View From the Plaza

90 Years, Part II: The “New” La Fonda of 1922

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

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

This is Part II of a three-part history post from our Chef Concierge, Steve Wimmer on the occasion of La Fonda’s 90th birthday. If you missed Part I, you can read it here.

The new La Fonda opened on December 30, 1922, just 10 years after New Mexico had obtained state hood and 382 years since the first tourists showed up in New Mexico.

All throughout the summer and fall the major preoccupation of the New Mexican newspaper was the progress on La Fonda which was eagerly anticipated and the De Vargas Hotel (now the St. Francis) which seemed to be garnering less press.  When they opened simultaneously the evening of Dec 30th 1922, Santa Fe had 169 new hotel rooms to welcome the anticipated increase in tourist traffic.

A manager was finally chosen-one Mr. William Sargent—primogenitor of Wally Sargent and he was given a budget of $30,000 to go east and buy furniture for the new La Fonda.

The result was the equal of any drawing room in Chicago – done in sort of a Dutch Revival and English Regency style.  Throw around a few Navajo rugs and… Voila!  Mind you no consideration was given to the American Arts and Crafts movement and we are three years before the Arts Deco Exhibition in Paris.

This is the lobby and one of the few pictures we have of the interior of the 1922 La Fonda. The two tall backed side chairs against the right wall are still rolling around here somewhere, so old Mr. Sargent bought well. Starting in 1926 the Fonda was added onto by the indomitable creative team of John Gaw Meem and Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter.

La Fonda's lobby in 1922

La Fonda’s lobby in 1922

The result was this lobby as it looked under their creative guidance.  Interestingly enough the lobby photo of the 1929 lobby was shot from exactly the same angle as the 1922 picture giving us an excellent comparison of the two looks.

La Fonda's 1929 lobby. Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 053575-1

La Fonda’s 1929 lobby. Courtesy Palace of the Governors Photo Archives (NMHM/DCA), 053575-1

Throughout the fall of ’22, the New Mexican’s main preoccupation were the upcoming gubernatorial election in November and the Turkish/ Greek conflict which ended in the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire going into exile in Malta in November of 1922. One amusing story from the pre-election merry-go-round was that the Republicans were caught with a truck load of hooch going to their state convention.  Several of the legislators were arrested.   Some people must have been more fun than they are now.

To be continued in Part III – Oh the Fashion! Coming Soon…

5 Responses to “90 Years, Part II: The “New” La Fonda of 1922”

  1. Andy Ritch

    I haven’t heard liquor referred to as “hooch” since I left Mississippi in the late 70’s… brought back many memories of a dry State.

  2. Larry Ackers

    Of the 40 states I have traveled, New Mexico is BY FAR, my most favorite state to travel in.
    I just received my New Mexico magazine yesterday. Read Dave Herndon’s “Editor’s Letter” to see that it is also New Mexico Magazine’s 90’th birthday. I hope to be reading New Mexico magazine and still visiting New Mexico on MY 90th birthday!

  3. Brooke Dulaney

    This is such delicious stuff. Keep up the good writing
    and I’m sure we’ll all keep enjoying it.
    all the best,

  4. Henry H Dailey

    Love your great stories about La Fonda.
    Hope to meet you when I’m next in Santa Fe…will definitely stay at La Fonda.


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