Mary Colter's vision for the La Posada came to a train-screeching halt only a few months before the hotel opened in 1930. The stock market crashed and it brought-down with it any realistic attempt for Colter's fantasy to come to fruition at the La Posada.
Before that time, Colter had been designing the hotel on a romantic notion that it should look like it was built in 1869 by a Spanish ranching baron. Part of this culture would include elaborate gardens, fountains and adobe walls.
Only one original plan exists today for Colter's idea for landscaping at the La Posada. Today on display in the hotel lobby, is the only known draft of Colter's plan for what was to become the gardens for her favorite architectural project.
"Colter's only landscape attempt was at the La Posada," said Allan Affeldt, the hotel's operator and mayor of Winslow.
Affeldt said that Colter modeled the gardens from the archetype of a classical Mediterranean estate which may include many terraced stone walkways, walls and bridges that have fountains and pools of water to nourish an abundance of plants to grow throughout the design.
When Fred Harvey closed the doors to Winslow's hacienda in 1957, the plans fell into obscurity; gathering dust until they were again discovered after the hotel's resurrection in 1997. Since then, it was always the intention for the gardens to be restored and in 2001 La Posada was awarded a $.5 million TEA21 grant.
Colter, no longer around to finish this project, has been found a kindred woman architect who can honor and elaborate from the vague landscaping plans that were left behind by the Great Depression. Landscape Architect Christine Ten Eyck, based in Phoenix, is picking up the project and has already designed the plans for $50,000, which are currently available for the public to view at La Posada Hotel.
"I am inspired by this woman Mary Colter who became this great and well-respected architect who lived in a time and culture when it was not common for women to get involved in such things," Ten Eyck said.
Affeldt said, Ten Eyck is the foremost landscape artist of the Southwest and was one of the first landscapers that began the movement to promote things like the reintroduction of native plants to urban development. This method of landscaping with native plants that is used in arid climates to conserve water. The average green lawn is not desired to this system; instead, the plants you may see growing naturally in the surrounding environment replace water-intensive lawns.
"Allen's goal for this property with the hotel, restaurant and now the gardens, is for it to be respite or an oasis in the high desert of the Four Corners region; a special destination where people can come-in from close and far to enjoy the beauty of the grounds," Ten Eyck said. "The main thrust of this first phase is to redo the entry in front of the La Posada. It was designed to face tracks for when people got off the train, but since that is not so much the case anymore, we will be redoing the front."
Colter definitely had plans to have some water in her designs, but the new plans made by Ten Eyck are more detailed and elaborate with fountains, irrigation canals, pools and waterfalls.
Imagine coming up a paved driveway to La Posada's front entrance where a stone and brick roundabout drop you off to ascend a stone walkway to the entrance. Before getting to the door, you would cross a small bridge; underneath would be a channel of water coming from a fountain; it passes under the bridge and cascades down a waterfall into a pool with plants growing all alongside.
"We tried to follow the intent of what Colter set-up here for the hotel. She created stories into her architectural projects like the Spanish hacienda of La Posada and the gardens were to be a part of that. There would have been a strong Moorish influence in this design and that is what we we're thinking of when designing the new gardens," Ten Eyck said. "The only thing that will be different is that we are going to use regionally appropriate sustainable landscaping."
Affeldt said the La Posada's current water bill is about $20,000 a year on and that making these gardens will only increase it, but he said he is not doing this for the money. The project is expected to cost $1 million; $.5 million coming from a grant and the other half coming from La Posada LLC.
"You would have a difficult time finding a typical hotel that would be willing to spend $1 million on a garden. Most would use that money to build more rooms to increase their profits, but that is not the case here," Affeldt said.
Affeldt contends that he is doing this for aesthetic reasons, and he has been involved with the landscape architects as much a possible.
"Judeen Terrey has been instrumental and tremendously valuable on this project as we have been working hand-in-hand on it for a while now; sitting down with Allan to work-out the details," Ten Eyck said.
Now the project will be moving forward towards construction. Affeldt said he is hoping to see construction begin this summer.
"I'll be advertising for a bid for contractors to come-in an do some work in about two weeks," Affeldt said.
He said he would like to hire as much local labor as he can so that money will better circulate into the local economy. He will be looking for stonemasons, bricklayers, plumbers, etc., but said that their skill must be proved if they are to be hired and that these jobs are also only temporary.
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