View From the Plaza

90 Years, Part I: The Making of La Fonda

Steve Wimmer, La Fonda on the Plaza's Chef Concierge

Steve Wimmer, La Fonda on the Plaza’s Chef Concierge

This is Part I of a three-part history post from our chef concierge, Steve Wimmer on the occasion of La Fonda’s 90th birthday.

It is hard to believe that on December 30, 2012 La Fonda on the Plaza turned 90! What was going on in the world at that time? And most importantly, what was going on in Santa Fe?

Warren Harding was in the White House and Calvin Coolidge was his Vice President. America had shaken its big stick and come out a winner and major world power after World War I. Santa Fe saw a growth in population after the War. The Santa Fe Railroad had for some time been commissioning artwork from American artists whom the railroad encouraged to come west and spend the summer amidst our amazing landscapes. Our unique architecture combined with our Native American population served as intriguing models.  The resulting art collection was used by the railroad’s advertising department to lure Easter “dudes” to come west and see The Grand Canyon on the way to the orange groves and perfect weather of sunny California. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad to this day has a collection of close to 900 of these canvasses in their corporate headquarters in Fort Worth.

And why not stop in Santa Fe on your way west and explore a town that was unlike any other in the USA!

A newer, more elegant La Fonda was built to accommodate these new arrivals who were visiting Santa Fe and the Southwest.  In 1915 the firm of Rapp, Rapp and Hendrickson was chosen to build the New Mexico Pavilion at the Panamanian California Exposition which still stands in Balboa Park in San Diego.  In 1917 this same firm built the New Mexico Art Museum on the Northwest corner of the Plaza, which was an exact copy of the New Mexico Pavilion, so indeed the logical choice to create this new flagship hotel for the town was Isaac Hamilton Rapp.

La Fonda under construction

La Fonda under construction (Palace of the Governor’s photo archive)

Construction started in 1920 and by the fall of 1922 was finished.  There were some difficulties in finding a manager and adequate furniture to furnish the rooms.

Here is a picture of the lobby in 1922 looking across the lobby to the stairs leading to the executive offices.  Some interesting southwest design touches are featured in the hotel, but the furniture looks unexceptional.  But don’t worry, Mary Colter would straighten that out for our next reopening in 1929.

The lobby of La Fonda in 1922

The lobby of La Fonda in 1922

To be continued… look for Part II coming soon!

3 Responses to “90 Years, Part I: The Making of La Fonda”

  1. Jeff Caven

    Great Blog Steve!

    I’ll be looking for Part 11. You have that rare gift of making history interesting and factual. Santa Fe is on the schedule. See you soon!


  2. Karen Denison, Outspire Hiking & Snowshoeing

    Alright, Steve! Nice blog–I’ll be looking for next installment!

  3. Annette Sedillo

    Great Blog Steve! You always have the right words to describe such an indescribable location!!! I always love to hear your colorful stories!! Looking forward to the next installment! =)


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