Route 66 memories: the vintage El Rancho Hotel

When we discovered that travel blogger Patti Maghamfar of One Road at a Time had driven across NM on the Mother Road, Route 66, we asked her for a guest post about something she encountered on the trip and wanted to share. She chose the quirky El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM.

It’s the stuff Hollywood legends were made of. The El Rancho Hotel is in Gallup, New Mexico., located between Albuquerque and Flagstaff, AZ. Gallup is an eclectic, funky, kind of town with strong ties to U.S. Route 66 and Hollywood’s glory days.

R.E. Griffith, brother of the legendary Hollywood director, D.W. Griffith, (best known for his 1915 film, Birth of a Nation) had inside knowledge as to what movie stars were looking for. He built El Rancho, a hotel catering to Hollywood royalty, in 1937. It was a place for them to call home while filming in the New Mexico desert.

 

Classic Neon Signage, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

Classic Neon Signage, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

After a long day of filming in the hot dusty desert, actors, producers and film crews were treated to the ultimate luxury in guest rooms, fine dining and of course, the nightlife entertainment in the hotel’s bar.  Employees of the El Rancho Hotel were trained by the notable Fred Harvey Company and provided only the best for the Hollywood royalty.

We rolled through Gallup as we made our way east along Route 66 and as soon as we saw the El Rancho we knew we had to stop.

Entrance to the El Rancho – notice the slogan over the door, Photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

Entrance to the El Rancho – notice the slogan over the door, Photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

Stepping into the lobby of the El Rancho is like stepping back in time to the 1940’s and ‘50’s – the ultimate blast from the past. The lobby is huge and its fireplace – massive.

El Rancho Lobby Fireplace, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

El Rancho Lobby Fireplace, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

You can’t help but place yourself sitting in that grand lobby sipping champagne and exchanging witty repartee with the likes of Katherine Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart and John Wayne. It’s incredible!

El Rancho Lobby, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

El Rancho Lobby, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

The walls of the 2nd floor lobby are lined with row after row of Hollywood head shots autographed by the stars and dedicated to the hotel’s owner. It’s such a surreal experience you’re not sure whether you’re inside a hotel or a museum.  It’s a hotelseum!  Read the impressive list of Hollywood stars that stayed at the El Rancho, click here.

Look up to see some of the framed Hollywood head shots, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

Look up to see some of the framed Hollywood head shots, photo/courtesy One Road at a Time

The El Rancho Hotel is a classic, but just like so many towns and businesses it fell on hard times when Interstate 40 was built. The highway diverted business sustaining traffic away from Route 66. By the mid 1960’s Hollywood stopped filming in the desert.  The fascination with the western movie hero lost its appeal and the once mysterious desert was now accessible to anyone who owned an automobile.  It was the end of an era.

If you’re traveling through Gallup, be sure to stop at El Rancho, a registered National Historic Landmark steeped in a rich period of history. The hotel is open to anyone fortunate enough to travel Route 66; you don’t even have to book a room.

Patti Maghamfar and her husband, Abi, own and operate a B&B in southern Oregon.  When they are not hosting guests they are traveling the world… one road at a time. You can read about their travels on Patti’s blog One Road at a Time  and find her on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Tags: , , ,

13 Responses to “Route 66 memories: the vintage El Rancho Hotel”

  1. Suzanne Fluhr (Boomeresque)
    September 25, 2013 at 4:03 pm #

    It’s such a treat when you happen across a place where time stood still. Does it still function as a hotel and restaurant?

    • Billie Frank
      September 25, 2013 at 8:33 pm #

      It’s still a hotel. We almost stayed there years ago, but it was pretty down at the heels. I think it still is a bit. There’s a restaurant, but for Gallup flavor, we love Earl’s!

  2. Karen
    September 25, 2013 at 8:06 pm #

    Love this place! Yes, still a restaurant and hotel.

    • Billie Frank
      September 25, 2013 at 8:34 pm #

      Have you ever stayed or eaten there Karen?

  3. Patti
    September 25, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    Yes, Suzanne, it is still operating as a hotel and there is a restaurant and bar. We weren’t there at the right time of day, otherwise we would have had lunch there. I don’t know, but I suspect the rooms may be a bit “aged” so to speak, there are a variety of reviews on Trip Advisor, everything from really good to not so good. I think more than anything it’s about visiting the past.

  4. Boyd Lemon
    September 26, 2013 at 2:46 am #

    Stayed there last year on my road trip across the country. What a hoot! Check out my book about the road trip, :”Diversity” on Amazon.

    • Billie Frank
      September 26, 2013 at 8:34 am #

      I bet it was. It must have been refurbished since we tried to stay there 20 years ago and left because it was pretty shabby. I think we were in the Clark Gable room.

  5. Agness
    September 27, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    This place looks amazing inside, ancient and so cozy!

    • Billie Frank
      September 27, 2013 at 9:36 pm #

      Put it on your NM stop list, Agness. It’s free to look!

  6. Mike
    October 4, 2013 at 9:09 am #

    I love old places like that as they have an amazing story to tell. Oh, if the walls could talk! 🙂

  7. Patti
    October 4, 2013 at 11:49 am #

    Yes, the walls held many a tale and what I wouldn’t have given to step back in time for a day to watch and learn! If you pass through Gallup, be sure to stop at the El Rancho and soak it all in.

  8. sariat
    May 12, 2015 at 10:59 am #

    Awesome picture collection. Just amazing……..

Leave a Reply

CommentLuv badge