16. La Posada

OTM-LPH-Construction-1929Button - ListenIn 1902, Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter started working for the Fred Harvey Company as an architect, designer and decorator.  Defying current trends, Colter designed her buildings to reflect the history of their locations and faced off with engineers and contractors who dared to contradict her designs.  Her reputation as a “foremost American architect” and a “brilliant lady” spread.  Colter was also known for her chain-smoking habit and outspoken manner which contrasted with the restful, beautiful spaces she designed and decorated.

La PosadaThe La Posada was Mary Colter’s crown jewel and favorite building.  She created an entire history for the building to drive her design and décor.  The famous hotel opened on May 15, 1930, defying the Great Depression.  Colter poured her heart into the hotel, designing not just the building but the décor, the staff uniforms, the art and the serving china.  She loved to sit on the west-side balcony and watch the sunset, cigarette in hand.  When the hotel opened, she had to be asked to leave the site because she would go around “correcting” guests who did not appreciate her hotel correctly.

IofAW 65tRailway travel was phasing out and in 1957, La Posada was put up for sale.  Fred Harvey had died and the Santa Fe Railway was forced to close many of the famous Harvey Hotels.  When she heard the news, Colter said, “There’s such a thing as living too long.”  She died a year later knowing that several of her masterpieces had been abandoned and torn down.

IofAW 66bIn 1964, La Posada was rescued from destruction by being converted to the Santa Fail Railway division office.  The hotel was stripped and converted to cubicles or used as storage.  That was when office staff began seeing “a woman in blue” striding through the hotel with a determined look on her face.  She always left the smell of cigarette smoke in her wake.  Sightings continued through 1995 when the BNSF Railway closed their headquarters, once again risking the destruction of La Posada. 

ColterIn 1997, after three years of negotiations, Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion purchased La Posada Hotel and began the monumental task of restoring its grandeur.  Hotel guests, staff, and visiting “ghost hunters” have all reporting sightings of “a woman in blue”.  She’s been seen in guest rooms, leaving a wisp of smoke behind her despite the lack of any known cigarettes in the area.  On quiet evenings, just as the sun is setting, she is often seen striding toward the western side of the hotel and up the curved staircase toward her favorite balcony.

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