We’re not sure if Allan Affeldt is just crazy, or crazy like a fox.
In the past few years, the native Californian has swooped into northern New Mexico and started fixing up old buildings, icons of historic hospitality.
In Las Vegas, N.M., in 2014, he purchased the defunct La Castañeda hotel, built in the 19th century next to the railroad tracks as part of the storied Harvey House chain that opened up the greater Southwest to full-scale tourism.
Affleldt had already undertaken one epic renovation of a Harvey House property – the La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Ariz. It’s now again a special place to stop, for Amtrak trekkers and motorists on that Route 66/I-40 trip across the West.
The La Posada and its grounds look spectacular, with the added treat of the dozens of quirky, masterful and fun paintings by Affeldt’s wife, Tina Mion, that cover the walls of every nook and cranny of the hotel’s public spaces. If you need to eat between Gallup and Flagstaff, La Posada’s restaurant really is the only choice.
Affeldt also has taken on the Plaza Hotel, on the Las Vegas Plaza, which unlike La Castañeda wasn’t dead. He says he put $1 million into sprucing up the Plaza, the cherry on top of Vegas’ beautiful town square.
Now he’s getting close to finishing what he says is a $5 million project to restore and improve La Castañeda, which was visited by the likes of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders, legendary heavyweight boxing champion Jack Johnson and Harry Truman. He says some suites could become available for lodgers as soon as October. And he’s making his own apartment so he can live there.
Affleldt says he’s not worried about filling the 22 suites, which will be complemented by two bars, a restaurant, and a museum and art gallery in the attic. “This building, we believe, will be full from the time we open it,” he said. “Five million people come through Santa Fe each year and we’re only an hour away. What a great day trip.”
Just recently, Affeldt has become the proprietor The Legal Tender Saloon in Lamy southeast of Santa Fe – like of all of these Affeldt projects, near the railroad tracks.
The classic saloon with an 1880s bar that’s more spectacular than any set designer for a Hollywood western could dream up has had a troubled recent history. It’s been occasionally in business and popular as a place to eat and dance, but various issues have left it mostly shut and unused. Affledt said he intends to get it up and running again soon.
Time will tell if Affeldt’s New Mexico projects are popular. Who knew these old buildings in northern New Mexico, but not in the tourist centers of Santa Fe or Taos, were just waiting for someone with the ways and means to fix them up?
In Las Vegas, the La Castañeda restoration is already spurring investment in other nearby, historic properties.
So far, so good. If Affeldt’s transformational work on old hospitality attractions can work in Winslow, which has all that I-40 traffic, but none of the historic attractiveness of Las Vegas’ old houses and commercial buildings, maybe it can work here. We should all wish him luck.