Traveling the West
How times fly’s past without us noticing it’s gone.
Ten years ago, we visited Las Vegas—no, not that one—Las Vegas, New Mexico.
Several of my western novels frequent Las Vegas, NM, because, in its day, it was a rough and tumble western town. It was well established by the time the Mexican-American War erupted in 1846. From the 1820 through to the Civil War era, wagons from the Santa Fe Trail stopped to rest in the grassy meadows between the Gallinas and Pecos rivers and shop in the Las Vegas stores. These meadows served as a gathering place for Spanish and Native Americans from the 1600s to early 1800s and gave the new village its name, “Las Vegas,” meaning the meadows.
In 1846, General Stephan Kearny climbed to the porch roof of the General Store to calm and reassure local residents, Mexican citizens, they would not be harmed if they did not fight the US Army. The downtown district and the stores are little changed since those early days.
The major change in the area came in 1879, when the Santa Fe railroad finally arrived and replaced the Santa Fe Trail and its wagon traffic. Las Vegas was larger than Denver at the time.
The arrival of the Santa Fe railroad created a little town “on the wrong side of the tracks,” where nefarious characters came to ply their trade of gambling, bunko, and mayhem. Doc Holiday practiced there before buying into a saloon and gambling hall with one of the local lawmen.
In the midst of this turmoil, Fred Harvey constructed a classic Mission Revival hotel as part of his Harvey House chain of hotels alongside the railroad stations.
When we visited in 2009, the old structure hid behind a chain-link fence. We admired its classic design, and at the time wondered why no one sought to revive the grand old hotel.
Fast forward 10-years and a welcome the newly re-opened Hotel Castañeda.
Allan Affeldt, and his wife, artist Tina Mion, renovated and remodeled La Posada, another Harvey House, in Winslow, AZ, 20 years ago, much to the delight of the townsfolk. Mr. Affeldt used his experience from the La Posada to give an idea of what it would take to reconstruct the old hotel. He has done a masterful job in restoring La Castañeda and changing the old single rooms into modern hotel rooms with a bath. The spacious halls and grand staircase have regained their former splendor. Affeldt, in keeping with history, purchased 2,600 pieces of furniture from the Santa Fe former Harvey House, La Fonda, to add to the historic charm of the La Castañeda in Las Vegas, NM. Mr. Affeldt also purchased and renovated the historic Plaza hotel on the Plaza in downtown Las Vegas. If you visit the area, be sure to visit the shops on the square (and Tome on the Range, the local independent bookstore.) Consider staying at the two historic hotels, The Plaza and La Castañeda.
My next two blogs will delve into the history of Las Vegas and describe a few of the colorful characters who helped the railroad district earn its reputation.
In closing, I’ll brag for the moment that “The Apprenticeship of Nigel Blackthorn” is #2 on Amazon and has 138+ 5-star Reviews.
My latest book, “North in the Spring,” the 2nd book in The Apprenticeship series is #1, beating out “The Apprenticeship” for the top spot.
A tip of my hat to all my blog followers who have followed my novels and posted reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. I appreciate your support. I couldn’t do it without you. If you read these books, you know Las Vegas NM is a favorite stop on “north in the spring.”
Thanks for riding along.
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