Thursday, June 3, 2010
Plaza Hotel ~ Las Vegas, NM
By 1882, Las Vegas was the center of commercial activity for Santa Fe Trail mercantile pioneers like Charles Ilfeld and Don Benigno Romero. To meet the demands of the town's growing business activity, Romero and Jean Pendaries raised the $25,000 needed to build the Plaza Hotel, the "Belle of the Southwest". New management took over the hotel in 1886 and many prominent political and business organizations made the Plaza Hotel their meeting place, including such groups as the New Mexico Medical Society, the New Mexico Cattle Growers' Association, and the Territorial Democrats and Territorial Republicans. From 1886 to 1900 The Plaza also claims such notorious visitors as Doc Holliday and his companion Big Nosed Kate Bender.
The year 1900 brought the Plaza Hotel's Victorian era to a close, as a railroad strike coupled with depressed economic conditions curtailed many of the local and territorial activities that made the Plaza Hotel famous.
Soon, however, the silent film era brought another wave of prosperity. In 1913, the popular film director/actor Romaine Fielding leased the entire Plaza Hotel for use as the Lubin Film Company filming and studio headquarters, and the Plaza Hotel was renamed "Hotel Romaine" during his five month stay. Though the paint is now faded on the brick, then name "Hotel Romaine" is still visible on the hotel's west facade.
Beginning in 1915, Tom Mix, one of the country's most famous cowboy actors, enjoyed the hospitality of the Plaza, and took full advantage of the remaining vestiges of the Wild West found nearby. Many scenes from Mix's movies were filmed in and around Las Vegas, and shots of the Plaza were incorporated into several episodes.
Near the middle of the twentieth-century, one owner of the Plaza Hotel, Byron T. Mills, was apparently ambivalent about the property, and he announced a plan to demolish the hotel, going so far as to sell some of its furnishings and fixtures. For unknown reasons, Mills did not carry through with the demolition. Today the hotel's saloon bears his name, and it's reported that the long-departed, guilt-ridden owner occasionally revisits the hotel in spirit. Most of the guests who have told stories of ghostly encounters have been women and Byron T. was known to be quite the ladies man. Southwest Ghost Hunters Association has even done an investigation at the Plaza.
In 1982, eighteen partners joined forces to restore the Plaza Hotel. Careful research, architectural documentation, and historical and cultural studies were conducted to assure the accuracy of the project. The reconstruction took thirteen months and approximately two million dollars to complete, and the renovated Plaza Hotel reopened on December 31, 1982, one hundred years after it was built.
Today, the Plaza Hotel is listed on the State Register of Cultural Properties and on the National Register of Historic Places, and is part of the Las Vegas Plaza Historical District.
Las Vegas has more than 900 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places, and while we did not find the notable Dr. H.J. Mueller House, an 1881 Victorian with an octagonal tower; we did see several beautiful homes around the Plaza and surrounding neighborhoods.