Sometimes the treasures closest to home are the ones we miss. One of our Arizona treasures is La Posada Resort in Winslow, AZ. Built in 1929 it is described as “the last great railroad hotel.” It is Mary Coulter’s architectural masterpiece. She designed 21 projects for Fred Harvey. “Mary Coulter was hired by the Fred Harvey Company in 1903 to design fine hotels, restaurants, and gift shops along the Santa Fe Railway. She became America’s most influential woman designer. . . . This was her favorite project, the only time she was allowed to design everything from the buildings (to the china, maid’s uniforms,) to the gardens.”(laposada.org) Her plan was to create an oasis in the high plateau of the Colorado River to greet the guests arriving by train. LaPosada opened in 1930 and in a turn of history’s fortunes, her garden plans were never fully realized.
Since 1997 owner Allan Affeldt, his wife, artist Tina Mion, & Daniel Lutzick have been working from the original plans to restore the vision of Mary Coulter for the magnificent hotel and gardens. The hotel, the Turquoise Room Restaurant and the gardens are an extraordinary treasure combining the best of the Southwest gardens, and architecture.
The gardens surround the hotel, enhancing the hacienda architecture. A cooling grove of old cottonwood trees to the west of the building is a perfect place to sit and watch the trains rolling by. A croquet lawn is at the ready for anyone who remembers the charm and the strategy of the game. A rose garden and fruit tree orchard placed in the back of the hotel provides guests with a relaxing place to experience both flowers and fragrance. Quince trees, estimated to be 80 years old, plus apple, and peach still provide fruit for the hotel kitchen.
Beautiful iron garden gates designed and built by John Suttman illustrate how the essentials of a garden may serve as works of art to be enjoyed every day. Behind one gate is a kitchen garden. Growing here are runner beans, Santo Domingo blue corn, Hopi red amaranth, heirloom tomatoes, lavender and garlic.
The sunken garden is the jewel of all the gardens. Inspired design surrounded the garden with four walls for protection from the drying hot wind. A lush patch of lawn is edged by a tiered garden with roses, perennials, and annuals. Hollyhocks , honeysuckle and yarrow were in bloom during our visit. A grand green cottonwood rises high at the end of the garden, while a log of petrified wood creates a fountain which spills down into the garden. In the morning, guests may take their coffee onto the terrace to enjoy bird songs and blooms.
Some people travel the world to find great treasure and miss the riches close to home. When the urge to discover treasure strikes next, Winslow, AZ can be one of your close to home discoveries.