An afterlife desire to flirt, to supervise, and encourage,
an eternal strong work ethic, and dying too soon causes the spectral activity.
Known as “Belle of the Southwest”
One TRIPADVISOR review sang the hotel’s praises as being a “quirky old fashioned hotel, brimming with character.”
Tom and I visited this three story, brick Italianate historic hotel and found it to be beautifully authentic. It has been renovated inside and out, with restored original decor embellishments. Guests can spend the night in a nicely restored and renovated historic room in the Plaza Hotel, or in a more modern room in the connecting building.
The gorgeous facade is quite impressive incorporating cast-iron composite columns framing plate glass windows on the ground floor; sandstone corner quoins and window pediments with cast iron brackets on the second and third floors; and a raised attic cornice of pressed metal with cast-iron brackets and a broken pediment in the center.” (website: https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/NM-01-047-0060-01).
The lobby is in a fairly long rectangular shape. Walking into the front door of the hotel, there is a cafe entrance on one side, and the dining room on the other. Both have windows looking out at the park.
Toward the back of the lobby, double staircases lead up to the other floors. There is also an elevator. At the very back, there is a gift shop offering high-quality items for sale.
The guest rooms have an elegant feel with Victorian curtains hanging at the 1882 style windows, antique bed boards, antique dressers, a private bathroom and regular room amenities like WiFi.
The decor showcases local New Mexico artists, with blankets, artwork and paintings on display. The result is a hotel true to its heritage mixed with its Italianate decor beginnings.
The hotel is an economic anchor for tourism dollars for the benefit of the Las Vegas economy. Besides offering all the services you’d expect from a hotel, it has a grand ballroom for special social events and business conferences, as well as smaller spaces for meetings.
Before the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway reached Las Vegas in 1879, establishing a station just one mile east of the Las Vegas Plaza, it was a small, quiet town that was founded in the 1830s.
The railroad brought a booming economy, tourism and rapid population growth to Las Vegas. It became a hotbed of business growth because of this new way of travel.
In 1880, money was raised to create a park in the middle of the plaza, made complete with planted trees and a bandstand!
By 1882, Las Vegas became the fastest growing town in New Mexico, with a population numbering six thousand folks. It was bigger, and wealthier than the cities of Santa Fe and Albuquerque.
What should be built on the north side of the park that would draw in even more people to Las Vegas?
The consensus among the local merchants was that a high-class, luxurious hotel was needed for the people with money to stay, so they could be treated to the lifestyle and amenities that they were used to receiving in big cities. Businessmen, well-to-do tourists, politicians, and outlaws in need of a break would make this expensive undertaking worthwhile.
The main financial contributor was mover and shaker Benign Romero, who not only was a very successful businessman, but also came from one of the founding families who settled in Las Vegas. The $25,000 construction costs came from the partnership of Spanish Catholic merchants, French Protestant traders and German Jewish immigrants, with the generous Romero contributing the rest as needed.
Local architect T.J. Raywood designed this Italianate beauty that became the favorite place to stay throughout the eras of time.
Raywood used materials found nearby, mainly bricks, sandstone ornament, and walnut wood for the floors and details. Other modern materials such as tin for the ceilings, cast iron, and pressed metal had to come by train from the eastern states.
Behind its fancy, ornate facade, the hotel had fourteen ft ceilings in its thirty-seven guest rooms and common areas, gigantic windows overlooking the park plaza, a saloon, dance hall and restaurant. Matching walnut staircases on either side of the lobby showed the way to the rooms upstairs.
While it was being built, Charles Ilfeld was inspired to build his Italianate style department store called the Grand Emporium in 1883, right next door to the Plaza Hotel, blending in nicely with the hotel’s facade. His business boomed here becoming. In 1891, he added two more floors, making his now three story department store the largest in the southwest.
Both structures brought in even more financial success to Las Vegas. Many famous people came to stay on their travels throughout the years, such as Doc Holliday, Teddy Roosevelt, and Tommy Lee Jones.
A new type of guest started to make an appearance during the 1890s, attracted to the dry Las Vegas weather conditions. People suffering from pulmonary conditions such as Tuberculosis came. The hotel owners created The One Lung Club that offered non-exertion activities and opportunities to socialize.
In 1899, the Plaza Hotel was the spot chosen for the first reunion of Teddy Roosevelt’s Rough Riders. Teddy had a warm spot in his heart for this special place. He stayed here twice and announced his bid here to run for President.
During the early 20th Century, the Plaza Hotel was the favorite place to film silent cowboy-themed films, such as Tom Mix westerns.
In 1912, Romaine Fielding moved his Lubin Moving Picture Company to Las Vegas. He was a silent actor and director. He leased the entire hotel, even renamed it Hotel Romaine which he painted on the brick facade.
