Santa Fe, N.M., was established 13 years before the Mayflower Pilgrims settled Plymouth Colony. It eventually became the seat of power for the Spanish Empire north of the Rio Grande, and is known today as the oldest capital city of North America. As such, the city is home to the oldest public building in America, the Palace of the Governors, and the nation’s oldest community celebration, the Santa Fe Fiesta, which celebrates the Spanish reconquest of New Mexico in 1692. Authentic adobe architecture, traditional New Mexican cuisines and spiritual customs are still very much alive in Santa Fe, and here are five hotels that showcase that history for groups.
“A visit to Santa Fe and a stay at one of these properties is an immersion in all the dynamic sensory strengths of the oldest capital city in the United States—from culinary and wellness to artistic, cultural and historic,” says John Feins, public relations manager for Tourism Santa Fe.
The 180-room La Fonda on the Plaza stands on what historical records suggest is the oldest hotel corner in America, which dates back to 1607 when the Spaniards that founded Santa Fe established an inn—or fonda—at this exact location. Fast-forward more than 200 years to 1821 when the initial trip from Missouri to Santa Fe was taken, and, thus, the Santa Fe Trail was born—along with a tradition of hospitality. The current La Fonda was built in 1922 and was later leased to Fred Harvey, who turned the building into one of his Harvey Houses, a Southwestern chain of hotels and restaurants. The hotel was later acquired in 1968 by the Ballen family, and it is still run by a Ballen-family friend to this day, featuring Santa Fe’s trademark adobe architecture and more than 21,000 sf of meeting space. Feins notes that La Fonda embraces the local culture in La Plazuela restaurant with its northern New Mexican cuisine, at La Fiesta lounge with live performances by Santa Fe artists and at the Bell Tower Bar with views of the region’s outdoor treasures.
Hilton Santa Fe Historic Plaza is housed in a 300-year old hacienda that once belonged to Padre Ramon Ortiz, considered one of the most influential humanitarians, politicians and peacemakers in Santa Fe history. During the Mexican-American conflict, he gave food and shelter to both Mexican soldiers and their captives during their journey to Mexico City. He also instigated an armed resistance at the battle of Brazitos, which led him to be taken prisoner and marched to Chihuahua where he watched the city fall to U.S. troops. The hotel was established in 1973 and offers groups a combination of standard rooms, executive suites and historic casita guesthouses. The guesthouses are located in the historic coach house of the estate, which dates back to 1625, and are built within the thick adobe walls of the original structure. Along with vibrant New Mexican colors, the casitas feature planked ceilings, antique Colonial furnishings and a beehive kiva fireplace.
Owned by a fourth-generation New Mexico family, Old Santa Fe Inn has long been an integral part of the Santa Fe community, especially for its prominent location on Historic Route 66. The family founded the inn to bring guests Southwestern hospitality at affordable rates, and it has since been named one of the top 10 reinvented roadside conversions in the U.S. by Sherman’s Travel. Its authentic New Mexico furnishings and décor include artwork by local artist Willard Clark. Its location just four blocks from Santa Fe Plaza also gives groups access to historic landmarks such as the Loretto Chapel, New Mexico State Capital Building and San Miguel Mission, the oldest church in the U.S. The property features a large conference room and a business center for groups.
Also located nearby the city’s historic plaza, the 157-room La Posada de Santa Fe was first home to a 3-story brick mansion built by a prosperous merchant, named Abraham Staab. The Staab family entertained Santa Fe society members in the residence, which was decorated with the finest European furnishings for the time. It is rumored that Mrs. Staab loved the home so much that she has never left, and her spirit has been the subject of many ghost tours as well as episodes of “Unsolved Mysteries” and “Weird Travels.” The original house stands today in the form of the hotel bar. The rest of the hotel was built in the 1930s when R. H. and Eulalia Nason constructed a series of Pueblo Revival-style adobe casitas around the existing mansion and carriage house. La Posada also became a summer arts school with many long-term guests who became part of Santa Fe’s arts community. That history with the arts is still very prominent at the property, with an in-house art curator and changing art exhibits, according to Feins.
The 56-room Hotel Chimayo de Santa Fe celebrates the agricultural, creative and spiritual traditions of the historic village of Chimayo, located about 30 minutes north of Santa Fe. Founded in the 17th century, the Chimayo community is home to a pilgrimage church and nearby sacred sites as well as internationally renowned weavers, locally crafted artwork and northern New Mexico cuisine. The work of more than 70 local artists is featured at the hotel, and a percentage of revenues goes to cultural preservation of the Chimayo community, says Feins. The hotel also highlights the more modern culture of the lowrider in their Low ‘n Slow Lowrider Bar next door. Diamond-tuck upholstered seats, hub caps and creative photos set the scene for the car-themed experience. Event space is available in the hotel’s restaurant, bar and presidential suite, which features a full kitchen and private rooftop patio space. The hotel also offers complimentary historic walking tours of Santa Fe, or groups can opt to experience Chimayo first-hand on a tour with Great Southwest Adventures.