Famous hotels are a real part of New Mexico history. Some of the most noteworthy were the string of Fred Harvey, Harvey House, hotels spread throughout the state.
In Las Vegas New Mexico, the Harvey Company along with the AT & SF Railroad operated the very popular La Castaneda right alongside the Las Vegas train depot.
According to the book, The Trains Stop Here: New Mexico’s Railroad Lagacy, by author Marci L. Riskin, a Harvey House lunchroom was built in 1882 and the La Castaneda Hotel opened in 1899 at a cost of $110,000. The La Castaneda was furnished for $30,000 and was 25,000 square feet in size. Another very famous hotel in Las Vegas which is still in operation today and remains enormously popular is the Plaza Hotel on the north side of the Las Vegas New Mexico plaza.
Las Vegas Plaza and the Plaza Hotel
The Plaza Hotel was originally constructed in 1882 by a company headed by Benigno Romero. The structure was made of brick. The hotel was built as a three story three story in an Italianate design. When the hotel opened up it was referred to by many as the Belle of the Southwest.
The Las Vegas plaza which was generally used as a place to park wagons would be converted into a park such as it is today. The impetus for the remaking of the plaza area was the local newspaper the “Optic”. The publication basically cajoled the public into making the plaza something other than a large dusty lot. Donations were received from the citizenry and in the year 1880, trees were planted and the building of a bandstand and a picket fence occurred. The center of Las Vegas New Mexico would change forever.
An Historic Hotel
It’s interesting to note that many famous people of the time utilized the Plaza Hotel. Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders held their first reunion at the Plaza hotel in 1899.
Years later, Las Vegas New Mexico would be the site of Hollywood western movie sets. In fact, many scenes from some of Tom Mix’s westerns included the Plaza Hotel. Today, the Plaza Hotel is on the National Register of Historic Places.
The hotel holds the same high place in 1800’s history as the Driskill Hotel in Austin Texas and the National Hotel in Nevada City California. All of these hotels opened in the 1800’s and continue in operation today.
A Very Historic Plaza
One of the things that makes the Plaza Hotel so historic is the ground it sits on. So many historically noteworthy events occurred on the Las Vegas plaza prior to the hotel’s construction that the mere fact that this hotel resides there is a treat for tourists staying at the hotel.
In the year 1846 during the Mexican American War, Stephen W. Kearny gave a speech on the plaza declaring that New Mexico was now a part of the United States. Some decades later the Las Vegas plaza would be where Billy the Kid was marched off to the Las Vegas jail by Sheriff Pat Garrett. There’s much more about Pat Garrett and the Las Vegas jail and it’s early occupants in the excellent book, Gateway to Glorieta; A History of Las Vegas New Mexico, by author Lynn Erwin Perrigo, PhD.
There was quite a disturbance when Billy the Kid and a few other prisoners were being transferred the next morning from the Las Vegas jail to Santa Fe via the railroad.
Garrett and his deputies averted a mob lynching of the prisoners in an armed standoff at the Las Vegas train station.
The photo right is the historic First National Bank Building directly on the plaza which now houses the offices of the West Las Vegas School District.
The Plaza Hotel was restored in 1982, one hundred years after it’s original construction and is now considered by many travelers as being the premier hotel in Las Vegas New Mexico. The hotel expanded into the building next door and now offers seventy-one guest rooms.
Visiting Las Vegas New Mexico is a trip into history and the elegant and historic Plaza Hotel is a great stop on your western road trip travel planner. Lots of history and some great photo opportunities await you in Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Las Vegas is about 55 miles east of Santa Fe New Mexico.
(Article and photos copyright Trips Into History)