Tired of chain hotels? Discover historic the historic Plaza Hotel in Las Vegas New Mexico, aka “the other Las Vegas.” The renovated 1882 Italianate redbrick building (along with the equally old stone Ilfeld Building right next door and now part of the hotel) stands sentinel over the northwest side of the town’s historic Plaza. Enter the high-ceilinged Victorian lobby and you’ll know you’re someplace special. Longmire fans will probably recognize the hotel’s facade. They have a shot of it almost every time Walt Longmire drives to his office. The vintage front desk may also look familiar; it appeared in the Coen Brothers’ film No Country for Old Men. To the right of the front desk, the elegant old staircase ascends to the second floor.
A very short history of the Plaza Hotel
The sleepy city of Las Vegas, NM, first settled in 1835, became a railroad boom town with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad arrived in 1879. The Italianate-style Plaza Hotel opened in 1882. With the boom the Plaza saw the likes of Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James. It was a wild time.
Silent film maker Romaine Fielding arrived in Las Vegas in 1913 and set up shop at the Plaza renaming it “Hotel Romaine.” The ghostly remains of Romaine’s sign painted on the west side of the hotel can still be seen. Cowboy great Tom Mix also stayed at the hotel during his time filming in Las Vegas in the teens. After WWII Las Vegas fell on hard times with the decline of passenger railway traffic declined.
The historic Plaza Hotel today
The hotel was almost torn down. Byron T. Mills (the hotels bar is named for him) acquired the down-at-the-heels property in the 1940s and planned to raze it; luckily, he didn’t. Years of neglect led to deterioration. In 1982 the hotel was renovated by then-owner William Slick and brought back to its former glory as the “Belle of the Southwest.” The adjacent Ilfeld Building, a former mercantile building, built around the same time at the Plaza, was acquired by the hotel in 2009 and renovated. In 2014 Allan Affeldt and his wife artist, Tina Mion (owners of La Posada, the restored Fred Harvey hotel in Winslow) bought both the Plaza Hotel and the Castañeda Hotel, the Las Vegas’ trackside Harvey House, which they’re currently renovating. The hotel has a lot of art on view, not surprising as Mion is a prolific painter and the hotel’s General Manager, Dan Lutzick is a sculptor. You’ll find work from both artists as well as others in the Plaza’s public areas. Work from both is on view in the hotel’s public areas.
The original hotel offered 37 guest rooms. With the addition of the Ilfeld Building there are a total of 66 rooms and five suites. About 20 rooms are named for famous people who stayed in them including movie stars; Las Vegas has a robust film and TV industry. Former guests include Tommy Lee Jones, Javier Bardem, James Spader, and Grace Gummer (Meryl Streep’s daughter) .While retaining its original elegance and offering clean rooms sporting antique and reproduction furniture and comfortable beds, this isn’t a luxury property. At the moment, Las Vegas doesn’t attract enough of a luxury clientele to support one. The boutique Castañeda will meet that need once opened.. Staff is knowledgable and friendly. Standard room rates are competitive with those at the chain properties in town. Want something more upscale? Book one of the Premium Rooms or Suites.
Our standard level Victorian King Room (Room 318, aka the John Lithgow Room) was spacious; its tall windows overlook the historic Plaza with its period gazebo. One of 19 Plaza-facing rooms would be our recommendation with this caveat, there is some street noise as the area gets a fair amount of traffic. If this is an issue for you, request a room facing either the “inside atrium or the back of the buildings. Modern amenities include flat-screen TVs and Wi-Fi and updated standard baths; there are no phones in the guestrooms.
Ghosts at the Plaza Hotel
If you want to have a ghostly encounter, it’s rumored that Byron frequents room 310, his favorite in the hotel, and is sometimes spotted in 316. He must have been a bit of a ladies’ man as women guests report more encounters and supposedly, he likes redheads. You never know when he may pop by. Are you brave enough to stay in this room? We wanted to visit 310 to try our luck but it was occupied. We did check out 316, but Byron didn’t materialize. Another reported sighting was caught on camera by guests. A small boy was spotted sitting on a coffee table in the lobby. Reportedly you can make see his dangling legs dangling off the table in the photo. No one knows who he is. There have been enough reported sightings to catch the interest of Travel Channel’s Ghost Adventures. The episode they filmed at the Plaza and the Castañeda aired Saturday, September 19th at 7pm MST. They’ll rerun it in the future.
For breakfast our first morning we ate breakfast at the Plaza Café located just off the lobby. The spacious, high ceilinged Victorian room with vintage cast-iron columns serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. For something more casual, head for the Byron T. Saloon, named for former owner and reported hotel ghost, Byron T. Mills. They serve a casual menu from 2 to 9pm including such favorites as featuring house-made pizzas, sandwiches, salads, nachos, and Buffalo wings. They’ll also serve the Café’s offerings in the bar if you prefer to hang out there.
If you want to experience a bit of the Wild West where it happened, get off the Interstate at Las Vegas, NM and head to the historic Plaza Hotel.
Have you stayed at the historic Plaza Hotel?
Author’s note: We were guests of the Plaza Hotel. Their generosity didn’t affect this post in any way. All opinions are our own.