa Fe Trails offered shuttles from the South Capitol Station for $2 round-trip. Check with them for service this year.

Notice the farolitos (brown paper bags with sand and a votive candle) lining the street and sidewalks. Now, in Santa Fe these are called farolitos, but much of New Mexico refers to them as luminarias. To further confuse the issue, in Santa Fe we call bonfires luminarias. Okay, don’t sweat the details; just enjoy.

This can be a shoulder-to-shoulder event with up to 30,000 people—and their dogs—descending on Canyon Road. Santa Fe’s art centre lives right here and many of the galleries will be open late; doorways of yellow light inviting you in. I absolutely love this yearly procession. You never know what surprise waits to delight you. Most of these are provided by the parade you are a part of; people and dogs draped in Christmas lights. Canine friends may be outfitted with antlers in addition to the brightly colored lights. They don’t seem to mind. There’s always a new take on costuming for the Farolito Walk.

Farolito Walk in Santa Fe

Farolito Walk in Santa Fe (Photo credit: feverblue) Creative Commons

Impromptu carolers burst into Christmas songs and spirituals. Music erupts as drummers pound their instruments marching the length of Canyon Road. Notes float across the cold air from a harp or flute gently reminding you of the season. The galleries, shops and restaurants along the narrow thread are decked out with festive lights and bright red bows. It’s a sensory experience of light, sound and delicious scents.

But don’t leave out taste. To warm up, stop and get a coffee, hot chocolate or cider. Usually one can find cookies for munching—you’ll need energy to walk uphill. Take a few moments and warm your hands at a nearby bonfire, and keep going.

When the lights fade and the music stops, just turn around and do it all over. And when you reach the end of Canyon Road, savor the experience, because it will be another whole year before it happens again. This is Christmas Eve in Santa Fe.

— G G CollinsCopyscape Do Not Copy

Links to YouTube videos of the Christmas Eve Farolito Walk on Canyon Road:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XdVRZ2MGjlM http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OEJLNPDBRkc

Whatever holiday you celebrate, may it be happy and peaceful.

ClipArt

Walking in Santa Fe

Make Like a Tourist

Reluctant Medium Rachel Blackstone’s favorite time of year is autumn. Funny, we’re alike in that way. Since blog posts eat photos like mad, I thought I’d make like a tourist and head out with the camera. Taking pictures like a first-time visitor is actually a little embarrassing, but the journalist urges me onward.

W San Francisco St
Lensic PAC
copyright G G Collins

The weather is great in Santa Fe right now, although if you enjoy a high desert climate, it’s nearly always terrific weather. I took off down West San Francisco headed toward the plaza. “I was walking with my feet ten feet off” the street. For those of you who don’t recognize this, it’s from a Cher song entitled “Walking in Memphis.” If you don’t know Cher (US singer/actress), she recorded the song in 1995. It was used in an episode of The X-Files, but wasn’t the hit several of her other songs became. Originally sung by singer-songwriter Marc Cohn, it is about a spiritual awakening in Memphis. Here is a YouTube link to hear the song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMBSL8W6gBs

There are days like that in the City Different when the senses are keen and the spirit is awakening. This is such a day. As I pass the Lensic Performing Arts, I marvel at how it was transformed from a 1931 theatre where anything from vaudeville to first-run movies was showcased to a swank new PAC. But the 800-seat theatre was in

Lensic PAC Notice Detail
copyright G G Collins

danger of becoming permanently dark, when it was saved by a group of visionaries. They saw a new beginning for a building on the verge of losing its  groove. There was a multi-story addition to the rear of the building and the interior was carefully restored to its stunning ornate decor. It hosts more than 200 events a year.

The Original Trading Post
copyright G G Collins

Also on San Francisco you’ll find The Original Trading Post. Reputed to have been in Santa Fe since 1603, it is protected by the Historic Santa Fe Foundation Preservation Easement program.” I remember the first time I saw it, I wasn’t at all certain I should enter. It looked ready to collapse. But not to worry, it’s stood many years since then. It has virtually everything you could possibly want for New Mexico gifts to take home: post cards, key chains, worry stones, cups, clothing, Native American pottery, on and on. Beware, the floors squeak unmercifully which is part of the charm. It makes no excuses. It’s kitschy and fun.

