Our history book tells the story!
Completed in August 2011, From Every Window: A Glimpse of the Past showcases the centuries-old history of La Fonda on the Plaza in an engaging narrative accompanied by beautifully reproduced archival photos. This attractive 32-page book is available in La Fonda’s Gift Shop for $10.00, or you can read it here online! You can also Click Here to download a PDF to your computer and print a copy.
Four Hundred Years of Hospitality
Historical records suggest that La Fonda on the Plaza sits on the oldest hotel corner in America. When Santa Fe was founded by the Spaniards in 1607, records show an inn — or fonda — was among the first businesses established at this location. By the time Captain William Becknell’s party forged their maiden commercial route across the plains from Missouri to Santa Fe in 1821, they happily found a comfortable inn on the Plaza awaiting them. Thus, the Santa Fe Trail was born, as well as La Fonda’s reputation for hospitality.
During the 19th century, La Fonda became the preferred destination of trappers, soldiers, gold seekers, gamblers and politicians. Through the Civil War, railroad expansion and New Mexico statehood in 1912, the old adobe structure changed hands and names several times but remained a Santa Fe landmark.
The current La Fonda, built in 1922, sits on the same site as previous inns, literally at the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail and the Plaza — a haven for travelers for more than 400 years!
In 1925 the new building was acquired by the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and then leased to Fred Harvey who was renowned for his hospitality. He turned La Fonda into one of the famous Harvey Houses. The company and its employees, including the famous waitresses who came to be known as “Harvey Girls”, successfully brought new higher standards of both civility and dining to the Wild West.
Below is a link to The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound, a documentary that explores the story of the Harvey girls and Fred Harvey’s influence in providing work opportunities for women and the promotion of diversity in the workplace. Find out more about “The Harvey Girls: Opportunity Bound”.
La Fonda remained a Harvey House until 1968 when it was acquired by local businessman, Sam Ballen and his wife Ethel. The Ballen family owned La Fonda until November, 2014,when the current Chairman of the Board, Jennifer Kimball and her brother, Philip Wise, both long-time family friends of the Ballens, acquired the property.
La Fonda on the Plaza is a national treasure that has only improved with time and the hotel’s rich legacy continues on the tradition of gracious hospitality amid extraordinary surroundings.