Friday, November 17, 2017

La Fonda: Luxury New Mexico Hotel Known as Santa Fe’s Living Room

La Fonda is Santa Fe. Situated on a corner facing the iconic Santa Fe Plaza, La Fonda has welcomed travelers since the early 20’s. If you want to get a true sense of Santa Fe style and hospitality, stay at La Fonda. Or, at a minimum, enjoy a sunset with a signature margarita in hand at the rooftop Bell Tower bar.

La Fonda Santa Fe
La Fonda at night. Photo courtesy: La Fonda

La Fonda: Part of Santa Fe History

City of Santa Fe records indicate that La Fonda sits on the site of the town's first inn, established when the city was founded by Spaniards in 1607, making La Fonda the oldest hotel corner in America. It is the only hotel marking the end of the old Santa Fe Trail.

One of the reasons you’ll want to visit La Fonda is that it is an excellent example of traditional Santa Fe architecture. The hotel you’ll see today was built in 1922 and features the influence of famous architects Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter and John Gaw Meem.

Within the adobe walls of La Fonda are many treasures. When I first visited I had the pleasure of meeting the traditional Spanish artist who had painted the glass panes and furniture in the rooms. His artwork was traditional folk art and he had a workshop in the hotel’s basement.

With the recent renovation of La Fonda comes more art. Chandeliers were taken out of storage and refurbished. Recent art additions include paintings by contemporary artists Tony Abeyta, Mateo Romero and Marla Allison.

La Fonda has launched an Artist-in-Residence program. You can experience a working artist studio every Thursday through Saturday afternoon in the lobby of La Fonda.

They call La Fonda, “Santa Fe’s Living Room,” and when I lived in Santa Fe, I felt it was my downtown home. I’d take a break from the heat of Indian Market and sink down into one of the cool leather couches admiring the Gerald Cassidy (1879-1934) paintings… the dark and intriguing Los Matachines caught my eye.

La Fonda Santa Fe
Los Matachines Lobby Art.
The dance-drama of los Matachines is an ancient tradition in the Hispanic Southwest.
It is one of the very few dances shared by both Hispanic and Native peoples.
The beautifully tiled women’s room was a stop as I walked from Canyon Road, through the Plaza toward my home by the historic Rosario Cemetery. On some Friday evenings, I’d meet friends there for a drink in La Fiesta Lounge.
La Fonda Santa Fe
La Fonda lobby - a cool retreat or a place to meet.
Photo courtesy: La Fonda
For a glimpse at the art of La Fonda, enjoy this article in Western Art Collector. And when you are in Santa Fe, take a free docent-led tour of the history, lore and art of La Fonda.

Staying at La Fonda

Least you think the accommodations are creaky and historic, you need to know that La Fonda recently went through a major renovation. Rooms are state of the art while maintaining the look and feel of the traditional Santa Fe style. I’ve stayed at La Fonda twice, but haven’t had the pleasure of returning since the renovation.

I was surprised to find out that La Fonda added rooms in a newer section of the hotel. The section called The Terrace at La Fonda, a decidedly boutique hotel feel. With a separate elevator and a designated on-site concierge, the newer, and more spacious section is close to a beautiful ballroom and terrace with a view of Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis.
La Fonda Santa Fe
On the terrace outside the ballroom.
15 one-of-a-kind luxury Santa Fe suites and rooms brought a new level of luxury to La Fonda guests.

The Terrace provides amenities such as Wi-Fi, plush bathrobes, Egyptian cotton bedding and a Keurig coffee maker. The luxurious Terrace rooms offer exclusive access to your own private concierge, balcony and a private fitness center and hot tub on the Terrace patio.
La Fonda Santa Fe
Spacious Terrace suites. Photo courtesy: La Fonda
But now with the renovation, more rooms at La Fonda have the same upscale feel. Each guest room offers a different experience, featuring a plush bed adorned with a hand-painted headboard as well as handcrafted furnishings and original artwork. 
La Fonda Santa Fe
Traditional King Bed Room
Note the hand painted headboard, punched tin lamp and armoire
and local Native art. Photo courtesy: La Fonda

Many rooms offer stunning views of the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis Assisi or the Loretto Chapel. Amenities you would expect of a top hotel are there, along with historic touches.

Rooms range from the basic cozy rooms to suite guest rooms. 
La Fonda Santa Fe
One bedroom guest suite with Kiva fireplace.
Note the painted furniture, Native American art and tile floor.
Photo courtesy: La Fonda

Dining at La Fonda

La Plazuela, situated in the location of the hotel's original 1920's outdoor patio, is now indoors. With a fountain in the middle of the dining room, skylights and floor to ceiling windows, you’ll have that courtyard feeling year ‘round.
La Fonda Santa Fe
I love the courtyard feel of La Plazuela
Photo courtesy: La Fonda
I found it a wonderful place to meet someone for breakfast. Ask for a table by the fountain and you’ll feel like you are outdoors. You’ll find the cuisine to be both traditional American and deliciously New Mexican. New Mexican cuisine with a modern twist is how some of the most popular dishes are described.
La Fonda Santa Fe
My favorite breakfast dish... French Toast
enjoyed by the fountain at La Plazuela
At dinner look for seasonal selections including delectable Filet & Enchiladas, spicy rubbed Wild Boar Loin and Pan Fried Rainbow Trout.

The rooftop Bell Tower Bar has been renovated and, weather permitting, offers the best seat in town for a Santa Fe sunset. They serve informal lunch and dinner. Try the Bell Ringer margarita, their signature drink. It’s a spicy drink with jalapeno.

La Fonda Santa Fe
The Bell Tower Bar is the best place to be at sunset
Photo courtesy: La Fonda


New Touches to Look For at La Fonda

There is so much to discover... the old and the new. The beautiful new gift shop called “Detours” after the Harvey House Indian Detours used to be small and tucked into a corner. Now look for the original carved wooden Indian Detours sign that is mounted behind the cashier’s desk in the new and expanded gift shop. The store now occupies the large space on the corner of Old Santa Fe Trail and San Francisco Street. It features a variety of works by New Mexico artists.

A highlight of the new lounge and bar are the wooden tables inlaid with the Mimbres designs of Mary Colter (she also used these same designs in her china patterns) and a giant 5 foot iron rabbit named Harvey which stands in the back of the bar, also the Mary Colter design which she originally used as standing ash trays in the lobby.

Learning More About La Fonda

For a quick read on La Fonda history and some great photos, have a look at the book, From Every Window – A Glimpse of the Past (.pdf).

Completed in October 2016, La Fonda Then & Now, is a beautiful coffee table book that chronicles the life of the hotel, from the early Fred Harvey years to present day.  This 224-page book is richly illustrated with vintage archival and contemporary images, many of them never seen before. 

La Fonda on the Plaza Website
100 E. San Francisco St., Santa Fe, NM 87501
Toll Free 800-523-5002 • Phone 505-982-5511
Fax: 505-988-2952

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