Burro Alley Sculpture
copyright G G Collins

Burro Alley (you’ll know you’re there when you see the burro sculpture) was a wild patch in the 1800s: gambling parlors, bars and for the indiscriminate “gentleman,” ladies of the night were available for a price, usually the winnings from the card game. But the street was named after the sturdy little burros who pulled wagons of wood to be sold in the alley. Streets and sidewalks along here—and many other areas of downtown—intersect like the people who settled here.

At last, the plaza comes into view; I try to see it like someone who has never been there. It is sun splashed under a perfect azure sky. The trees are mature and tall. Flowers hang from old-fashioned street lamps. Both the present and

First View of Plaza
W San Francisco Meets Lincoln
copyright G G Collins

the past occupy the plaza. The monument in the center has had the word “savage” scratched out. It represents the past. In the present, people dot the square, some rushing to their next appointment while others sit on the benches and feed the pigeons or snap photos. The Palace of the Governors’ long portal shades Native Indian artists showing their wares on colorful blankets. At least 30 people browse, ask questions, squat for a closer look and buy a beautiful memory from Santa Fe.

I don’t know if it’s the high mountain air (Santa Fe sits at 7,000 feet) or the brilliant sky. Maybe it’s the aroma of roasting chiles or the aspens that are

Lamp & Flowers in the Plaza
copyright G G Collins

turning golden on Mt. Baldy. It could be the abundant creativity in the city. It’s a magnet for writers and artists of all walks. But there is an energy that can’t be denied, and why would anyone want to?

Why not go walking in your city?

— G G Collins

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On Location with the Reluctant Medium, Week Three

The Plaza: Heart and Soul of Santa Fe

War Memorial in Santa Fe Plaza
Creative Commons Attribution

In the Pueblo Tewa language, the word bu-ping-geh, translates to “center-heart-place.” That describes Santa Fe’s central plaza well. Town plazas were the social network of times gone by—no wireless network needed. This public square was designed by Spanish soldiers a decade before Plymouth Rock saw its first Pilgrims. Originally, it was larger, extending all the way to what would be the location of the St. Francis Cathedral. Not surprising, the plaza is on the National Register of Historic Places

Anything and everything important happened at the plaza. Residents gathered there to celebrate when Mexico achieved its independence from Spain. It was also here that the town’s people learned the United States had annexed them and they were now going to be called New Mexico. The citizens of Santa Fe were not amused.

Festival on the Plaza
copyright G G Collins

Today, the plaza is home to the famous Indian and Spanish Markets, fiestas, concerts, holiday lights, and the first place visitors want to see. When a Santa Fe newbie stops me and asks, “Where’s the plaza?” I usually think amateur, and smile remembering when I first looked for the plaza years ago.

For our Reluctant Medium, Rachel Blackstone, the plaza is a special place. While some locals avoid it, because of tourism, Rachel adores it because of the mix of residents and international visitors. It draws her as she walks from appointment to appointment passing by the Palace of the Governors with a quick hello to those she knows. She and friend Chloe loved drinks on the Ore House balcony, before the restaurant closed, and Rachel, along with her co-workers at High Desert Country have pick-up meetings at La Fonda. And of course, The Shed restaurant is a short block off the plaza.

West San Francisco is one of the Reluctant Medium’s favorite streets in Santa Fe. The Lensic Theater is here and has been beautifully restored and transformed into the city’s performing arts center. More on it another time. Restaurant Tia Sophia’s is also along the way. Breakfasts are great and affordable–lunch too. As we walk along this narrow street, the St. Francis Cathedral becomes more and more apparent.

Now, we’ve come to the intersection of San Francisco and Lincoln Avenue. We

Plaza Draped in Christmas Lights
copyright G G Collins

have arrived. You’ll notice  the plaza shows off Pueblo, Territorial and Spanish architecture. If we make a right and go upstairs, there’s a great place to eat called San Francisco Bar and Grill. It has had several incarnations in Santa Fe, but Rachel Blackstone likes this one best. Rachel’s favorites here are the Tuna Niçoise and Mediterranean salads.

Below is the Plaza Bakery-Haagen Dazs. There’s never a bad time for ice cream and fresh-baked goodies. It’s good to announce the Plaza Café on Lincoln has reopened after a long absence to renovate. This is the first meal for many visitors to the City Different. Welcome back.

