The Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of The Arizona Pilots Assn.


The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visits Winslow, LaPosada Hotel

13 May 2006
by Warren McIlvoy

The May Breakfast Club event saw us heading to the northeast towards one of our favorite places, Winslow and the LaPosada Hotel. Winslow, and to be more specific, the LaPosada Hotel has become one of the places that we like to make return visits. Though the flight is not that long (only about 45-50 minutes) but the destination is truly worth the effort. The town itself does not have much to offer but the hotel has an allure that makes one want to visit on a regular basis. One of the locals told me that Winslow is known for its "rails and jails". There are 94 trains a day that travel through town with the AmTrack train making two stops, the morning stop east bound and the evening stop west bound. There is also a State prison just outside of town that does provide some employment for some of the local folks.

The Winslow Airport a.k.a., Winslow-Lindbergh Regional Airport was named after the famous aviator Charles Lindbergh. In the years following his famous trans-Atlantic flight, Lindbergh would remain a prominent figure in the world of aviation.  TWA hired Lindbergh as an advisor to the airline, naming its new transcontinental route the "Lindbergh Line." He flew unchartered territories with his wife, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, plotting new air routes for Pan Am in the late 1920s and early 1930s.
Winslow Airport (INW), was one of the airports used for the "Lindbergh Line".

After most of the
Breakfast Club folks had landed and assembled around the terminal building, the cab appeared to take the first load to the hotel. For those folks who were staying the night, the folks at Winslow Air (928-289-2429) gave us the use of the "airport limo". By the time that all had arrived, we were seated at three or four long tables in the Turquoise Room. The Turquoise Room is a truly elegant, first-class dinning facility that almost seems out of place in this part of the country. It would be right at home if it were located in up-scale Scottsdale. The cuisine appears to be Continental with a Southwest flare. The breakfast entrees were prepared with a great deal of care and the service is typical of an up-scale restaurant. I would venture a guess and say that the Turquoise Room is far and away, the best restaurant in all of Winslow.

"Considered by many to be the finest restaurant in the entire Four Corners region, The Turquoise Room was created in 2000 under the direction of renowned Chef John Sharpe who oversees every detail of the preparation and service. The restaurant re-creates the elegant dining experience of the famous Turquoise Room dining car on the Santa Fe Railway's Super Chief. Everything was designed for this special setting - leather & wood chairs modeled on a LaPosada original, brocade booths of emerald green, Verne Lucero's magnificent chandeliers, even Tina Mion's stained-glass mural of LaPosada patron saints Ysidro, Pascual and Barbara".

For our after breakfast treat, I had arranged to have a private, guided tour or the LaPosada by none other than a member of the "Harvey Girls Society". The guide gave a brief history of the Santa Fe Railroad and the connection between Mary Coulter and the Fred Harvey Company. The rest of the tour time was devoted to viewing many of the hotel rooms and all of the common areas. She gave us a description of how many of the common area rooms were used in the past. We also went outside to the railroad side of the hotel that was, in its heyday, considered the "front" of the hotel. After-all, that is where almost all of the guests arriving by rail, entered the hotel. Now-a-days, the street side (old Route 66) is where everyone enters the hotel.

At this point, let me insert some of the history of the LaPosada and Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter. Some of the following is taken from my story the last time that we stayed at the hotel. I have also expanded some descriptions of various areas of the hotel.

LaPosada was designed by Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter, chief architect and designer for the Fred Harvey Company from 1905 until her retirement in the 1950's. Colter is famous for her magnificent buildings at the Grand Canyon - but she considered LaPosada her masterpiece. LaPosada was her only complete commission; the only project for which she was able to design or select everything from the structures to the landscape, furniture, maids costumes and dinner china. Many people consider this to be the most important and most beautiful building in the Southwest.

All of Colter's buildings are historical-theater. She was a scholar of the Southwest and wanted to educate visitors about the great culture of the region through her work. Before she began to design, she would choose a historic and regionally specific building type. She would then imagine a fantasy history specific to the building she was creating.

Colter designed the central part of the hacienda as if built in 1869, with major additions to east and west during the next 60 years. And then, the story goes, in 1929 the family sold the place to Fred Harvey for 'conversion' to a hotel. It's all a fantasy of course - the hotel was built in 1929 - but through these historic and architectural details Colter is able to create a very special aura at LaPosada, the aura of a grand and ancient estate.

