Not long ago I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Albuquerque, N.M. It is a fascinating town, filled with a wide variety of history, heritage and flavors. There is a large re-development of downtown Albuquerque going on and I was happy to see the locals were working to preserve the area along famous route 66.
Our base for the workshop was at the Andaluz Hotel, located downtown on 125 Second Street NW. It is one of the oldest hotels in Albuquerque and is also the first hotel in New Mexico constructed by New Mexico native, Conrad Hilton. Only the fourth hotel ever built by Hilton, it cost a whopping $700,000 in 1939 to construct. Originally it had 176 rooms and was proclaimed the tallest building in New Mexico when it first opened. It was also the first hotel with air conditioning, a true top-quality luxury in Albuquerque’s hot summer climate. Sold by Hilton in 1969, the hotel has had several different names throughout its history. Once called the Hotel Plaza and the Hotel Bradford, it later re-opened as La Posada de Albuquerque. In 2005, the hotel was purchased by businessman Gary Goodman for $4 million dollars and in 2008, he returned the Andaluz to its former name and glory. Today the Andaluz has 107 oversized loft-style rooms, complete with pillow-top mattresses, large screen TVs, on demand movies and all the extras.
As I wandered into the hotel, I noted that it had a Spanish flair in both its construction and decor, thus its name, Andaluz, short for Andalucian, from a region in Spain. The tiled entry hallway opened up into a large, two-story common-room, lined with stucco and wood archways. A bubbling fountain graces the center of the room, its waters gently spilling into a raised pool, complete with several good sized goldfish, swimming happily in their flower patterned tiled pool. Comfortable sofas and chairs fill the public area and with the Spanish guitar music filtering throughout the room, create a most relaxing atmosphere. I noted that the arches along the back had been divided into small private cabanas, intimately lighted and decorated with sofas, pillows and low tables, perfect for a couples romantic cocktail or a comfortable gathering of good friends. The soaring wooden ceiling is graced with beautiful chandeliers and a mosaic wall of colored glass sparkles at one end of the main room.
Off the main hallway is an elegant library room, complete with bookshelves lined with not only well known authors but also a wonderful variety of local and New Mexico writers and artists. Comfortable chairs and a computer alcove make this a delightful change from the usual spartan business room. All the hallways in the Andaluz are decorated with artwork, including many unique large works painted on the stucco walls. A bronze plaque adorns the entryway, stating that in 1984, the hotel was put on the National Register of Historic Places.
While I was staying in Albuquerque, I had a chance to walk downtown, as there are a wide variety of shops and restaurants not far from the Andaluz. Street-pole signs mark Central Avenue as the historic Route 66 highway and as I wandered downtown, it brought me to an amazing store, Skip Maisel’s Indian Jewelry Shop. I soon discovered that it is far more then your typical Indian jewelry store.
Seems that Morris Maisel built this trading post in the late 1930s and when Route 66 was re-routed into Albuquerque, he wanted the building to be more then the usual storefront. He constructed large glass display windows, which recede at the entry, forming a large protected space 20 feet deep with additional display windows. This protected space has a glazed terra cotta floor with American Indian designs and the name “Maisel’s” inlaid in front of the double wood-framed entry doors. Above the windows is a continuous panel of murals, designed by Olive Rush, a prominent artist of the period, depicting various aspects of American Southwestern Indian ceremonial life. It was the only Pueblo Deco building in Albuquerque that employed work by Pueblo and Navajo artists. By the 1940s, Maisel’s trading post had become the largest of its kind on Route 66 and at one time employed over 300 American Indian craftsmen on site. The store closed after Mr. Maisel died in the 1960s but in the 1980s, Mr. Maisel’s grandson, Skip Maisel, reopened the shop, continuing to this day. In 1993, the store was listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
When I explored the store, I was both amazed and fascinated by the huge variety of Indian art crafts displayed and for sale. Be it silver jewelry, turquoise belts, dolls, or traditional Native clothing, you can find something here to take home. I loved looking over rows of shelves filled with all types of pottery, each uniquely designed and created in all sizes, shapes and colors. Woven rugs hang on the walls, beside beaded leather shirts and intricately painted Kachina dolls. It was a feast for both the eye and the inner shopper. I have to admit that in the end, I purchased a few items.
So if you get the chance, wander down Route 66, explore Maisel’s trading post and finish the day off with a cocktail at the Andaluz Hotel ... all are unique treasures you’ll enjoy in downtown Albuquerque, N.M. ❖