FE HOTELS IN HISTORY
Articles by Marc Simmons
history of public lodging in Santa Fe is a subject that has not
received much attention. I can find practically no reference to
roadhouses and hotels existing anywhere in New Mexico during the
colonial period. Such places, of course, were common in Mother Spain.
One has only to read "Don Quixote" to find vivid descriptions of
rural inns and urban hotels.
tradition claims that in Spanish times Santa Fe had a single hostelry,
La Fonda ("The Inn"), at the same location as the present-day La
Fonda. However, no documents have been found to confirm that. Local
historian Marian Meyer has reported that an American couple, William
and Mary Donoho, operated the place from 1833 to 1837. That seems
to be the earliest definite information that we have about La Fonda.
time Francisco Perea had recorded in his memoirs that the capital
had several mesones, or primitive lodgings. They served tasty food
with plenty of chile and native wine. Each room had a corner fireplace
(not yet called by the silly name of "kiva fireplace").
the American conquest in 1846, La Fonda was still the only real
hotel in town. One guest complained that "it was so badly kept and
supplied that few people paid it a second visit." Entrance to the
lobby was on the corner, and an inside door gave access to the hotel's
saloon. There was a long placita, or interior courtyard, and a high-walled
corral attached to the north for patrons' horses. Cockfights were
regularly held there.
guest was found stiff in his bed and thought to be dead. Ill for
several days, he had been ignored by the staff. When his belongings
were searched, it was discovered that he was a wealthy man. At once
the hotel arranged for an elaborate funeral. But then the deceased
suddenly returned to life, having only been in a coma. When asked
to tell what happened while he was dead, he replied: "I went straight
to heaven and met St. Peter. He asked where I'd died and I replied
Santa Fe, New Mexico. He said he'd never heard of it and was sure
it didn't exist.
atlas was produced, and St. Peter was shown Santa Fe on a map. Astonished,
he exclaimed to the newcomer, 'I'l be darned if you aren't the first
man ever to come here from that place!'"
other hotels had sprouted, giving the inhospitable la Fonda some
serious competition. Among them were the Missouri House (on what
Americans were calling Main Street; that is, San Francisco Street),
Beck & Redmans Hotel, the Santa Fe House and the German Hotel.
Mrs. G. de Habile, recently arrived from New Orleans, opened the
first private boarding house, a few doors from the Missouri House.
A newspaper notice said that she would be pleased to receive Gentlemen
as boarders, and "she flattered herself that her business would
succeed." In those days, running a boarding house was one of the
few commercial opportunities open to women. Several such lodgings
could be seen in Santa Fe of the 1850s. They had a reputation for
serving fine noon meals, which attracted other Santa Fe residents.
the widow Eliza Sloan rented the abandoned Spanish military barracks
at the corner of today's Palace and Lincoln avenues (on the site
of the Fine Arts Museum). She and her two small children, Marian
and Will, went to work with brooms and mops, cleaned up the building,
and soon opened the doors as the Sloan Boarding House. Archbishop
Jean-Baptiste Lamy (immortalized in Willa Cather's "Death Comes
for the Archbishop") became a regular guest for lunch, as did Kit
Carson whenever he was down from Taos on Indian Agency business.
In 1936, at age 90, Marian Sloan recalled that Carson, after his
meal, would take her by the hand and walk her around the Santa Fe
no full history of early-day Santa Fe lodgings can be written now.
But numerous anecdotes exist that impart the flavor of life in those
old establishments that sheltered frontier travelers.
Marc Simmons's "Coronado Land: Daily Life in Colonial New Mexico"
(University of New Mexico Press). Amazon.com
Articles by Marc Simmons