The work of acclaimed designer Mary Colter, the Winslow station is part of La Posada, a historic Harvey House lovingly restored.
303 East Second Street (Route 66) La Posada Hotel Lobby Winslow, AZ 86047
- Annual Station Revenue (2013)
- Annual Station Ridership (2013)
|Facility Ownership||La Posada, LLC|
|Parking Lot Ownership||La Posada, LLC|
|Platform Ownership||BNSF Railway|
|Track Ownership||BNSF Railway|
|Accessible Payphones||Accessible Platform||Accessible Ticket Office|
|Accessible Waiting Room||Long Term Parking Spaces||Short Term Parking Spaces|
- Southwest Chief
(510) 238-2671 (ph)
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The Winslow depot was constructed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF), commonly known as the “Santa Fe,” in 1929-1930. Like many of the depots built by the ATSF in the early 20th century, it was constructed as one component of a larger Harvey House hotel complex called La Posada, Spanish for “resting place.” Started by English immigrant Fred Harvey in the 1870s, the company that took his name ran a series of eating houses along the rail line. Dining cars were not yet common west of the Mississippi River; thus, passenger trains stopped at set stations to allow riders to have a bite to eat. Fred Harvey developed a highly efficient system that guaranteed quick, quality meals.
Following the success of the eateries, Fred Harvey, in partnership with the ATSF, branched out into the hotel business. Although many were located in important trade and business centers such as Santa Fe and Albuquerque, N.M, other Harvey Houses like La Posada were created with an eye to developing tourism in the region. Winslow is located south of a Navajo reservation and within driving distance of the Petrified Forest and the Grand Canyon.
Harvey Houses and ATSF depots were often designed in historical revivalist architectural styles that recalled the artistic traditions of Southwestern American Indian tribes and early Spanish colonists. Common design moves included shady colonnades and arcades, curvilinear gables known as remates and roofs covered in red clay tiles. The material palette encompassed stucco, to approximate the look of adobe; wooden rafters; painted tiles; and decorative wrought ironwork for balconies and window grilles.
The Fred Harvey Company employed designer and architect Mary Colter to oversee the interior detailing of many of its great hotels. Educated within the Arts and Crafts-based artistic community of Minneapolis-St. Paul, Colter skillfully blended Spanish and American Indian design aesthetics with modern influences, to which she added touches of humor and whimsy. Her work included original designs for furniture, fabrics and finishes.
At La Posada, Colter designed the building, chose the furnishings and created a landscape plan—a total, highly personal creation. The resulting sixty-two room hotel, built of poured concrete, is a series of interlocking wings that give the appearance of a rambling country estate. A centrally located tower with an octagonal upper story provides a vertical emphasis to an otherwise horizontal mass. Stucco and red tile roofs unify the structure as one unit, and patios and sunken gardens set between wings create interesting private zones. In 1929, construction costs for the depot and hotel were estimated to be around $1,000,000, while furnishings for the establishment and grounds were estimated to have cost approximately $2,000,000.
The depot is to the southeastern end of the property and is linked to the hotel by an arcade that runs along the south façade. This area along the arcade originally was the lunchroom, seating 116. Spatially, this arrangement makes sense, as it segregates the railroad functions from those of the hotel. Only the depot sits trackside, the rest of the complex being set back 80 to 100 feet from the platform area by a walled lawn. To further provide for the comfort of guests, Colter placed the majority of the guest rooms in wings that ran northeast, perpendicular to and away from the busy tracks.
La Posada’s interior is a series of volumes that flow into one another through the use of various types of arches, including parabolic ones reminiscent of the traditional fireplace openings commonly used in New Mexico. Surrounding the hotel, Colter envisioned more than eleven acres of gardens, by far the largest of any within the Harvey system. Unfortunately, many of these landscape plans never came to fruition since the hotel opened only months after the 1929 stock market crash.
The Great Depression, World War II and changes in personal travel all took their toll on the railroad and tourism. La Posada closed in 1957 and subsequently became offices for the railroad, needed because Winslow was the control point for train operations between Belen, N.M. and Needles, Calif. The furnishings sold off, the ATSF gutted large portions of the interior, filled in archways and chopped the bigger rooms into smaller spaces. By the late 1980s, rumors began to circulate that the ATSF was ready to move out of the building and probably would demolish it.
