Open at Last!
We learned about this historic hotel 6 years ago, when staying at La Posada, in Winslow, AZ. Both were Harvey House hotels, rescued by a couple, with incredible vision, talent... and money.
The Plaza, in Las Vegas
The Victorian beauty was located in the heart of the old city, across from historic Plaza Park
Castaneda in 2017
From The Plaza, we drove a mile to the once busy Railroad District, to peek at the next project. I took this photo before renovation had begun. The once grand, hotel was overdue for a redo. It had been sitting mostly vacant, for 70 years!
Las Vegas in 2019
We caught a glimpse of the trackside hotel, coming into Las Vegas. Don and I were feeling extra lucky that we'd been able to book one of the few, newly renovated rooms. The hotel had only been open a couple weeks.
One Hundred and Twenty-One Years Old
On that June afternoon, we arrived and parked right in front of the old Mission Revival style building. There wasn't a chainlink fence this time. A ramp and new windows had been added. The arched lettering looked the same. I was glad.
The lobby was open and bright and the staff was welcoming.
Fresh paint and polished wood, made the sitting areas inviting. I especially liked the cluster of Mission style chairs, near the tall bookcase. I should have spent a little more time in that corner.
Our Host, Sean
We recognized Sean, in his vintage vest and bowtie. He had been our host 2 years ago at the Plaza Hotel. He'd been helpful answering questions then and he was equally knowledgable about the Castaneda.
Renovation of the old ballroom was still underway. Sean gave us a fun tour of the large space. He was full of information and enthusiasm, showing us the old steam table that will be used again, when the restaurant opens.
The freshly painted walls, white woodwork, molded ceiling and fixtures, were pretty much ready. The original Terrazzo floors, just needed a quick shine!
After getting our key, we headed up to the second floor guest rooms.
I of course had to pause for the view. I headed on up, wondering about all the guests who have once stayed.
Sleeping at a Harvey House Hotel
Fred Harvey's hospitality empire included restaurants, hotels, gift shops and touring cars. Castaneda was Harvey's first trackside hotel.
In 1898, there were 40 guest rooms on the second floor of the hotel.
Did Teddy Sleep Here?
Theodore Roosevelt is Castaneda's most famous guest. He held his first Rough Riders Reunion here.
It was too peaceful on the second floor landing, to imagine those rough and rowdy guests! But maybe they just celebrated here. I also heard they stayed at The Plaza Hotel. History is confusing.
Today guests have twice as much space in their guest rooms, than when those first train traveling guests stayed. During this past year, each room was enlarged and bathrooms were added.
Eventually all the glass transoms will have painted animal designs. We didn't stay in the "Owl Room", but I loved the colorful, stained glass look.
Room 204... The Squirrel Room
Owner and artist, Tina Mion had not yet painted a squirrel on our transom, but our room had other painted accents.
The queen headboards were painted black, with southwestern designs. The bedside lamps were equally impressive. They looked like they probably served some kind of beverage at one time!
I loved having windows, that we could actually open up, to let in the fresh air.
We had a view of the old station and the train tracks behind. Luckily the trains weren't frequent enough to bother us.
There was lots of space, for the large antique pieces. The vanity in the room wasn't exactly an antique, but it was pretty handy.
We were happy to have an attached bathroom, since guests once shared baths, down the hall.
The shower setup was interesting, behind sort of a partition. We evidently got the accessible room, which made the bathroom nearly too large. Not exactly something to complain about!
The hotel's restaurant may have been under construction, but the Castaneda Bar was open for the evening.
The mural above the bar, was one of the surprises that came with restoration. Evidently, no one knew the mural was hiding under layers of plaster, until work began.
We were told that this room with the mural, had once been a dive bar, called Nasty Casty, owned by a woman who lived upstairs. The roof was so worn that the snow used to come through the ceiling. There's a chilly thought.
Don and I took a seat at the bar, which had once been the dining counter. There were no more Harvey Girl servers in black and white uniforms, but our bartender, Andrew, was much more entertaining. His double handed martini shaking skills were amazing.
Besides shaking, Andrew also had a talent for making beautiful drinks that tasted quite good!
Chatting with Locals and Travelers
Sometimes when traveling, we hit the jackpot for people encounters. We couldn't have asked for nicer people, that evening. A middle-aged, cowboy-hat-wearing man from Gallup, sat next to Don. He and his wife were delightful. They were headed to Grinnell, Iowa, for a Quaker Conference. That was a fun connection, since I grew up in Grinnell.
Next to me was Jose, a friendly local, who talked about growing up in Las Vegas and selling newspapers and shining shoes, at the train station next door. I loved hearing his stories about being an extra in movies, that were filmed in Las Vegas. I need to watch Crazy Heart again and look for him!
Luckily, Castaneda had food truck dining options. We were able to get a delicious chicken sandwich and onion rings, served to us on the porch... which was a little more crowded at night, than in the morning, when I took this photo.
We slept well in our hotel, by the tracks. If there were trains, I didn't hear them. The old Railroad Avenue Historic District was also quiet. Things might be different in years ahead, if the hotel triggers more renovation. This could become a hopping area!
It was such a treat to be one of the few guests and step out to enjoy the early morning light on the porch.
View From the Tracks
Don and I were able to walk out by the tracks to get a view of the whole building. The hotel actually faces the tracks, not the street.
This is the view, that Santa Fe Railway passengers had when they arrived, way over 100 years ago. Fred Harvey had already opened lunch counters and services to rail passengers. Now travelers could come in and have a meal and stay a night or two.
I love a road trip, but it's a shame that auto travel took the focus away from train travel and railroad districts. Castaneda was forced to close in 1948.
From our side of the u-shaped veranda, I peeked across the courtyard at the work, still in progress.
I am so thrilled that we didn't have to wait until all work was complete, to stay at the hotel. I liked seeing the wheelbarrows, stacks of brick and tools propped against the tree. I liked seeing the boards on the porch and the huge freezer, waiting for a home.
Seeing a line up of pastel bathtubs made me grin. I wonder if they will be refurbished and put back in some of the rooms?
Sean had told us about the hard work that went into making the porch, wheelchair accessible. When rebuilding the brick floor, they made sure to show off those vintage materials, with their printed words, facing up! It was fun to spot a few... Trinidad and Coffeyville!
Coffee and Books and Photo-time
After roaming a bit, Don and I settled down with some coffee and some history books, featuring the Harvey Girls.
We had some fun, reading and posing for photos and waiting for trains. We didn't see one that morning, but we had fun planning a future Amtrak trip between Winslow and Las Vegas!
Before heading up to pack, we took some time to enjoy the street side of the hotel.
Earlier I had noticed the beautiful Rawlings Building with its pressed tin front. The building had once housed the Harvey Girls who worked at our hotel. What a good sign, that it's now being restored.
Excitement on Railroad Avenue
By 11 a.m. the quiet street became a little more lively. We could hear the rumble of motors first, then voices and laughter. We stepped out in time to see about 10 nifty cars, lining up and slowly moving down the road. They were headed for Plaza Park, for some kind of festival. What a hoot! We stood and watched, our own little parade!
Off We Go
It's also a big deal, that we got to experience a little of the restoration in progress. I will fondly remember the fresh paint AND wheelbarrows. I will also remember feeling satisfied, just enjoying the property. Although there is plenty to explore in and around the historic town, we stayed put and enjoyed the history of our hotel!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!