The Breakfast Club
A Chapter of The Arizona Pilots Assn.


The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visits Winslow, Overnights at La Posada Hotel


23 May 2004
by Warren McIlvoy

For anyone who has followed the adventures of the Breakfast Club for any length of time, you know that we plan for two alternate events per year where we do a 2-4 day stay at some interesting location. At the annual meeting of the event committee, we try to select from a list of places that we may have already been to for a fly-in breakfast, or some location we have only heard about from other folks. For the first overnight event of this year, we choose the La Posada Resort in Winslow. We have been there on two previous occasions for fly-in events and the allure of the place made it a natural selection. We planned for a Saturday night stay with an early arrival time for those who make like to take the flight but opt-out of staying the night.

It is only a hour's flight to Winslow from the valley so it did not require an "0-dark thirty" arrival at the airport. After pre-flighting the aircraft and loading-up our gear, we began our short journey out of Scottsdale to the northeast. I ascended to 7500' into pretty smooth air with a bit of a tail wind. The air stayed glassy smooth until we crossed the mountains southwest of Payson and into the Tonto Basin. I half expected some turbulence as we crossed the ridge but it continued well beyond Payson. I climbed to 9500' as I neared the Mogollon Rim but the "rockin and rollin" stayed with us for the balance of the flight. I heard Allan Wallace talking to another aircraft but I could not determine who it was. As they were both well ahead of me, I thought that I was going to be the "tail-end turtle" for the day. The winds were favoring runway 22 so I entered the pattern with a left downwind for 22.

As I taxied to the ramp, I could see Allan's Bonanza parked along side another Bonanza that, as it turned-out, belonged to Jerry & Nancy Grout. Upon unloading our aircraft, we met Allan & Patricia's guest, Jeff & Sara Kreuger. Parked off to our right and a bit further away (thankfully), was a huge "Sky Crane" with it's attendant water hopper. It was obviously there for the fire season. Jerry and Nancy were the first to arrive and as such, commandeered the "airport limo" and took their guest, Phil & PJ Goddard to the La Posada. We loaded our gear into the Dodge Colt station wagon and then crammed-in, in some cases, 8 wide bodies into a vehicle built for five. I got the privilege of being "chauffeur for the day" and was grateful that it was only a short ride to the hotel.

I pulled-into the gravel parking lot and parked adjacent to the old north entry to the hotel. It is an unassuming entry into what was the crown jewel of the Santa Fe Railroad hotel system but then again, folks did not visit the hotel by automobile in the 1920's and 30's. Rather they arrived by rail and the more stylish main entry is/was on the south side of the structure. There are plans in the works that will change all of this in the very near future, but more on that later.

At this point, I would like to insert some historical regarding the designer of this fascinating hotel.

La Posada 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 La Posada her masterpiece. La Posada 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 La Posada, the aura of a grand and ancient estate.

La Posada 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 La Posada'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 La Posada was purchased in January 1997 by the La Posada LLC.

Once inside the La Posada, you pass through an arched ceiling corridor with doors on your left that lead to the 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 La Posada.

I strode up to the hotel's registration desk, not so much to check-in as we were quite early for that, but to see if we could stow are gear while we had breakfast and stroll around town. We placed our bags in an area just behind the check-in area and then promptly rejoined the rest of our group in the
Turquoise Room, which has been fully restored and is now the focal dinning area. Phil and PJ had already alerted the staff that there would be eight for breakfast so the tables had already be set up for our group.

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 La Posada original. The Turquoise Room is named for the private dining car on the luxury Super Chief train for which Colter designed the Mimbreno China.

After our rather enjoyable breakfast meal, we decided that it was time to make our obligatory walk around town and, in particular, visit the now famous statue, "Standing on the Corner". As we were about to exit the hotel, we met another
Breakfast Club couple, Bert & Dee Davis. It seems that they made a "last minute" choice to join with us for the weekend if not necessarily for breakfast. They were going to get something to eat and join in the "town tour" a bit later. We left the hotel via the north entry which is on the east bound leg of famous Route 66 (2nd Street). Yep, you guessed it, another nostalgic Route 66 memory jogger. Only Winslow had an additional significance of being a hub for the Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad had two roundhouses as well as a maintenance yard. The west bound leg of Route 66 (3rd Street) is one block to the north and they rejoin several blocks both east and west of the main downtown area.

"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(?) "Standin 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 whom ever 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 embrace.

Naturally, no good
Breakfast Club visitor worth his or her salt, could resist sidling up to the statue for some photo ops. I got some great shots of our couples with the mural in the background. The park also attracted a small portion of a cycling group that was cycling across America. The missionary group known as Wheel Power started-out in San Francisco and will wend their way across America and end-up in Lynchburg, Virginia. We had noticed their motor home and equipment trailer parked along the street and I have forgotten just how many of their group is participating in tour. Also, no good tourist attraction is complete with-out the adjacent gift shop and this one is no different. So after the photo session, it was into the store for some good ole fashioned browsing. I don't recall if my wife bought anything but I might have gotten-off Scott free but I do know that some of the others weren't so lucky.

