My glorious stay at La Posada hotel in Winslow Arizona
Updated: Mar 27
Many years ago, when travelling along the legendary Route 66, I was told to visit an exquisite and unique southwest style, hacienda inspired hotel in Winslow, Arizona, USA.
I had heard about this magnificent hotel in Winslow, called La Posada. A quick walk through the 1930s built and beautifully restored destination had me wanting to come back, stay and really savor the experience.
La Posada impressed me so much on my short visit that I longed to come back and stay here one day. Imagine my delight to fulfill this dream and have the wonderful experience to learn more about this amazing building, its history, and also to fall in love with the hotel it is today.
It is not just me that has adored this amazing destination. A picture gallery of famous people that have also had the joy of staying here is displayed in one of the hallways. In fact, each room is named after a celebrity and a photo and brief description of their fame is framed outside the door.
The first thing to do after checking in, is to book a tour with one of the Winslow Harvey Girls. This group of volunteers conduct tours of the hotel for a small donation. Peggy Nelson was my wonderful guide and gave a history of the hotel and a magnificent exploration of the venue, including access to rooms not normally available to the general public. Click here to read more about Fred Harvey and the Harvey Girls.
What do I adore about the venue today? I love the large open spaces. The halls and public areas are wide. The rooms are luxuriously appointed in the style of the 1930s. There are so many books and comfortable couches, I just want to stay for a week, relax and read great stories. Games are scattered on tables throughout the common area rooms. Chairs and lounges encourage visitors to sit and stay for a while. The whole atmosphere is unhurried, time seems to slow down, as does your heartbeat when taking time to just enjoy the moment when here.
The building itself can feel like it is breathing, a living and organic structure, rather than just a hotel. As you enter the gorgeous old doors from the trackside of the hotel, the two messages here symbolise this feeling.
The artwork of owner, Tina Mion is displayed on walls in various rooms, and especially upstairs in a large gallery. Her work is definitely thought provoking and interesting, as art should be. The handmade wrought iron rails on the staircases were made by Italian artisans.
I also love the history of the building and the story of how it came to be. You cannot fully fall in love with La Posada without knowing about Fred Harvey, the restaurateur, the Santa Fe Railway, and the designer and architect of the building, Mary Colter.
Mary graduated high school at 14, and she wanted to be an architect, something not ‘suitable’ for a young lady in the 1800s. As her father had died, she offered to go to university and support her widowed mother and sister, as a schoolteacher. That was a more accepted profession, so, in 1890 Mary graduated from university and taught high school for sixteen more years. In 1902, during a summer vacation, she decorated the Indian room at a hotel in Albuquerque. In 1905, she designed the Native American building – the Hopi House, at the Grand Canyon.
She was not a licensed architect, but then neither was Frank Lloyd Wright (who designed over 1,000 buildings in USA, including the Guggenheim Museum).
In 1929 Mary designed La Posada in Winslow Arizona. Hard wood pegged floors, handcrafted furniture, 80 wall frescos complimented the adobe style structure. It was built to look like a hacienda that had been lived in for one hundred years. This was the only time she was allowed to design the whole project, from the buildings and furniture to the gardens. This was to be her crowning achievement.
The building was used as a hotel until 1957. After this date, the Santa Fe Railway put the hotel on the market but could not find a buyer, so it became their office building for the next thirty years. During those years it was “modernized”. This meant that they covered up the walls and covered the stone floors with tiles, put in glass office wall dividers and acoustic tile ceilings etc. Fortunately, the original construction and decorations were preserved underneath these alterations.
Janice Griffith was instrumental in getting the building placed on the National Register of Historic Buildings in the early 1990s. Not being used, the land was purchased by Alan Affelt from California in 1997, and the building came with it.
Since 1997, it has been an ongoing work of loving restoration and rehabilitation. Alan and his wife Tina, along with some investors, sought grants to start the work. They renovated one room, then rented it out, and this process has been transforming the hotel back. Alan has said “I believe we save great buildings in the same way we save families, cities and nations: one day at a time….. I believe in the sacredness of place, and in the power of great architecture to inspire creativity, kindness and civic responsibility. Our vision for La Posada has not only been to restore this wonderful building, but also to provide a catalyst for the revival of our community.”
A lot of the furnishings were made on site by skilled tradesmen. Antiques, tapestries, quilts, paintings and lamps have also been collected from around the world. Treasures from Russia, Spain, China and Mexico can be found here. The current owners have added African antiques, contemporary and southwest art. Some of the original furnishings have started to find their way home as well. Old pieces were auctioned off when the railway took over, but now are being donated or purchased. The depot benches that were a Mary Colter design have an interesting story. They were sold off and have since been returned to the hotel.
Tina Mion, the wife of Alan, is a talented artist and her work is showcased around the hotel. This is her principal art gallery, even though her art can be found in galleries and museums around the world. Her work is humorous and often a commentary on politics and human nature. Whether it is your cup of tea or not, there is no denying that it is interesting and thought provoking.
A family affair, Tina’s brother Keith Mion made most of the beds, monks chair and garden pergolas. He is a skilled and talented furniture maker.
Daniel Lutzick, the third partner, created the wood, plaster and tar sculptures around La Posada. Daniel is the owner of Snowdrift Art Space in Winslow. His gallery is worth visiting when in town, appointments can be arranged. www.snowdriftart.com
The turquoise room was originally the lunch counter, the gift show is now where the dining room was.
There are two patron saints of La Posada, chosen by Mary Colter. Quite fitting, San Pasqual, the patron saint of feasts and San Ysidro, patron saint of farmers. Originally there was a print of San Ysidro hung in every guest room.
Where the formal dining room, the turquoise room, is today, was once the lunchroom with U-shaped counters. Being able to sit and watch the trains go by is part of the joy when eating here. Authentic Navajo rugs decorate the walls. The stained-glass panels were designed by Tina and feature the two patron saints. A third has been added, Saint Barbara, patron saint of builders and architects. This was added to represent Mary Colter. When here, remember to look up at the replicated tin chandeliers that are based on the originals designed for this building.
Even the bathroom sinks in the restaurant have been given the southwest treatment. I loved the attention to even the small details that many other venues overlook.
The Sculpture Gallery was designed to resemble an orangery, where citrus trees could be brought inside in winter, then back outside in summer. There are many orangeries in houses throughout Europe. Not only did it preserve the tree and its delicious fruit, but the blossom smells would enhance the air inside. Mary Colter wanted a rustic hacienda look and used hand-moulded cinder blocks for this passage that connected the west wing to the lobby.
A lot of the hotel rooms have the original (or reproduced) headboards. This pays homage to the history of the rooms. I liked this touch. More welcoming books are found in bookcases in most rooms. My renovated bathroom had a full-sized bath, as do most of the guest rooms.
On the wall of my bedroom was a copy of the original design drawings of parts of the hotel.
Walking around the hotel and admiring the furniture and furnishings, you feel that you are in somebody's home rather than a hotel. I admired all the eclectic and beautiful touches that are slowly being introduced by the owners over time. It also feels a touch like a museum.
Whether you intend to travel through Winslow or stay for an extended period, my fervent recommendation is to stay at La Posada, the elegant Queen of the Desert.
La Posada Hotel
303 E 2nd St, Winslow, AZ 86047
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