In the ninety days that he stayed there, he filmed and starred in ten silent films, the first one being “Rattlesnake.” All the outside scenes in his large masterpiece, “The Golden God” were filmed in Las Vegas. One hundred Elks Club members and 4,900 local National Guard soldiers, at a cost of 50,000 dollars, made their film debut portraying the calvary and artillery units charging around the Las Vegas streets for an eleven day shoot.
Afterwards, Fielding and his company left town, much to the disappointment of the Las Vegas leaders, but life carried on. The Palace Hotel continued to draw film makers who gave the it starring roles in such films as Longmire, Easy Rider and No Country For Old Men.
After WW1, local attorney and businessman, Byron T. Mills bought the hotel and ran it until the mid-1940s. Sometime after the end of WW2, probably in the 1950s, Lucy Lopez, known as the caring Mama Lucy, and her husband, bought the hotel. They were the owners for fourteen years, and they thoroughly enjoyed their business and the students that stayed with them. They started their family at the Plaza and had many great memories raising their six children.
Some of the rooms were used for off-campus housing for New Mexico Normal University (now known as New Mexico Highlands University). They offered their student residents meals for thirty dollars a month. If a student couldn’t afford the meals, they were encouraged to help out around the hotel.
Mama Lucy had a heart of gold, a kind and loving soul who cared about those in need. She became an instigator of social change during the ’60s and ’70s, and held meetings in her Plaza coffee shop for the liberal movement in Northern Mexico. In 1994, she was honored in the Congressional Record.
“A progressive movement was begun at her restaurant, led by young politicians who got their start talking around a home cooked meal. Their vision has helped move New Mexico in the direction of change. They would be the first to acknowledge the contributions of this wonderful woman.”
By the 1980s, the Plaza Hotel had become a woebegone fixer-upper opportunity but still standing strong with terrific structural bones, long been beloved by the community. It was originally built by local businessmen and was restored and renovated in various stages by different owners, some of whom were from the Las Vegas community.
For example, the community-funded Plaza Partnership Limited, led by Mid Slick, bought it in 1982, and were willing to invest a whopping one million dollars to renovate the public places on the first floor, over a time period of two years. Their goal was to give the hotel a new look to please tourists and increase tourism.
They created a new upscale but comfy restaurant and a bar that was enticing indeed to locals and guests!
They built a new, up-to-date kitchen where the old dance hall once was located.
Some of the historic decor was covered up to modernize it, much to the annoyance of preservationists. The walnut floors were worn on the first floor, so linoleum was laid. The ceilings on the first floor were dropped, covering the tin ceilings, and the creaky banisters were removed for safety reasons, and were replaced with safer, stylish ones.
In 2006, the owners bought the Charles Ilfeld building and spent five million dollars on a renovation that connected it to the Palace Hotel lobby, to provide an additional thirty-five modern guest rooms, a grand ballroom and meeting spaces. Their goal was to attract receptions, reunions, social events and even conferences in northeast New Mexico.
In 2014, a mover and shaker preservationist, Allan Afield and Tina Mion bought both buildings of the Plaza Hotel, as well as the dilapidated, forlorn Castaneda. After working through one space at a time at the Plaza, they went on to restore Castaneda.
In 2014-2015, the first project was to restore the Plaza dining room and Saloon, courtesy of Jorden Grimm and his Las Vegas artisans. The dining room walls were transformed into a one of a kind work, with a golden Venetian Plaster decor, courtesy of Alex Darley. The placement of the wood paneling was done by Bob Black.
In the bar, the wooden floor was restored, and Burt Brazen was responsible for the authentic Victorian Encaustic tile floor and wainscot.
The linoleum was removed from the first floor spaces, and a new wooden floor, milled in Las Vegas, was laid.
The historic rooms received antique bed frames, some antique furniture, new bedding, and new paint, plus amenities tourists appreciate.
HISTORY OF MANIFESTATIONS
Men and women who enjoyed personal relationships with the opposite sex in life, try to continue on with living people in the afterlife.
Saint Francis Inn, FL (The spirit of an amorous soldier still likes to flirt with female staff, and to kiss sleeping brides on their honeymoon with their new husbands).
DuPont Mansion Bed and Breakfast, KY (The spirit of Alfred DuPont takes a break looking for his son by being inappropriate to women in his family’s old forever home).
Longfellow’s Wayside Inn, MA (The spirit of Jerusha Howe, while she waits for her long lost beloved to return to her, satisfies her loneliness by getting a little too affectionate with male visitors, forgetting her social manners. Caressing, gently touching, and climbing in bed for a hug has been reported by male visitors).
Historic Plaza Hotel, NM (The spirit of a former owner still loves to fondle amorously the living single women staying alone in room 310).
People who love the building where they enjoyed their life’s work, sometimes like to stay and continue in their life the best they can as spirit.
