When we went down to the plaza, La Fonda was the meeting place. It was the first place that was nice. We had two bars on the plaza which you didn’t go in, and then, of course, we had Prohibition. One of the bars was next to Woolworth’s. It had marvelous murals. That was even before they made that into the first ice-cream parlor. But they kept the décor, marvelous seminude figures. Unfortunately, that bar (a great mahogany bar that came from Italy) went down to Albuquerque went down to Albuquerque.
Only men went to the bars. Women didn’t go in. When they made it and ice-cream parlor, it was an event, and we went to have ice-cream at Zook’s on the plaza after we went to the movies – I and my friends, we always had serials on Saturdays and Wednesdays.
In La Fonda, the good looks are still there. They’ve overpowered some of them, but it was very attractive. The patio hadn’t been made into a dining room, and where the nice fireplace is was where you had tea. And they had good food. You put your friends up there when they came from out of town.
- Alice Henderson Rossin
The ‘30s. If you had a social event that you couldn’t have in your home, you had it in the La Fonda. In that sense, it was a tradition. You enjoyed the ambiance, and you were in an ambience of all kinds of people. A mixture of locals: the artists, the writers, and so forth, a nice mixture. Also, this was where the business leaders, community leaders, political leaders concentrated.
I remember as a high school student, we had our junior prom in the New Mexico room, properly chaperoned. We felt that, oh, it was stepping up in life: we’re going to have our prom at the La Fonda.
- Samuel Adelo
Of course, La Fonda was always the place. Even as late as 1938, all the waitresses still wore Indian costumes with the high-top moccasins and black dresses with belts. One time my brother brought a house party from the ranch. The whole bunch of ‘em came up. They stayed at La Fonda for a couple of nights – just to see Santa Fe. La Fonda was the place, even after the war when Mirandi Masocco [Miranda M. Levy] had her table there: the table on the left just as you came in the door of the bar. That’s where you could find out what was going on in town. I think from Mirandi you can still find out what’s going on [chuckling] - who’s having parties and who’s in town. She sat on the corner, in her shop, she saw everybody that walked by.
- J.I. Staley
It was like being invited to a party where you knew everybody. It had an outdoor dining room with a hugefireplace; you could sit there in summer, or the indoor fireplace and the indoor dining room. There was something terribly special in the way it was furnished and all in such good taste – not what it is now. Now it’s touristy and junked up. In the old days they didn’t have the ticket office right there, and they hadn’t pushed the front desk way out. Everything was against the wall so the whole lobby was a great sitting room; it was like walking into an English countryside house. Then the outdoor patio – which is now covered with that plastic thing – in the summer that was fabulous because they had tables all with umbrellas. They had a mariachi band. People like Greer Garson and Buddy Fogelson had suites upstairs, and they always gathered a lot of people. Life was so different. Nothing was rushed; it was not plastic.
- Miranda M. Levy
I was impressed with La Fonda. It had something, a special aura, and the waitresses had been there for years. When they opened the outside restaurant to the west of the cathedral, it had a huge tree in the middle. When they cut it down, Oliver La Farge wrote one of his New Mexican pieces because everybody was so upset. We always had a rain shower at one or one-thirty in July, always, and the patrons knew it, and all we did was grab our plates, put our napkin over our head, and run inside with our food. They didn’t have to roof it over.
- Margaret Larsson
Excerpts from Turn Left at the Sleeping Dog: Scripting the Santa Fe Legend 1920-1955 courtesy of its author John Pen La Farge. Photo from the Palace of the Governors Photo Archive.
What’s your favorite memory of the La Fonda Hotel?