Throughout the plaza you’ll find a drug store, jewelry, pottery, clothing and culinary stores, a bank, the New Mexico Museum of Art at one corner and La Fonda at another. Dominating the north side is the Palace of the Governors, although it doesn’t look much like a palace as compared to some in Europe. It has an enthralling history which we’ll cover in the future. The tunnels and holes that were dug in the floor are endlessly fascinating. But the main attraction here for visitors is the American Indian artwork that is sold on the portal (porch) of the museum. Most of the artists are more than willing to talk about how they create it.

But let’s soak up the plaza at the moment. There are a few curiosities. The obelisk in the center is a war memorial. Some of the words are shocking. I was appalled when I read it. We can be thankful that reasoning, caring humans no longer think in such terms.

Harpist at the Plaza
copyright G G Collins

Music is a frequent accompaniment in the plaza. Not just in the bandstand, but musicians come to play their favorite instruments. One man brings his pets: a dog, a cat, and a rat. They all sit quietly one on top the other. We feel a little sorry for them, but they are well trained and you may take a photo, just ask first. These are the things that make the plaza the place to meet people and enjoy local color.

Two things we miss: the Ore House restaurant that had been a resident of the

Can’t we all get along?
copyright G G Collins

plaza for decades. At one time they offered nearly 100 different flavored margaritas and the best place to people watch. Sigh.  Also on the missing list are the flagstones the plaza used to have. Alas, it was rumored that people kept stealing the stones, so now it has grass which needs irrigation in this dry climate. During the summer, hanging baskets of exploding color brighten it even further.

The plaza is both a starting point and a jumping off point. It is a good place to just be. Grab a bench and enjoy. Mañana will take care of itself.

For more information on Santa Fe: http://www.santafe.org/

— G G Collins

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Ghost Story of the Week

La Residencia, located at Palace Avenue and Paseo de Peralta, has been a convent, hospital and nursing home. It was the location of the first St. Vincent’s Hospital prior to the “new” hospital being built south of downtown during the late 1970s.

During its life as a hospital, a boy and his father were brought in for emergency treatment after a car accident. Sadly, both died. It is said the child died from his injuries in room 311. Reported phenomena include the sound of a crying child in this room. It was heard so often the hospital tried not to use the room.

When museum exhibits were stored in the building’s basement, unexplained sounds occurred there. Nurses described a strange phenomenon, which appeared to be blood oozing from a basement wall.

But it is the cries of a frightened young boy who haunt his third-floor room we find most disturbing.

Psychic Question

For the answer, check back next Sunday.

Answer to last week’s psychic question:  The 7-minute man. Gotcha! No one answered this one correctly.

On Location with the Reluctant Medium, Week Two

The Shed: The Legend Continues

The Shed, Welcoming on any Day
Courtesy The Shed

When thinking of Santa Fe, it’s easy to visualize azure skies, crisp mornings and The Shed. Located in Seña Plaza on Palace Avenue, across the street from St. Francis Cathedral, it has a prime location one block from the historical plaza. For almost 60 years, The Shed has been serving the best chile Hatch, NM can grow. Originally, it was only open for lunch. Lines were long, they can still be long, but the waiting is pleasant in the Prince courtyard where both residents and visitors alike wait with anticipation.

Reluctant Medium Rachel Blackstone and her friend Chloe Valdez, are

The Bar at The Shed
Courtesy The Shed

frequently found sitting at the bar enjoying both the margaritas and the food. Rachel prefers the house margarita (she thinks they’re the best in town), but Chloe gets the pomegranate version claiming it is healthier. It is certainly pink. Whether you chow down on green chile chicken enchiladas or one of Chloe’s favorites, garlic shrimp with calabacitas, all entrees come with garlic bread—not sopapillas. It’s tradition.

Seña Plaza dates back to 1692. After the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico, Captain Arias de Quiros was hailed as a hero. For his contributions he was given land just north of the cathedral. He farmed most of the property and lived in a small house, which no longer exists.

Later, Don José Seña built a 33-room hacienda, situated around a large courtyard. He and his wife Doña Isabel had 11 children and they occupied all but the building on the north side of the courtyard which housed the livestock and servants. The structure was so large that it was temporary home to state government after a fire burned the capitol building in 1892.

