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
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
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…
Brian Hardgroove is the bassist for Public Enemy (inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in December 2012), but his musical talents extend far beyond one instrument, one band. Hardgroove is an accomplished musician, producer, radio host and teacher. After relocating to Santa Fe from New York City, Hardgroove immediately lent his talents to the local music scene – hosting radio shows, becoming an artist-in-residence at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and playing an instrumental part in SFUAD’s Artists for Social Change program. All that, while still touring the world and producing work for Grammy award winning artists and up-and-coming artists as far away as China. I was fortunate to sit down for lunch with Brian and talk with him about music and Santa Fe.
Jenny Kimball and Brian Hardgroove at La Fonda on the Plaza
Q: How did you decide to be a musician?
A: When I was 14, I won tickets on a radio station contest to an Earth, Wind and Fire concert and that concert was an epiphany to me. I KNEW I should/would be a musician. Talent was not an issue. It was just something I knew I needed to do (when I was younger – I thought I would become a policeman so this was a change in direction).
Q: You’ve produced two of the biggest punk bands in China. What’s your favorite thing about working with artists in other countries and genres?
A: I have thought from early on that we live in a troubled world. So, I knew I wanted to do good or do something good. Public Enemy played the Beijing Pop Festival in 2007 and I stayed afterwards. Due to my relationship with Gibson Guitars, they introduced me to local bands. From that introduction, I met these musicians and produced records for them – Brain Failure and Demerit. These kids are incredibly committed, very serious about music and if they do not succeed, are doomed to a life of poverty in China. Deep down, they are no different than young Americans in their commitment to their music. Public Enemy has been critical about our government which is not so different from these Chinese bands doing the same. They were influenced by Public Enemy so I felt a responsibility to work with them and help them.
Q: You are an artist in residence at Santa Fe University of Art and Design and have had a big role in its Artists for Positive Social Change. How did this come about?
A: David Scheinbaum is a great photographer who teaches at SFUAD. David has photographed a lot of hip hop artists and photographed Public Enemy so he was my connection to the University. David got Public Enemy to come to campus for a concert. In connection with this I became involved since I live in Santa Fe. I worked with the University and was able to select students from the University who auditioned to be in a Hip hop group. These students came together and worked with me, rehearsed and practiced and ended up as the opening act for Public Enemy when we played on campus. I have been involved with Artists for Positive Social Change, which enables students at the University to interact first hand with successful artists so they can see that they too can be part of social change in our country. The members of Public Enemy went into some of the classes and interacted with the students. I think this program provides a good opportunity for the students to realize that, like members of Public Enemy, they too, can impact social change positively. After this first foray with the Artists for Positive Social Change program, I am now an Artist in Residence at the University and this role is still unfolding and morphing so we will see where it goes.
Q: With the proliferation of satellite radio stations and streaming music is there still a place for local radio?
A: Absolutely as it is THE ONLY vehicle left that supports local artists and there will always be a need for this.
Q: As someone who could live anywhere in the world, what inspired you to relocate from NYC to Santa Fe?
A: A woman, or two if you count my daughter, also. My wife grew up in San Francisco and in Santa Fe and when we were looking at schools for our daughter, we knew we wanted to get out of NYC. The Santa Fe Waldorf School looked like it would provide a good education for our daughter. And my wife’s father lives here, so since we had lived in NY near my family, I thought it was my turn to live near hers. It has been a good decision.
Q: How does Santa Fe’s music scene compare to other places?
A: There are many extremely talented musicians here but no real professional opportunities. That’s why getting involved with the Santa Fe University of Art and Design has ended up being such a great thing for me.
Q: What is your favorite song?
A: I have two. A Family Affair – Sly and the Family Stone and Jeff Beck’s Blue Wind from the Wired album.
Harry Belafonte inducted Public Enemy into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (photo courtesy of Brian Hardgroove)
Q: Any weird/interesting things from being in LA and inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame last month?
A: The highlight was when I was sitting in the green room before the event started. Jackson Browne sauntered in and we’d met briefly before but got into a good conversation. Then John Fogerty came in, and then Tom Petty. The four of us had a great conversation, and all I kept thinking was what am amazing and talented group of songwriters I was with. That was great. Harry Belafonte was the one that introduced/inducted us into the Hall of Fame and he has certainly been through all of the history in marching with Dr. King and is the real deal. In his introduction, he mentioned that he had mentored Public Enemy and this was an amazing thing to hear.