LaPosada opened May 15, 1930 just after the Stock Market crash of 1929, and was only open for 27 years. In 1957 the hotel closed to the public. The museum-quality furnishings were auctioned off in 1959. In the early 1960's much of the building was gutted and transformed to offices for the Santa Fe Railway. Several times over the ensuing 40 years the building was nearly demolished, as recently as 1994 when the railway announced plans to move out for good. The National Trust for Historic Preservation found out about LaPosada's peril and put it on their endangered list - where it came to the attention of Allan Affeldt. After 3 years of negotiation with the now BNSF Railway, LaPosada was purchased in January 1997 by the LaPosada LL

Once inside the LaPosada, you pass through an arched ceiling corridor with doors on your left that lead to what was once the main dinning room. This is still used for wedding receptions and meetings requiring a large seating area. On the right, there are some recesses in the walls that contain various works of art done by Tina Mion, wife to Allan Affeldt, one of the two folks that purchased the hotel in 1997. Also in the corridor was a reproduction of a "Monks Chair" that was recreated by Master Carpenter, Keith Mion, and brother of Tina. The floor of the corridor was constructed of what appeared to be Mexican Tile on steroids. This was but one example of the many different materials used for the floors throughout the LaPosada.

In the original plan, the Turquoise Room was an informal dining hall. Two U-shaped counters of colorful Mexican Tile could seat sixty hungry travelers at a time. Each counter had direct access to the kitchen. The waitress floors were sunken so the servers would be at ideal serving level. The counters and built-in cabinetry were demolished in the early 1960's. This area became the computer center for the Santa Fe Railway Arizona division- all the switches for all the trains in Arizona were controlled from this room. The furnishings in the Turquoise Room evoke the grand dining salons of the 1930's. Turquoise comes in many colors, with deep green like the booths being one of the favorites. The spectacular chandeliers were designed for the room by Verne Lucero. Tina Mion created the painted wainscot. The chairs are based on a LaPosada original. The Turquoise Room is named for the private dining car on the luxury Super Chief train for which Colter designed the Mimbreno China.

Our tour of the LaPosada included a close inspection of the Ballroom. This room is 2000' in area and certainly bigger than most houses in the 1930's. The concrete, channel beam ceiling is turquoise in color and called Colter Blue with gold and silver leaf details. The railroad converted this to a conference room with acoustic tile ceilings, sealed blacked-out windows and a projector screen over the fireplace. The Ballroom in the 1930's was decorated as the family living room. There were huge purple carpets and Navajo area rugs partially covering the wood floors, ancient engravings of Cortez and his conquests, simple stools with heart-shaped cut-outs, deep velvet couches, and tin palm-frond lamps flanking the fireplace. Colter spent a great deal of time at the LaPosada and was so cantankerous that she had to be asked to shuffle back home to Santa Fe when she invariably wore out her welcome by bossing everyone around.

As you exit the Ballroom, you descend just a few steps to an interim landing. If you proceed straight ahead, you will ascend a much longer run of steps to an upper level where there is a door that leads to the, as yet unrestored, east wings. There is a small window in the door where you can see just how the railroad had gutted out the guest rooms and converted the space to offices of 1960's design. Above this upper level is the "Windtower". Warm air blows from the south across watered lawns where it is cooled, humidified and pushed through the public spaces and up the tower. Wind blows through the tower creating a vacuum to suck the lobby air out. Halls run North-South to capture prevailing winds and guest room doors are louvered to create convection currents. Colter designed LaPosada with a passive solar building envelope to keep the hotel cool even during the warm summer season.

The Cinder block Court connects the lobby and the west wing. Cinder blocks were a new material in the 1920's. Colter used the hand molded blocks to give the court a rustic look. A series of gas torches illuminated the south wall and rough Spanish benches covered the radiators. A 200-year-old bench was brought from an ancient nearby ranch house was to the right. The court was designed as an Orangerie, a warm, well-lit refuge for fragrant citrus trees that were moved indoors in big pots for the winter. As you pass through the Cinder block Court to enter the west wing, you come upon a suspended, spiral, concrete and wrought-iron staircase that leads to the 2nd floor west wing, restored in 1998. The hall floors and "compass" symbol below the staircase are of Linoleum Mosaic. A rare application of 1/4 inch linseed oil tiles hand cut and grouted to pattern. Colter designed these one-of-kind floors to dampen noise n LaPosada's long hallways.

Along the north wall of the Cinder Block Court are two pairs of double wood doors separated by a long series of wooden windows. These doors lead you to the Sunken Garden. This garden is a classic Mediterranean outdoor room enclosed by the tower, Cinder Block Court, the west wing and north wall. A crushed granite walk led around the lawn and ended at a gate house. There were rustic arbors above the stone terrace. Colter's only landscape plan, found on microfilm in the Santa Fe archives, was for LaPosada. The US economy collapsed during construction in 1929 so much of her garden plan was never implemented

Below I have inserted some clips form the owners of this celebrated place.

"When we bought LaPosada in 1997, it was in danger of being torn down. Our objective was not to have a hotel but to save a National treasure-the masterpiece of America's most important woman architect and designer. Our intention has always been to restore the property so it earns enough to pay the bills-and then to make the buildings into a public institution: a museum to tell the history of the region form Anasazi to Mary Colter. To that end, we have established the LaPosada Foundation-a non profit charitable corporation-to acquire artifacts and develop public projects. Our current major project is developing Colter's vision for acres of public gardens to surround the hotel. The gardens will cost well in excess of $1 million-and we believe will become the finest public garden in the region".

