A few years ago, my husband and I were traveling on Amtrak’s Southwest Chief. As the train passed through Las Vegas, New Mexico, a dilapidated building moved past the window. Only catching a fleeting glimpse, I was intrigued. What was the history of this place? Why was this impressive structure next to the railroad station? What had the building been used for? Delving into the history of this area, I was delighted to discover the Castaneda Hotel was built by the Fred Harvey Company. The famous Harvey Girls had served customers in the dining room. While looking at old photographs, my writer’s heart created the story of one young woman who worked at the Castaneda Hotel. This idea became a romantic mystery I titled Turquoise Remembrance. My story was the winner in the Tony Hillerman Mystery Short Story contest in 2011……my first contest entry and thus became my first publication in the February 2012 issue of New Mexico Magazine.
During my research, I learned the hotel was basically vacant since 1948, only occupied by a lady who continued to run a small bar from the lower level. According to the hotel website, in “2014 it was purchased by Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion, the owners of La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona. In 2018 Allan and Tina transferred title to their public-benefit 501-c3 corporation – the Winslow Arts Trust – though they remain responsible for the restoration, operation and financing.” Renovations began in January of 2018, with hotel guests welcomed in April of 2019.
MY WISH COMES TRUE!
Ever since I’d glimpsed this historic building from the train, I wished to slip back in time and spend a night in Fred Harvey’s first trackside hotel. In November of this year, my wish came true!
The experience of standing on the actual staircase I included in my story was amazing! My famous actress, Sylvia Cliffton, descended these stairs while she screamed about her stolen turquoise necklace. (Note Judy Garland, who played a Harvey Girl in the movie, is nearby. I’m wearing a mask as required in public areas in New Mexico.)
The view from our room included the Las Vegas Amtrak station where we saw the two daily Southwest Chief trains pass by. Perfect timing!
The Castaneda Hotel is beautifully restored. Our room, on the second floor, was a delight. Unfortunately the restaurant was temporarily closed because of the New Mexico lockdown, but someday we’ll return to have dinner in the exact room where Harvey Girls served the traveling customers.
Sitting at the small writing desk seemed the perfect place to reflect on the experience of staying at this grand hotel. Who else had gazed out this window watching the trains go by? What special moments in history had been viewed? My father passed by this exact place while traveling on a World War II troop train in the 1940’s. With the anxiety of leaving home and heading off to war, he didn’t remember much of the travel experience. He did know he had been on the tracks between Kansas and California.
It is special to know the tin ceiling and the wooden floors are original. With the Christmas decorations sparkling in the lobby and snow falling softly outside, it was a perfect time to fulfill my wish of staying at the historic Castaneda Hotel.
Thank you for joining me for my tour of the Castaneda Hotel…..and my wish come true. Have you stayed at a historic hotel?
May your celebration of our Lord’s birth be filled with faith, hope, and love……. and wishes come true!
With many blessings,
*Comments are appreciated and will appear after moderation. I apologize for delays in posting.
10 thoughts on “Where do stories come from? And a wish comes true!”
Sherida, I loved your post and what a treat to stay in such a beautiful building with all the memories. ❤ for you and your family at Christmas. Xx
Thank you, Jane! The stay at the hotel was a wonderful experience. Blessings to you and your family during the Christmas season! ♥️
What an interesting tour. I’m so glad I stopped by!
Thank you, Jackie! I love the virtual trios to the beach which your posts and books provide! Blessings!
I so enjoyed your post. I too am fascinated by and enjoy staying in historic hotels. The whole Fred Harvey story is pretty interesting in itself. Thank you for sharing your experiences.
Thank you, Marlene! I’m pleased you enjoyed my tour of the hotel. Learning about Fred Harvey is quite fascinating. He was a visionary and accomplished a great deal in settling the West. Thank you for joining us!
What a wonderful experience for you, Sherida. I love that you sat at the writing desk and pondered others who passed through before you. Thank you so much for taking us along on this lovely tour. You’re a great guide! I enjoyed all of your photos, too. I’ve stayed in a few historic hotels in Williamsburg and Middleburg, Virginia. That was before I was hit with the writing bug. I might need to go back. 🙂 Wishing you and your family a blessed holiday season.
Thank you so much, Jill! If you decide to write historical romance someday, story ideas just seem to live in the charming older hotels. Love our writer imaginations! Blessings to you and your family as we celebrate the Christmas miracle!
Oh, Sherida – – this is such a fascinating post! I am SO happy your wish came true and you were able to visit and stay in this hotel – – WOW!!
Congratulations on your winning story – – you’ve intrigued me!
So sorry I’m almost a week late in commenting. I read this last week, but got sidetracked (no pun intended since you mentioned a train!) before I left a comment.
Thank you so much for sharing your love of history with others.
I hope you and your family have a blessed Christmas!
Hugs, Patti Jo
Patti Jo, I’m so glad you enjoyed my wish-comes-true tour…..and I definitely understand getting side-“tracked” these busy days. Thank you, as always, for your encouragement! Wishing you and your family a blessed Christmas! With hugs and love to you, my friend!