This threat called local citizens to action. Activists Janice Griffith and Marie LaMar began a campaign to bring attention to the building and its possible fate. They organized a volunteer grounds maintenance crew and told the story of La Posada to anyone who would listen. After a few years, efforts paid off when the National Trust for Historic Preservation included La Posada on its 1994 list of Most Endangered Buildings.
Hearing about the building through the National Trust coverage, current owners Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion consulted with local authorities to think about the future of the old hotel. In the meantime, Griffith and LaMar worked with the city to apply for Transportation Enhancement grants from the Federal Highway Administration, eventually winning $930,000 for the restoration that was matched with $56,000 in local funds. Two barriers initially stood in the way: ownership and cost. The ATSF had never put the building on the market, and full restoration was estimated at more than $12 million. Undaunted, Affeldt, supported by town officials, spent three years negotiating with the railroad, finally coming to an agreement in 1997 in which he could purchase the building and the 20-acre parcel, provided that the railroad could continue to use the east wing rent free for 10 years and also retain its large radio tower.
Luckily, although gutted and chopped up with false walls, the building shell was in good structural condition. The new owners took out personal loans to start work. Needing to generate revenue while also renovating the building, five rooms in the tower were quickly redone and opened to paying guests in late 1997. Over the ensuing years, an award-winning restaurant and bar opened in the former lunchroom, the western wings were completely renovated and the gardens immediately surrounding the hotel were replanted and redesigned to accommodate parking and event areas. All work was undertaken after a thorough review of archival materials, which included photographs, original blueprints and oral histories.
The city of Winslow is every bit as famous as its station. Located in Navajo County, the land was first settled in 1880, purportedly by a hotel entrepreneur, and a U.S. Post Office was established by 1882. The area was officially incorporated as a city in 1900 and was named after Edward Winslow, the president of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad. During its earliest years, the depot was constantly active. Apart from the regular hustle and bustle of the passenger and freight rooms, railroad division offices were located in the building. The grounds featured cattle pens, a large car yard and the first diesel roundhouse in America.
Until the 1960s, Winslow was the largest town in northern Arizona because of its location on Route 66. The construction of I-40 in the 1970s bypassed Winslow and siphoned away visitors, causing businesses on old Route 66 to close. The reopening of La Posada sparked a downtown rejuvenation, a process that continues today. Local officials and town boosters have successfully built on Winslow’s connections to fabled Route 66 to attract tourists from not only the United States, but from across the world. Many are interested in the historic highway’s scenic route and roadside attractions such as colorful, vintage neon signs, gas stations and diners.
Winslow also nurtures a reputation as a budding arts center, especially since the founding of the Winslow Arts Trust, a not-for-profit organization with a mission to work with local affiliates and community organizations to create exhibitions and programming that celebrates the culture of the Southwest and the Route 66 corridor. As part of this initiative, the former ATSF depot will be restored and the annexes converted into museum space. Surrounding parking lots and a vacant field will be planted as an orchard and potager garden, and sculpture will be installed.
One of the Trust’s prize pieces is the world’s largest Navajo Rug, commissioned in 1932 and measuring 26 x 36 feet. The museum should open in fall 2013. The adjacent La Posada features the Tina Mion Museum, which opened to the public in 2011 to showcase a rotating exhibition of the artist’s work. Nearby, artist Dan Lutzick oversees Snowdrift, a studio and exhibition space where he creates and displays his artwork, primarily large sculptures. El Gran Garage across from La Posada functions as a live performance venue.
Winslow is centrally located to the Apache Sitgreaves National Forest, Homolovi Ruins State Park and Clear Creek Reservoir, making it a frequented tourist area. Within Winslow itself there are several points of interest including the Old Trails Historical Museum located in a circa 1920 bank. Exhibits feature memorabilia related to Route 66, La Posada and the ATSF; there is also an excellent collection of local American Indian artifacts.
Winslow’s most recent claim to fame, however, came from the Eagles’ song “Take It Easy.” In honor of its inclusion in the song and the interest it brought to Winslow, the town created “Standin’ on the Corner” Park (after a line in the song), now a frequented downtown tourist attraction.
Amtrak does not provide ticketing or baggage services at this facility, which is served by two daily trains. Passengers are generally welcome to wait in the hotel lobby for the train’s arrival.