Friday, August 28, 2009

La Castaneda Hotel Las Vegas NM 2009 - Reflections on the boom years of railroads

One of the hotels my grandfather, Harry C Glessner, referred to in March of 1929, as "another one of our hotels" in a post card to my mom, then written to as Margaret Glessner, a second year student living at Grey Gables, Oberlin College, Ohio.
When I asked in the local train station next door, the woman at the Amtrak station said "Back in the day, we had 40 trains here a day, with many passengers stopping on the Santa Fe for lodging at the La Castanda. From the Las Vegas Citizens Committee for Historic Preservation website:

"As the AT&SF Railroad steamed into Las Vegas on July 4, 1879, hundreds of new citizens descended on the "City of the Meadows." Overnight, a new town was born a mile east of the Plaza populated by families, merchants, professionals, desperadoes and dance-hall girls, all hardy pioneers seeking their fortunes. All told, several thousand people came to Las Vegas that year, making it one of the largest towns in the Rocky Mountain West, rivaling Denver, Tucson and El Paso in size. At first a town of tents and sheds, the new town, "East Las Vegas," was laid out within six months and lots were sold at a brisk pace. Las Vegas as a whole became an economic boomtown. Trade here earned the railroad $2,5000,000 from shipping and $500,000 from passengers between 1886 and 1891. The railroad provided direct jobs for track construction, maintenance and locomotive crews, and headquarters officials, as well as seasonal employment in the ice industry.

Not only a bustling mercantile center, the railroad district also boasted hotels, saloons and dance halls with notorious characters to match. In 1879, Dodge City's most famous dentist, "Doc" Holliday, bought a saloon on Center Street (now East Lincoln) and fatally shot a man named Mike Gordon. Holliday fled back to Kansas the following year.

The railroad brought modern technology to Las Vegas through improvements in communications and transportation, and new building materials and designs. Local businessmen and professionals installed telephones in their stores and offices the same year the railroad came to town. By 1881, the Las Vegas Street Railway was operating streetcar service between the train depot and the Plaza, west of the Gallinas River. The most visible legacy of this technology can still be seen in the use of fired brick, structural cast iron and pressed-metal in "new" construction. " Accoring to the woman at the station, today, the owner opens up a bar for a few drinks regularly. Hope they can find a long term use for this huge the spirit of Fred Harvey bring folks together again. Cheers!


  1. How does someone go about contacting an owner?

  2. Hi Stacy, Tom here in Minnesota. I suggest googling the Hotel - Station and find the contact info, and call and write. I recall I stopped along the way after I scanned in my mom's Santa Fe post card collection and decided to drive the route to see how it looks today. Dodge City KS and Winslow AR have invested more in rehabilitating the depots from that era. Where are you Stacy? Do you have plans to travel there? Warm regards, Tom W in the Twin Cities of Minnesnowda :-)