Sunday, April 9, 2017

Gallup NM

April 2017 - Gallup NM

Building on last week's repost from December 2012 we are going inside the El Rancho Hotel in 2017. We did this last week on our drive home after an overnight stay in Gallup New Mexico.

This part of Route 66 is a real step back into history.

Well it winds from Chicago to L.A. 
More than 2000 miles all the way 
Get your kicks on Route 66 

Well goes from St. Louie down to Missouri 
Oklahoma city looks oh so pretty 
You'll see Amarillo and Gallup, New Mexico 
Flagstaff, Arizona don't forget Winona 
Kingman, Barstow, San Bernadino 

Just to recap the history:

Main St. then.


Yes, that is the same Ortega that rescued the hotel.

According to author Russell A. Olsen, “As you enter the historic El Rancho through the stately front entry, you immediately realize this was and still is a special place….During its heyday, the El Rancho Hotel was one of the premier hotels in the entire Southwest and became the place for the Hollywood set to stay when filming in the area.

During its glory years, the El Rancho was the definition of luxury and included many amenities that were lacking in other typical tourist hotels of the day.

For 50 years, the El Rancho Hotel greeted guests along Route 66 with class and dignity…Luckily for us, this one-of-a-kind hotel once again greets guests with open arms and enjoys the renewed worldwide interest in Route 66 and its landmarks.”

Shoe shine, gents?

Stamps and cigarettes.

My last post (linked above) mentions the Harvey girls.

When it opened in 1936, the El Rancho boasted superior service and accommodations for roughing it in comfort. Its employees were trained by the famous Fred Harvey Company hotel and restaurant chain.

El Rancho was opened in 1937 by R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famed movie director D.W. Griffith. The Griffiths encouraged filmmakers to shoot movies in the Gallup area, and the hotel benefited by having a bevy of stars — including John Wayne, Ronald Reagan, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck and Humphrey Bogart — stay at the hotel during productions up to the 1960s.

One movie, John Ford’s classic Cheyenne Autumn, featuring Navajo actors pretending to be Cheyenne, has an almost cult following in Navajo country.

Navajo members watching the movie today roar with laughter when Cheyenne leaders speak in Navajo, supposedly discussing treaties and tribal needs. What the Navajo actors in the film really said in somber tones generally concerned the size of the colonel’s privates (not the ones who march) or some equally disrespectful or bawdy double-entendre.

The hotel started to decline, especially when Interstate 40 bypassed Route 66 in 1980. But Armand Ortega, who always dreamed of owning El Rancho, bought it in 1986 after it went into bankruptcy and was threatened with demolition. According to an Associated Press story in 1989, Ortega bought the property for $500,000 and spent another $500,000 restoring it. It was reopened in May 1988 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places that year.

Clair Gurley, a salesman who was the hotel’s first guest when it opened in 1937, was invited back to the hotel after it was renovated and charged the original $5-a-night price.

The main entry leads into a square lobby with a crisscross balustrade balcony running around the perimeter at the second-story level. The ambiance of this room combines rusticated western grandeur with the feel of a hunting lodge. The lobby is furnished with heavy, carved, dark wood furniture and has Navajo rugs hanging from the balcony, deer head trophies hanging from the columns, and stamped tin lights. At the rear of the lobby is a spectacular walk-in fireplace cove made of brick and random ashlar stonework. On each side of the massive fireplace, wooden stairways wind their way up to the balcony, which encircles the first floor. The stairs are made of split logs, and the railings are of naturally bent, stripped, and polished tree limbs. Several rooftop patios are lined with photographs of scenes and movie stars from westerns filmed in Gallup.

Amid the celebrity autographed photos were Native American works of art.

 Films made in Gallup included Billy the Kid (1930), Pursued (1947), The Sea of Grass (1947), Four Faces West (1948),Rocky Mountain (1950), Only the Valiant (1951), Ace in the Hole (1951), Escape from Fort Bravo (1953), A Distant Trumpet (1964) and The Hallelujah Trail (1965).

The stairs are made of split logs, and the railings are of naturally bent, stripped, and polished tree limbs. Several rooftop patios are lined with photographs of scenes and movie stars from westerns filmed in Gallup.

We wandered the hallways and snapped photos of the doors.

The hallways on both floors are these incredible murals. I ended up buying a piece with a mother weaving with her baby by her side.

Snapped as we drove away.


  1. The place looks well worth checking into!

  2. Great write-up. Love the history and pictures.

  3., a treasure or what! Darn, I need head to Route 66, but until then I'll enjoy your pictures. Thanks Jackie, it was a blast.

  4. oh wow, this was really neat to see! i really enjoyed your post!

  5. That is quite a hotel. I hope it has lots of business so it will stick around.

  6. I would love to see this place...and would love to travel Route 66.


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