Rehabilitation began in January 2018 with a crew of fifty local artisans. If all goes well the Castaneda – closed as a hotel seventy years ago – will reopen in Spring of 2019!
The Castañeda was built in 1898 and was Fred Harvey’s first trackside hotel – the beginning of America’s first hospitality empire. The hotel is roughly 30,000 sq ft, plus a 500 foot long arcade wrapping the entire east facade and courtyard. There is also a basement under the north wing for kitchen supplies, under the south wing for boilers and mechanical equipment, and a huge attic, which was uninsulated and never used. The Santa Fe Railway mainline ran directly in front, connecting Las Vegas New Mexico to Chicago and Los Angeles.
The Castañeda was designed by Frederick Roehrig, a prominent Pasadena architect. It was the only building he designed for the AT&SF Railway. This was the earliest Harvey House to be built in Mission Revival style, and became the prototype of nearly all future Harvey properties.
Fred Harvey was the first major American company to hire vast numbers of women, eventually more than 100,000. The beautiful Rawlings Building -across Railroad Ave from the Castaneda – was a dormitory for the Las Vegas Harvey Girls. It is also being restored now!
The Castaneda is about one mile east of the Plaza Hotel and ‘Old Town Las Vegas’. The entire area around the Castaneda is a registered historic district. Most buildings here were constructed in the late 1800’s. The Santa Fe Railway replaced the Santa Fe Trail as the way goods traveled to and from the Southwest so many prominent merchants built warehouses here.
The new hotel was so successful that in 1902 the AT&SF built the Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque – based on the design of the Castaneda. The Alvarado was torn down in 1970, an act of destruction so terrible it sparked the historic preservation movement in New Mexico. But the Castaneda survived, mostly abandoned and crumbling, for seventy years.
To further develop tourism in the region the Fred Harvey company developed the ‘Indian Detours’. Luxury touring cars and vans (called ‘Harvey Cars’) with drivers and guides took intrepid travelers between the Castañeda, La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, La Posada in Winslow, and El Tovar at south rim of the Grand Canyon – and many places of interest in between.
Visitors to a Harvey House would also be offered authentic Indian products such as jewelry and pottery. Ultimately Fred Harvey became the biggest purveyor of native arts and crafts in the Southwest.
The Harvey empire prospered until World War Two. After that came highway hotels and suburbanization. Most Harvey Hotels were in downtown railroad districts, which increasingly lost their appeal and population. Most of the Harvey Hotels were eventually abandoned and demolished; the only ones that prospered were in prime tourism locations and not on the main rail line: El Tovar and Bright Angel at the Grand Canyon and La Fonda in Santa Fe. The Castaneda will be only the second Harvey Hotel to be resurrected, joining La Posada in Winslow. Thank you for being our guest, and for helping us save this remarkable history!
Tours of the Castaneda and Plaza Hotels – and many other beautiful places from Las Vegas’ remarkable past – are available from Southwest Detours.
Please call 505.459.6987 or e-mail email@example.com for more information.
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