Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
Not only is Allan Affeldt renovating the historic La Castañeda hotel in Las Vegas, N.M., but also he’s now taken charge of efforts to revitalize the beleaguered Lamy Railroad and History Museum, which includes the beloved Legal Tender Saloon.
“Like the Castañeda, it’s one of those really iconic buildings. It has one of the most beautiful bars in the state,” he said of the oaken bar at the Legal Tender, which was brought over from Germany and installed at the saloon in 1884.
Despite the name Legal Tender, no money exchanged hands in the deal.
Last month, the nonprofit group that operated the museum and bar/restaurant dissolved, and turned over its assets to the Winslow Arts Trust, which Affeldt formed with his artist wife, Tina Mion, in 2010 to promote the history and culture of Winslow, Ariz. The couple has spectacularly renovated Winslow’s La Posada Hotel, another historically significant hotel along the old Santa Fe Railroad route and Route 66.
The trust’s mission was expanded to include Las Vegas after the couple bought La Castañeda in 2014.
Sam Latkin, who served as treasurer of the nonprofit that ran the Lamy Railroad and History Museum, said it was a struggle for the small organization to keep the restaurant and bar open regular hours. Turning operations over to the trust made sense, he said.
“This was simpler,” he said. “If we had sold it, we would have had to divide up the money. This way, we transferred our assets to another nonprofit.”
Affeldt said proceeds generated through the Winslow Arts Trust go to charities.
He said he’d like to reopen the Legal Tender as soon as possible.
“The building is in reasonably good shape,” he said, adding that everything at the bar/restaurant is functional. “Right now, there’s so much excitement and enthusiasm for it, the sooner we open the better.”
Affeldt said the key is finding the right people to run the food and beverage operation, a process that has already started.
Among the assets exchanged in the deal is the Pullman rail car parked just west of the Lamy train depot that had in recent years been open as a cafe.
Affeldt said he’s also had preliminary discussions with the Santa Fe Southern Railway about resuming its tourist train that ran between Santa Fe and Lamy until 2013.
The Legal Tender was donated to the Lamy Railroad and History Museum in 2006. It was open on and off until two years ago when it last closed, though it still serves as a venue for birthday parties, wedding receptions and other events. It will be hosting the Santa Fe Model Railroad Club’s annual picnic on Saturday.
Built in 1881, the Legal Tender outlasted the El Ortiz, one of the Harvey House hotels built alongside railroad tracks in western towns to cater to train passengers. Lamy today serves as the Santa Fe stop on the route of Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passenger train, which runs daily between Chicago and Los Angeles, though Amtrak has recently threatened to break up a portion of the route that includes the Lamy station and replace it with a chartered bus service.
The Legal Tender building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was constructed in 1881, first operating as a general store, according to a website produced by the railroad and history museum. In the 1950s, the saloon operated as the Pink Garter. It became the Legal Tender after undergoing remodeling in the 1970s.
“It was always a very successful restaurant,” Latkin said. “You could hardly get in the door.”
Latkin said he reached out to Affeldt about taking over the building based on his and his wife’s experience staying at the La Posada in Winslow and the Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, which Affeldt also owns.
“I kinda hoped he would give us a hand. He’s somebody who really knows how to get things done,” he said, adding that Affeldt has an appreciation for the history of the Southwest. “If it comes out anything like what he’s done in Winslow, people from all over the world will want to come.”