Stanley Hotel, CO (The spirit of a dedicated housekeeper still helps tidy up room 217, puts away guests’ clothes and keeps her moral standards by being a chaperone for unmarried couples, much to their alarm).
Brumder Mansion, WI (The male spirits of the old prohibition speakeasy crew have given themselves new jobs for the current owners, becoming the security squad).
The Brewery Art Center, NV (The spirit of a dedicated Masonic maintenance officer continues to fulfill his duties, no matter that a new organization has moved into the old Masonic building).
Historic Plaza Hotel, NM (The Spirit of a man, perhaps an old maintenance man or an owner still putters around the hotel attending to his duties).
Children who die before their time, often like to stay in a place where they felt love.
Duff Green Mansion, MS (All three of the Green children and another girl from a family who lived there after the Greens died there, and all their spirits still reside at the mansion).
McRaven House, MS (Two very young brothers died of yellow fever. They are mischievous spectral residents, who interact with both their own family spirits and the living as well).
Stranahan House, FL (A young Native American girl had a friendship with the matron of the house. The little girl died at the doorway of the house).
Historic Plaza Hotel, NM (The spirit of a girl, and maybe a spirit boy as well, were probably the children of owners or staff, and spent a lot of time at the hotel, where they may have died suddenly from disease or an accident).
The Spirit of Byron T Wells
He likes to stay in his old office, that is now guest room 310.
Employees and guests have claimed to see an indentation in the bed, as if someone was laying down.
He likes to smoke cigars, and the aroma is noticed by the living.
Housekeeping staff have reported Byron speaking to them, perhaps giving directions as the spectral owner.
According to a male guest, “Byron is not a malicious ghost, however he only allows HBO on the TV.” (TripAdvisor review).
The spirit of Byron T Wells still loves the ladies.
When he was alive he was quite the playboy, as he enjoyed sensual relationships with women.
While he is limited now being in spirit form, it doesn’t stop him from coming on to single women staying in room 310.
Because of all the complaints about his amorous wooing, hotel staff don’t put single women in 310.
He did get at least one thumbs-up from one female guest, who thoroughly enjoyed his advances, and promised staff that she would be back for more.
Around and About
Apparently, the spirit of Byron T Wells likes to see what is going on in the hotel. After all, he once owned it.
The bar, that is named after him, is a favorite place to see.
At closing time, one of the bartenders often hears a persistent knock at the saloon’s back door.
Every time he opens the door, no one is there.
This may be a playful way to let the bartenders know that he is a spectral supervisor.
The spirit of Byron T Wells takes the elevator down to the lobby, and up again to the third floor.
A woman and her nine year old daughter shared the elevator up to the third floor with a life-like looking man who they thought was a real person.
He was wearing a turn-of-the-century suit, and was strangely silent, not like a real person would be.
While in the lobby, the daughter saw a picture of Byron T Wells, and she claimed that he was the man they saw in the elevator, with the same suit and the same shoes!
The Spirit of a Girl
She has made personal appearances all over the hotel, even the basement.
She is attracted to other living girls and boys as she is lonely and seeks friends.
In the lobby area, it was noticed that a young girl with Down’s syndrome was interacting enthusiastically with no one visible.
The witness snapped an interesting photograph, that showed who she was talking with the blurry image of a spirit girl. It is kept at the lobby desk.
This spirit may have a spirit boy to help keep her company. In one source, he was mentioned, but no examples of his activity have been published.
Former Spectral staff or Owners?
Two spirits, a woman and a man, are mentioned to be residing here in their afterlife, but they haven’t been identified.
The male spirit has been seen going about his business all over the hotel, especially the basement.
One theory is that he was the maintenance man, and continues on with his work as a spirit.
The female spirit has been seen all over the hotel as well. One source thinks that she was a long-time maid who worked here for thirty years in the earlier part of the twentieth century.
My theory is that the male and female spirits could be Mr. and Mrs. Lopez. Mr. Lopez died while they owned the hotel, probably before he was ready, perhaps leaving some maintenance work undone.
Mrs. Lopez has experienced many great memories, as well as some dark times.
Both spirits may have chosen to reside here in their afterlife.
Many guests, staff members, retailers, maintenance folks and owners have all experienced paranormal activity. The check in clerk has had multiple experiences while working at the check-in desk.
The hotel has regular visits from paranormal groups, who may have caught some hard evidence of these benign, sometimes friendly spirits.
One guest caught a picture of the blurred, ghostly figure of a little girl who was talking with an autistic girl in the lobby mentioned above.
Yes Indeed! A group of benign spirits find peace and a place to remember their memories at the Plaza, sometimes interacting with the living in playful ways, and perhaps trying to do their old jobs or keep an eye on the staff.
Las Vegas, NM 87701
It is located on the North side of the Park Plaza, presiding over Plaza Park.
- [Congressional Record Volume 140, Number 87 (Friday, July 1, 1994)]