By Julie Wiessner
From buildings that were nearly torn down to ranking as the fourth best small hotel in Arizona, the transition of La Posada Hotel in Winslow seems nearly complete. It has been revived to beautiful condition and earned that distinction by satisfying the people who have visited there over the past year.
The ranking comes from the results of a recent survey by AzBusiness Magazine, in which 15,000 businesses in more than 200 different business and leisure subcategories participated. The people who voted their opinions ranked the quality of products, services and people. This latest ranking boosts La Posada up from last year when it earned sixth place.
La Posada boasts restored gardens, guest rooms and gift shop. There is also the Turquoise Room and Martini Bar, offering fine dining experiences with the famous Harvey Girls in attendance.
General Manager and artist Dan Lutzick noted, “There are several artworks displayed throughout the hotel, including Tina Mion’s work, some of my sculptures and a range of historical exhibits showcasing what the hotel looked like in times gone by.”
Some of the rooms feature a balcony, whirlpools and sitting rooms. Each room has a distinct personality and is named for a famous person who visited La Posada, ranging from John Wayne to Emilio Estevez.
Renovation of the hotel began April 1, 1997.
“For 16 years we have been working on La Posada, which is interestingly the same amount of time Ranking Arizona has been performing its rankings,” noted Lutzick. Renovations began as soon as they moved in.
“This was a much more organic and sometimes painful project, as there was so much to do to restore the place back to as close to original as possible. When other places want to renovate, they call up a general contractor, agree on a price and project completion date, and it’s finished,” he explained.
Lutzick and owner Allen Affeldt continue to work on various projects to restore and improve the place, and have some extensive plans for the near future.
These plans include the creation of a bookstore, currently under construction, so all the books in the gift shop can be moved into a bigger space. “The area of the bookstore happened to be the room I had slept in since taking possession of the building,” said Lutzick.
Also planned is a vineyard planted by John Sutter of Sutter Wines, who is willing to come and plant grapes on the hotel grounds.
A dining terrace for the Turquoise Room, a sculpture garden and historic train cars for guests to stay on are also on the drawing board.
Lutzick would also like to add a game room to the grounds. Other plans include a Route 66 Art Museum, which will feature artists along Route 66 from Chicago to Santa Monica. The Route 66 Museum will also house the world’s largest Navajo rug, with the museum to be located in the train station on the east grounds.
The museum will be a gateway to the work of well-known artist James Turrell’s landscape art known as Turrell’s Roden Craters. Lutzick describes Turrell’s Roden Craters as the most famous piece of landscape artwork in the world, which will soon be on display.
El Gran Art Garage, located across the street from La Posada on Second Street will also be used for performance art from poetry to dance.
Coming up during the month of June, The Smithsonian Institution, through the Arizona Humanities Council and in cooperation with the Old Trails Museum, will feature a traveling exhibit at La Posada showing how travel affected the growth of the United States. Each community that hosts the Journey Stories Tour must create its own exhibit to include its community’s history of how travel affected it. Winslow will focus move from the first trails to wagon trains to the train and Route 66.
La Posada, “The Resting Place,” was originally opened on May 15, 1930, using the architectural ingenuity of Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter. Everything needed for traveling by railroad was equipped in the hotel. It was the premiere hotel in the Southwest. With airplanes and Interstate 40 coming into play, trains were used less for travel and Route 66 was bypassed, leaving La Posada and many other historical downtown buildings falling to neglect and disrepair. The hotel was closed by 1957. It was rediscovered in 1994 by Affeldt and restored to its full beauty.
By Julie Wiessner