By L. Parsons
The La Posada Hotel in Winslow is no stranger to accolades. This month, it had one more to add as it was named one of the top 20 hotels in the Southwest by Conde Nast Traveler, a respected online and print magazine that is read around the world.
The magazine’s readers reviewed hotels and resorts in Arizona, Utah, New Mexico and Wyoming to compile this top 20 list. Other hotels selected include the Arizona Biltmore Waldorf Astoria in Phoenix and the Hotel Sante Fe in New Mexico. Owner and project manager of La Posada Allan Affeldt said, “Pretty good company for little Winslow, Arizona!”
Partner and general manager Dan Lutzick agreed. “The restoration of the grand hotel began in 1994 with a group of Winslow residents dedicated to bringing the gardens back to their glory. It was that same year that current owner Allan Affeldt and his wife artist Tina Mion stepped in to assist local preservationists in saving the hotel,” he said of the hotel, which is located at 303 E. Second St., and is situated on 11 acres of land with buildings and gardens.
Affeldt and Mion moved into the hotel in 1997, and brought on Lutzick who is a sculptor, as a third partner. They then established La Posada LLC to take on the risks and negotiations necessary to take on the estimated $12 million restoration project. Lutzick said, “In many ways, what started out as a few college students trying to save a hotel has turned into a very creative and rewarding life.”
Architect Mary Jane Colter designed the La Posada, which means ‘the resting place,’ in 1929 as a Sante Fe Railroad Hotel for the Fred Harvey Company. Colter was said to have declared the La Posada her masterpiece, in the company of the Bright Angel Lodge at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon and the Phantom Ranch at the bottom of the canyon. In 1987, the Mary Coulter buildings as a group were listed as National Historic Landmarks.
The La Posada opened May 15, 1930, just after the stock market crash of 1929, and remained open for just 27 years. During those years it was a popular destination spot for the Hollywood jet set, as well as important figures in science, aviation and politics. It is documented that John Wayne, Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, President Franklin Roosevelt, Howard Hughes, and a host of dignitaries and elite all stayed at the La Posada. Many of the famous guests made the hotel a routine stop on their trips out west.
It was in the late 1950s that the hotel closed to the public and became offices for the Sante Fe Railroad. According to the hotel’s website, the museum quality furnishings were auctioned off in 1959 and in the early 1960s, much of the building was gutted. Over the next 40 years, the building was in constant threat of being demolished, and as recently as 1994 when the railway announced its plans to vacate the buildings.
The La Posada reopened to the public as a museum, gallery and hotel in 1997, with renovations that are still ongoing. “The revitalization process never stops,” Lutzick said. The hotel is also home to a world-class restaurant, the Turquoise Room, which opened in 2000. Chef John Sharpe heads the restaurant, which offers a rotating menu of seasonal cuisine and the servers are donned in recreated Harvey House attire. Named one of the top 25 restaurants in Arizona by Arizona Highways Magazine, the restaurant is set to see it’s own renovations in the near future. According to Lutzick, “We are expanding our gardens to the east and there are plans to expand the Turquoise Room into those gardens with patio seating.”
Currently, La Posada LLC, the City of Winslow, Arizona Department of Transportation and the Northern Arizona Council of Governments are partnering to restore the historic train depot on the grounds that will include a museum. “We are working on developing a world class contemporary art museum. The first phase of the museum will be completed in March 2018,” said Lutzick.
The depot is slated to house not only the museum, but also art galleries and will serve as a visitor’s center for Roden Crater, an art installation by world-renowned artist James Turrell. The project will cost an estimated $2 million and is the latest in efforts to make Winslow an art destination in the Southwest.
The success of the La Posada has also provided funds for other projects, such as the preservation of the Castaneda Hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., and the restoration of the Snowdrift Art Space in Winslow. According to Lutzick, the owners of the La Posada have, “Chosen to continually reinvest profits back into saving important historical structures and developing arts in the Southwest,” Lutzick said, “We feel very lucky to have been part of this revival and to be a part of communities like Winslow, Arizona.”