Palace Ave & The Shed Sign
Courtesy The Shed

There are two other haciendas, with courtyards, in Seña Plaza: Trujillo Plaza which housed the office of the Manhattan Project during WWII and the L. Bradford Prince home which is where The Shed is located, hence Prince courtyard.

William Penhallow Henderson, artist and builder, remodeled the large structure in 1927, enlarging the courtyard, adding a second story to the back of the U-shaped hacienda. In Chris Wilson’s book The Myth of Santa Fe, he writes: “To unify the old and new portions, he developed a stylized vocabulary of light stucco heavy posts and lintels, and a Territorial style brick dentil coping.”

Fast-forward to the most recently completed century. The Carswell family

Excavation of The Shed, Burro Alley
Courtesy The Shed

moved to New Mexico from Illinois, after a stop in Carmel. The artsy family learned New Mexican cooking from their Hispanic neighbors and decided to open a restaurant circa 1952, with an official opening of July 4, 1953.  The location was in Burro Alley. It was literally the shed where both burros and wood was kept. There were 22 seats in this first incarnation.

Renovating The Shed Patio
Courtesy The Shed

In 1960, The Shed moved to its current location. As time and space has allowed, it has expanded to nine dining rooms, the bar and the anteroom where customers can wait. The entry includes a tiny kiva fireplace which puts out a surprising amount of heat.

Low-down: Watch your head as you enter the purple front door. We’re taller than our forefathers of the 1600s, so duck!

The Shed has garnered a slew of awards, although fans don’t need them to know what we like. These include the James Beard Foundation’s “America’s Classic Award” in 2003. The Food Network’s “$40 a Day” show with Rachael Ray, has featured it and New Mexico Magazine gave it their 2011 “Best Eats” nod.

The reasons for this are many. The colorful restaurant–with original art–is just plain fun, the staff is congenial and adds to the enjoyment, and then there’s the food. Red chile is ground fresh each day and the red chile sauce reflects this. Just try the carne adovado or the pollo adobo. The guacamole is smooth as butter, and of course, there is the award-winning Shed burger. The restaurant also has veggie options.

Don’t forget dessert. Our Reluctant Medium loves the zabaglione, a luscious Italian (yes, Italian) custard with cointreau and white port. Decadent. But oh my, then there is the mocha cake and the lemon soufflé. One can’t go wrong choosing any one of them.

The Patio Today
Courtesy The Shed

The heart and soul of The Shed, is the three generations of Carswells who have put their all into the restaurant. Today Courtney Carswell and family continue the tradition of New Mexican cooking, blending the old and the new, the Mexican and Pueblo Indian cuisines. The queues show how successful this is. See you in line!

For more information on The Shed: http://sfshed.com/Restaurant.html

 

— G G Collins

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Ghost Story of the Week

La Posada de Santa Fe Resort and Spa has probably the most famous of the Santa Fe ghost stories. Julia Staab who died in her prime at 52 reportedly haunts the hotel. It has been the subject of television shows such as Unsolved Mysteries and Celebrity Ghost Stories, and in print at The Dallas Morning News.

Abraham Staab had the three-story Staab House built in French-inspired styling which included a mansard roof and a ballroom on the top floor. It would become the hub of society in 19-century Santa Fe. But it would not last. The couple’s eighth child was ill and finally succumbed. Julia was never the same and took to her room, which became room 256 when the house was converted to a hotel.

During a construction project, a befuddled crew came to work one morning and found their building materials in disarray. An enlightened worker began leaving roses for Julia. The mischief ceased.

Other encounters have been more personal including sightings of a transparent woman in a long dress and hood. One man reported a woman’s image in the mirror of the men’s room. And in the basement, which retains its earthen floor and stone walls, an employee of the hotel has noticed a fragrance cloud of orange and rose blossoms.

Visitors to the six-acre resort still ask for room 256, but there was the case of one man who checked in, and returned to the front desk in minutes demanding another room.

Psychic Question:

For the answer, check back next Sunday.

Answer to last week’s psychic question:  The Exchange Hotel

On Location with the Reluctant Medium

La Fonda, the Inn at the End of the Trail

La Fonda during holidays
copyright G G Collins

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

La Fonda Front Desk copyright G G Collins

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

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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

La Fonda Courtyard with Well, Public Domain

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!

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