We wandered a little further west for a few block stopping in one of the art galleries. Many of the items reminded me of some of the off-beat pieces that are on display in the ASU Art Museum. A bit pricy for my blood but, then again, there is no accounting for taste. After our "extensive" tour of beautiful downtown Winslow, it was back to the La Posada. By this time, our rooms were ready and we took advantage of the lull in our day's activities to get settled in our rooms and rest our legs. It only took a short time to recharge our batteries and it was off to seek out the treasures of the La Posada Hotel. Up to this point, all of the visible restoration efforts have been concentrated on the core and west wing of the hotel. The forty or so room in the core section along with those of the west wing (not the White House west wing) have been completely redone with furnishings reflecting the territorial days and as close to what was there in the hotel's heyday. The bathrooms are more contemporary in their restoration. The stone floors have various throw rugs that accentuate the original stone floor without completely covering them up. All of the rooms have their own heating and cooling units but since there was such a nice breeze, we opted to crank open the modern windows and enjoy the fresh air. The one down side to the "open window idea" was that there are 94 trains a days that pass through Winslow and with the setting sun, that activity does not cease. However, the southern walls of the hotel are about 18" thick and with the windows closed, I doubt that the train noise would ever be noticed.

Our tour of the La Posada 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 livingroom. 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 La Posada and was so cantankerous that she had to be asked to shuffle back home to Santa Fe when she invariable 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 seen 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 rooms doors are louvered to create convection currents. Colter designed La Posada with a passive solar building envelope to keep the hotel cool even during the warm summer season.

The Cinderblock Court connects the lobby and the west wing. Cinderblocks 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 Cinderblock 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 La Posada's long hallways.

Along the north wall of the Cinderblock 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, Cinderblock 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 La Posada. The US economy collapsed during construction in 1929 so much of her garden plan was never implemented. It was here that I found Jeff and Sara along with Patricia Wallace and a few cold ones on ice along with some "munches". We all sat on the upper terrace in lounge chairs and covered gliders. Before long, Bert & Dee Davis and in short order, Allen Wallace found their way to this peaceful idyllic spot to enjoy conversation and the cool breezes that found their way over the walls. We must have spent an hour and a half there and before you knew it, it was about an hour  hour before our 1800 dinner hour reservation. What a way to spend the balance of the afternoon.

After returning to our respective rooms for a change of clothing, we all met in the Martini Bar for the mandatory "happy hour". A few marganitas and some more munches and it was time for our evening dinner in the
Turquoise Room Restaurant.

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 La Posada original, brocade booths of emerald green, Verne Lucero's magnificent chandeliers, even Tina Mion's stained-glass mural of La Posada patron saints Ysidro, Pascual and Barbara.

I would venture to guess that the Turquoise Room is most likely the most upscale dinning facility in the entire City of Winslow. Our meals were delicately prepared and served in a style that would reflect the image of the La Posada. I would bet that Colter would approve of what these folks have done with her creation.

After a truly enjoyable evening meal, most of us ventured out onto the south portico entry that was used by the many visitors who arrived by rail. The westbound Amtrak train was due to stop at about 8:55 but it was about 15 minutes late (I guess that is normal for 21st Century rail travel). There were about 8-10 folks on hand to board the train for it's final destination of Los Angles. As the arriving train brakes to a halt, we could get a glimpse of the interior of the double decked, sleeper cars that made up the entire train. Just being there and witnessing this ritual brought back memories of when travel by rail really was "King".

After an early breakfast, I called the KB Cab Company for our return ride to the airport. All eight of us packed in the seven passenger van for the short $10.00 ride. After topping-off at the self serve fuel pumps, it was lift-off on runway 29 for the trip home. As weekends go, it was very relaxing and enjoyable especially when you can share it with some good friends and to enjoy a place that embraces you within it's hallowed and historic walls. Below I have inserted some clips form the owners of this celebrated place.

"When we bought La Posada 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 La Posada 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.

The La Posada Group

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 4544X, BC-1
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace in  Bonanza ????, BC-39
  • Jeff & Sara Kreuger, guests of Allan & Patricia
  • Jerry & Nancy Grout in 2862W
  • Phil & PJ Goddard, guest of Jerry & Nancy
  • Bert & Dee Davis in 44806

I have created a link to a photo album that contains all of the Winslow/LaPosada photos from this event.  Click on the link below to view these photos.  The page will ask for email address and other info but that is not needed.  Just click on the photo in both instances to get you to the slideshow.

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