Most famous Route 66 motels are known for their drive-up motor-court designs and bright neon signs. But there’s one accommodation that shines brightly onto The Mother Road with its exemplary decor, flawless hospitality, and deep historic roots: La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona.
La Posada Hotel stands as a testament to a bygone era of train travel and artistic ingenuity. Its walls whisper tales of a visionary trio — Fred Harvey, the restaurateur who tamed the wild west with fine dining, Mary Colter, the architect who breathed life into Southwestern landscapes, and La Posada itself, the “resting place” that embodied their dreams.
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In the late 19th century, Fred Harvey saw the potential of the Santa Fe Railway to open up the west, but recognized the need for comfortable, civilized stops along the way. Thus, the Fred Harvey Company was born, transforming train travel with a network of hotels and restaurants renowned for their impeccable service and elegant dining.
But Harvey knew that brick and mortar alone wouldn’t suffice. He needed an artist, someone who could capture the essence of the Southwest and weave it into the very fabric of his establishments. Enter Mary Colter. A pioneer in her own right, Colter defied societal expectations to become a respected architect. Her designs, deeply influenced by Native American and Spanish Colonial motifs, breathed life into Harvey’s vision.
Colter worked for the Fred Harvey Company from 1905 until she retired in the 1950s. She became famous for her work on buildings near the Grand Canyon, but La Posada became one of her life’s greatest works, as she was able to carefully craft every detail, from the structures and landscapes down to the maid’s outfits and dinner china.
On May 15, 1930, La Posada opened its doors for the first time. Colter’s masterpiece, the hotel wasn’t just a hotel, it was an experience. Adobe walls, handcrafted furniture, and vibrant tilework echoed the colors of the surrounding landscape. Courtyards whispered with the secrets of ancient petroglyphs, while intricate details like hand-painted light fixtures told stories of desert flora and fauna.
La Posada wasn’t just a pretty facade, though. It boasted modern amenities like running water and electricity, all seamlessly integrated into its rustic charm. The elegant Turquoise Room, designed by Colter herself, served as a culinary oasis, its menu a fusion of Southwestern flavors and Harvey’s signature hospitality.
The hotel remained open for 27 years, closing its fanciful doors in 1957. In 1959 many of the furnishings were auctioned off, and, in the 1960s, much of the building was gutted to make way for Santa Fe Railway offices. Later, when the railway planned to move, the building was almost completely demolished.
Though La Posada faced temporary closure in the late 20th century, its magic remained. With fears of this national treasure being erased from the landscape, it was added to the National Register of Historic Buildings’ endangered list in the early 1990s. In 1997, Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion, captivated by its charm, took possession of the property and embarked on a meticulous restoration. Today, La Posada has regained its rightful place as a beacon of hospitality and artistic expression. Guests can wander through its halls, soak in the history, and lose themselves in the beauty of Colter’s vision.
Staying at La Posada Hotel today is a highlight of any Route 66 road trip. The rooms feel like a luxurious haven, a far cry from many of the cheap roadside motels we tend to stay at on road trips. Sleep in a handmade Ponderosa pine bed surrounded by handwoven Zapotec rugs and Mexican tin and Talavera tile mirrors. Some rooms even feature original 1930 black and white mosaic tile bathrooms and six-foot cast-iron tubs.
Every inch of the property, inside the rooms and out, is meticulously decorated with local crafts, artwork, and artifacts that bring you back to Route 66’s, and La Posada’s, heydey.
You might even feel like your stay at La Posada is fit for a celebrity. And you’d be right. In the 1930s, the hotel was a favorite destination for many Hollywood stars and other well-known figures. Albert Einstein, Amelia Earhart, Betty Grable, Bob Hope, Clark Gable, Diane Keaton, Gary Cooper, Gene Autry, Howard Hughes, James Cagney, Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne, Lauren Hutton, Shirley Temple, Will Rogers, and numerous presidents are just some of the famous names to grace the roster of guests. And each of the 55 guest rooms is dedicated to one of them. Look for a framed photo outside your door to show which celebrity you’ll be spending the night with in spirit.
I stayed in the Jackie Gleason room, dedicated to the American comedian and actor. Known as “The Great One,” Gleason is probably best known for his role as bus driver Ralph Kramden in The Honeymooners and appearances in The Jackie Gleason Show, The Hustler, and Smokey and the Bandit.
The luxurious experience of staying at La Posada doesn’t just apply to the guest rooms. One of the hotel’s best features is the renowned garden that wraps around the property. You’ll be handed a map when you check in, so be sure to follow it around to explore the flower beds, sculptures, water features, and more that snake around the building.
Anyone staying the night at La Posada Hotel simply must reserve a table at The Turquoise Room, the on-site restaurant that was once helmed by James Beard-nominated chef John Sharpe. Open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they present a seasonal menu full of local game meats and other specialties. Don’t forget to start with their signature soup, which has a creamy sweet corn soup and a spicy black bean soup served side by side in a bowl topped with a spicy chile cream.
Even if you’re not spending the night at La Posada Hotel, the restaurant is open to all.
Many Route 66 travelers come to Winslow, Arizona to visit the famed Standin’ on the Corner Park, which pays homage to the lyrics from the Eagles’ song, “Take it Easy.” But if you need a good night’s sleep or a good meal, after standing on the corner yourself, head down the block for an impressive stay at La Posada Hotel.
More Photos of La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona
La Posada Hotel
Address: 303 East 2nd Street, Winslow, AZ 86047 (Route 66)