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Secret Places: The Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas, New Mexico

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Years ago many of us found a magical place in Northern New Mexico called Santa Fe. While the city remains a wonderful place to visit, it has seen meteoric growth and exploitation.

 

The Santa Fe of yesteryear is gone. Fortunately, there is another city with the same character. In the old days they called it Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de Las Vegas Grandes (“Our Lady of Sorrows of the Great Meadows”). The popular name is Las Vegas, New Mexico.

If you enjoy mixing with local culture, the place to stay in Las Vegas is the Plaza Hotel. Charles Ilfeld and Don Benigno Romero raised the small fortune of $25,000 to build “The Belle of the Southwest.” The Plaza Hotel was a first class meeting spot on the Santa Fe Trail for the “who’s who” of the times, including the Territorial Democrats and Territorial Republicans, according the to hotel’s website.

Topics of the day were similar to modern political issues. Should the territory of New Mexico join the Union?  In 1846, Stephen W. Kearny claimed New Mexico for the United States in front of a crowd gathered in the Las Vegas Plaza.

During the lame duck session of 2010, children of undocumented immigrants asked Congress to pass the Dream Act so they can go to college or serve in the military and be part of America. 

Education is in the hearts of the descendants of the original people of Las Vegas. In 1877, A group of exiled Jesuits formed the Las Vegas College, which became Regis University in Denver, Colorado. Armand Hammer’s United World College is located near Las Vegas in another famous hotel.  The college accepts talented youth from around the world.  Perhaps some of the Dream students will go to school in Law Vegas or Denver, Colorado!

In the early days, the Railroad Brought people and problems.

Teddy Roosevelt had a meeting with the Rough Riders in 1889. Billy the Kid was paraded across the plaza in chains on his way to the Las Vegas jail. Doc Holliday and his Girlfriend Big Nose Kate were there. So was Jesse James, and Wyatt Earp. What makes the Plaza Hotel fun is all the history, and you can be there, too!

Sadly, a decline in the economy and the railroad as a means of travel left the hotel in disrepair. Bryan T. Mills acquired the property in the 1940s and decided to tear the Belle of the Southwest down. Fortunately for all of us, he never got around to it.

They say Mills shows up at the hotel from time to time, which is odd since he died at the Las Vegas Elks lodge in 1945. Lauren Addario says she met him, sort of, when she worked at the Plaza Hotel. Late one night in 1997 she felt someone sit on the bed. Soon the bed released and she heard pacing.

Addairo, like most of us, was not sure of her own perceptions and kept the story quiet. However, a year later, a guest had the same experience! Locals say it is Byron, lamenting the injury to the community and history in his effort to raze the Plaza Hotel.

If you want to meet Byron, your best bet is to stay in room 316, which he favors. They say if you spend enough time at the famed grand dame, you will smell his cigar smoke or even see the leftover ash from his stogie!

The Hotel is located on the historial central plaza, a typical design feature which allowed social events in buildings that could serve as fortresses during siege. Today, other interesting stores and restaurants dot the Plaza, including the artists’ cooperative El Zócalo Gallery.

In 1982, Wid Slick along with eighteen partners restored the Plaza. The renovation cost over $2 million, far more than the $25,000 it took to build it. That brought the hotel up to first class standards again and the ownership continues to improve their pride and joy every year.

Investors are renovating the adjacent Mercantile building which has been combined with the Plaza. On the main floor, they added a grand ballroom. The original front desk graces the expanded lobby. The guest rooms in the mercantile building are all less than two years old. Hence, you have your choice: live as they did 150 years ago in the original hotel or take a modern room in the expansion. Either way, you will have a great time being part of history.

About Tim Paynter

  • terence sutherland

    The writer fails to mention that Bat Masterson and the Dodge City Gang, along with Pat Garrett used to roam “Old Town” Las Vegas. Also Jack Johnson, heavyweight champion of the world in the early 20th Century, trained here. The Rough Riders trained here before going on to fight in the Battle of San Juan Hill, Puerto Rico.

    Queen Elizabeth visited nearby Montezuma, also in the early 20th Century. In the 30′s, big cars with Illinois plates would be seen rumbling into Old Town, staying for a few months until the heat was off in Chicago. It was later learned many were with Al Capone. Yes, there’s alot of history in Old Town, Las Vegas…