Governor Susana Martinez opens the NM Governor’s Conference on Tourism with Secretary of Tourism Monique Jacobson
I attended my first New Mexico Tourism Commission meeting as a newly appointed commissioner this week, as well as the New Mexico Governor’s Conference on Tourism. The hospitality industry is challenging, but it is also fun and filled with a lot of creative people. We had many successes to celebrate this year, and as Governor Susana Martinez pointed out at the opening of the conference on Monday, for every dollar that was spent on marketing New Mexico to travelers in 2012, three dollars came back to the state coffers. The New Mexico True campaign that was launched last year was a resounding success. How do we know this? Because they said so? No. Through the leadership of Secretary Monique Jacobson and her team at the State Tourism Department, we now have hard data to back up the good feelings we had about the New Mexico True campaign. It worked. It worked so well, and the data collected was so compelling, the New Mexico legislature appropriated an additional $2 million dollars in marketing funds for the Tourism Department – something the industry has long asked for and never received.
So what’s next? Many of you may subscribe to La Fonda’s monthly eNews. (If not, you can sign up here at the bottom of our homepage. If you are already a subscriber, then you are probably familiar with our feature If These Walls Could Speak… It’s a feature we love because we have so many wonderful stories about La Fonda and the events that have happened within these walls over the last 90 years. New Mexico’s history goes back much further than that… and the people who live here and travel here all come away with a story. You’re probably thinking about your own New Mexico story right now…
If these walls could speak…
If so, than I invite you to participate in the next chapter of the New Mexico True Campaign launched this week at the Governor’s Conference. It’s called New Mexico True Stories and it’s all about you. Travel the state this summer, submit your story and you could be one of the weekly winners of a $450 gas card OR the grand prize winner of $5000. If these walls could speak at La Fonda, they would find it hard to pick just one story. I think you will, too!
For complete details on the contest and to enter your New Mexico True Story, visit http://www.newmexico.org/nmtruestories. True Story entries will be accepted through August 4, 2013. Finalist voting ends August 18. If your story happens to include La Fonda, please let me know. We’d love to share your story with all of our friends.
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 (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
To be continued… look for Part II coming soon!
Great outdoors: Did you know that Santa Fe has a professional baseball team? The Fuego season starts this month at Fort Marcy Park. The Santa Fe Botanical Garden hosts its annual garden tours preceded by optional picnic lunch, while more private “pequeno” tours are offered monthly by the Santa Fe Garden Club. Every day except Sundays all summer, the New Mexico History Museum/Palace of the Governors leads downtown walking tours, starting from the palace courtyard just south of the History Museum entrance, at 10:15 am. Free and low-cost events this month at Cerrillos Hills State Park, just south of Santa Fe on the Turquoise Trail, include tours of geology and birdwatching, a wildflower hike, plus a presentation on bats. If you prefer to do your touring on two wheels, join one of New Mexico’s most picturesque cycling events (with 25 and 50-mile options) on the Santa Fe Century, passing through historic locations from the Turquoise Trail to Galisteo.
Food and farming: Learn all about making and tasting craft beers with Chef David Sundberg of Blue Corn Brewery—then taste samples paired with his series of small plates, at the Santa Fe Culinary Academy. Check out the cooking classes and chef’s vineyard dinners held during summer at Santa Fe’s Estrella del Norte vineyard. The film this month at the Farmers Market’s Wednesday Night Movie Series is Edible City, a look at the urban farming movement.
At the museums: The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian opens the Durango Collection, an exhibit of Southwest textile masterpieces on loan from Colorado’s Center of Southwest Studies. Fiber fanatics will also want to attend the Santa Fe Fiber Arts Festival, with demonstrations on everything from dyeing with cochineal to weaving on traditional looms. Come relive Civil War battles fought in New Mexico with re-enacted battles and demonstrations of camp life at El Rancho de las Golondrinas living history museum. Don’t forget the art workshops for adults and families (many free) held regularly at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum.
Classical music: The Santa Fe Symphony wraps up its season with the Carmina Burana by Carl Orff, featuring soloists Mary Wilson, Sam Shepperson, and Jeremy Kelly, plus the Santa Fe Men’s Camerata. The chamber music group Serenata of Santa Fe perform their last concert of the season at St. John’s College. The Sangre de Cristo Chorale performs two concerts this month, and the New Mexico Performing Arts Society premieres the newly orchestrated Requiem by New Mexico-based composer John Donald Robb. Free classical concerts are offered each season by the all-volunteer Santa Fe Community Orchestra, including a preview show this month of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.
Contemporary music: World-renowned jazz pianist and composer Darius Brubeck (son of Dave) performs with Santa Fe jazz band Straight Up and vocalist Maura Dhu Studi. Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen play at the stunning Santa Fe Opera house for one night only. And the boundary-pushing Primus presents a unique 3D-enhanced performance (with glasses) in two full sets at the Santa Fe Convention Center.
Arts: Experience Canyon Road at its finest during Passport to the Arts, a weekend festival of events and exhibitions. Collectors will want to head early to Native Treasures: Indian Arts Festival exhibit and sale featuring museum-quality pieces, starting with a pre-sale cocktail party where you can meet the artists. More traditional craft fairs take place in Cathedral Park and every weekend at the artists’ market at The Railyard. Just up the highway, the town of Eldorado is having its annual studio tour. And for something offbeat, Linda Mary Montano will perform her endurance singing piece at the entrance of SITE Santa Fe as part of her ongoing exhibition.