Part of the garden project is to redesign the north entry to reflect the fact that the vast majority of the hotel's visitors now arrive by automobile rather than rail. To that end, the parking lot will be pushed out toward the street and the entry steps will be eliminated in favor of an entry that is compatible with ADA standards. Most of the existing gravel parking lot will succumb to landscaped gardens to enhance a larger patio for the old main dinning room and the Sunken Gardens. This part of the project is slated to be completed prior to next summer. I wish them well and I look forward to seeing it when it is completed.

When all of the formal festivities were completed, the six remaining Breakfast Club folks decided to take the short walk (about two blocks) to the "Standing on the Corner" park.

"Standing on the Corner" is a City park donated to the city by the pioneer Kaufman Family. The plaque on the side of the building says that this family was involved in ranching, banking, railroading, and commerce. The park was donated to the city in 1998. The bronze statue was sculpted by Ron Adamson under the direction of architect Loren Sadler and the accompanying murals on the side of the building were done by John Pugh. I am guessing that the inspiration for the art work was due to a popular song by the Eagles in the 1970's(?) "Standing on the Corner in Winslow, Arizona". Behind the statue and painted on the walls of the building, is a mural depicting two large display windows of a store that reflect a passing flat bed Ford truck with a blond haired girl, checking-out whomever might be standing on the corner. Above the "window" mural, is another painting of a rather large eagle overseeing the activities. Another second story window, with the lower sash being in the open position, depicts the lower half of a couple in an embrace".

Some time last year, a structure fire gutted the building that has the murals painted on it. The west and east walls along with the lower portion of the south wall, still remain and have been stabilized but there is a chain-link fence surrounding the "park" so you can no longer get up close and personal with the bronze statue. However, the City (I am assuming that it was the City) has parked a real flat-bed Ford along the curb to soften the blow.

Following our visit to the park, the six of us continued north another block or two in search of a convenience store to pick-up some "brewskies" and snacks to share. Back at the hotel, we filled the plastic bags with ice and secured our spots in the Sunken Gardens to just enjoy the rest of the afternoon. The cold beers and swapping of tails and lies sure made for an enjoyable afternoon.

We had 6:30 dinner reservations and so about 5:45, we strolled down to the "Espresso Bar and Martini Lounge" adjacent to the Turquoise Room, and sampled one of their custom-made, Blue Lagoon margaritas. Promptly at 6:30, we were seated at our table and enjoyed a truly tasty and relaxing meal and just enjoying the comradely that only a group fly-in can offer. At about 8:00, we strolled out the railroad tracks to welcome the west bound AmTrack train. The train only stopped for about 3-minutes so if you were getting-off or on in Winslow, you had better be fleet-of-foot to not miss your stop. There was a light breeze out of the southwest that made for a very pleasant evening so we all parked ourselves in the "deck" chairs on the adjacent patio and just enjoyed casual conversation and the passing freight trains.

On Sunday morning, we all met in the Turquoise Room at 0700 for a delectable breakfast and to prepare for our departure for the airport. When the refueling and pre-flight chores were completed, it was back to the valley and reality. This is the second time that the
Breakfast Club has savored an overnight stay at the LaPosada and I have a strong feeling that it will not be the last.

The Winslow Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1
  • Joe & Diane Stockwell in 258C, BC-22
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace in 1628W, BC-39
  • Richard Spiegel, Nancy Shore, Vern Shore, and Sam & Tami Foote in 901KA, BC-3
  • Austin Erwin and Rob Mooers in 199SP
  • Tommy Thomason, Jamie Mahler, and Wendy Kay in 1532R
  • Lance Thomas in 3180R
  • Al Feldner and Brian Briggerman in 33RX
  • Larry Jensen in 14LJ, BC-65
  • Ken Calman and Jason Calman in 5323K
  • Walt & Kathy Schultz in 9305W
  • Dave & Jeanne Steiner in 2134M
  • Jack Lawless in 5385N

The LaPosada Campers

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy
  • Austin Erwin
  • Rob Mooers
  • Walt & Kathy Schultz


What's On Tap?

For our June Breakfast Club event, we are doing a switch-a-roo with our June and August schedule. We will be moving Show Low to June and moving Whiteriver to August. We will be attending the EAA sponsored pancake breakfast at the Show Low airport that will negate any transportation issues. In July, we will be traveling to Valle Airport to enjoy some cooler weather and tour the Planes of Fame Aircraft Museum that is there. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

Click on the link below to view the photos of our Winslow fly-in. I have also included photos from our prior visit. 

Click on Wnslow/LaPosada link to view photos of this fly-in event.