Performance: There’s still time to catch Fusion Theatre’s production of Charlotte Jones’ Humble Boy, a poignant retelling of the Hamlet story. The critically acclaimed satire This House by James Graham, about British politics, is this month’s offering from the National Theatre of London Live in HD. Legendary American composer Leonard Bernstein comes to life in Maestro: The Art of Leonard Bernstein, performed by actor-musician Hershey Felder. Santa Fe’s own Wise Fool Circus opens its new show See Saw, set in a landscape of kinetic sculptures, in free shows at The Railyard. For the finale of its avant-garde performance series Eventua, the Center for Contemporary Arts features the artist collective CHERYL from Brooklyn, inviting audiences to “revel in the joyous power of dance-induced psychosis/euphoria.”
Speakers: Uruguayan writer and activist Eduardo Galeano speaks with Peruvian novelist Marie Arana as part of the Lannan Foundation’s cultural freedom series. The New Mexico History Museum presents a lively talk on cowboy clothing from designer Cathy Smith as part of its show Cowboys Real and Imagined. Author Isabelle Sandoval speaks on Crypto-Jewish women, the subject of her historical novel. Fresco artist Frederico Vigil, known for his decade-long painting of the Torreon at the National Hispanic Cultural Center in Albuquerque, will speak on the ancient technique of buon fresco. At the Santa Fe Institute, free public lectures this month include “The Minds of Children,” from psychologist and author Alison Gopnik, and “Zoobiquity: What Dolphin Diabetes Can Teach Us About Human Health,” from UCLA cardiologist Barbara Natterson-Horowitz.
It is always gratifying to have members of our staff consistently lauded by our guests for their outstanding service. Two of our staff members can now add state-wide industry accolades to their list of achievements.
I am very proud to announce that Leo Granados was recognized by the New Mexico Lodging Association as the 2012 Employee of the Year for the state of New Mexico and the 2012 Food and Beverage Employee of the Year, and Rebecca Ortiz was recognized as the 2012 Front Office Employee of the Year at the association’s annual Stars of the Industry gala this past weekend.
Leo Granados – Bartender at La Fonda on the Plaza
Some might think that it can’t be too hard for a bartender to win Employee of the Year – but think again. As barman at a popular meeting place right off the lobby of a landmark downtown hotel, Granados is under a microscope every day. Nor has he stuck to tending bar. A 19-year veteran of the hotel, Granados held numerous jobs in housekeeping and maintenance before joining the bartending staff in 2006 – his favorite job to date. “I love interacting with people,” he explains. “I love that not everyday is the same.”
Leo Granados, Bartender at La Fonda on the Plaza receives the 2012 Employee of the Year for the state of New Mexico award at the NM Lodging Association Stars of the Industry gala from NM Secretary of Tourism, Monique Jacobson.
Bartending is an ideal position for someone who, while he earned a reputation as a hard worker and go-getter, also has a contagious sense of humor that lightens the mood around him, whether among co-workers or customers. “Just to be around him makes your day,” says Beverage Director, Evelyn Martinez. “He always makes me smile.” I totally concur.
Rebecca (Becky) Ortiz – Front Office Manager
To meet Becky Ortiz is to feel immediately at ease, like breathing a sigh of relief arriving in a comfortable hotel room.
Rebecca “Becky” Ortiz
This ability comes so naturally to some people, it tends to hide the great strength of character that lies beneath. And it’s a priceless asset for our historic hotel where Ortiz oversees reception as our Front Office Manager. Having spent her entire career – 27 years – at the hotel, she has always worked the front desk, first as an agent, then supervisor, and finally in the top position. “She’s the face of the hotel,” says her supervisor, Director of Guest Services, Adrian Montoya. “She’s the first and last person you see. She’s the front line. She is what [this hotel] is about – the longevity, the loyalty. I have seen her deal with issues where the guests go from being angry, to now they’re repeat guests,” says Montoya. “Because they love her.”
Ortiz naturally expresses to guests upon arrival the culture that we strive for – a warm family feeling, traditional but comfortable, sophisticated but not imposing. Guests consistently give her positive feedback for her genuineness and warmth; co-workers note that she has a special talent for remembering guests many years later. “I’m right there in the action, hands-on with my staff,” she says of her mission to look after guests
Rebecca “Becky” Ortiz receives her award for Front Office Employee of the Year at the NM Lodging Association’s Stars of the Industry awards from NM Secretary of Tourism, Monique Jacobson
as her own brood. “I’m there with my sleeves rolled up. Whatever needs guests have, we try to fulfill it. We try to anticipate it.” I am also impressed that Becky has become a vegan, striving to be a healthier person and a good role model for others.
Congratulations to Leo and Becky. We’ve known you as stars for years. We are proud and honored to call you a part of our La Fonda family.