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Meeting Guide: Southwest Passage

Courtesy Bishop’s Lodge

Old means interesting in the case of five historic hotels scattered about the Southwest. Their pasts enliven their present, their personalities add sparkle to the stodgiest of gatherings.

Los Poblanos Historic Inn and Organic Farm
Albuquerque, N.M.
Los Poblanos, established as a dairy farm in 1934, might have only 24 guest rooms, but its recent preservation and transformation into a historic inn and organic farm, as well as a meeting locale, is churning up lots of attention.

Previously owned by New Mexico congressman Albert Simms and his wife, Ruth, Los Poblanos began as an experimental farm and home to Creamland Dairies.

Early on, Ruth commissioned numerous Works Progress Administration artists and craftspeople, as well as John Gaw Meem, now an internationally recognized architect, to renovate the ranch house and create the La Quinta Cultural Center, used for political and community events.

In 1976, Albert and Barbara Rembe bought a portion of the land and moved there with their four children. Three generations of Rembes have since owned and operated the farm.

When in 1999 developers wanted to buy the neighboring property, including the cultural center, the family pulled together to reunite the properties and preserve its history.

Los Poblanos’ agricultural history has also been preserved with an active organic farm; lavender and honeybees are also cultivated there.

The original residence is a small inn, and the cultural center is again hosting meetings, parties, educational and cultural events.

“It is a total escape,” said Matthew Rembe, executive director. “It is 25 acres in the middle of an urban area, but it doesn’t feel like it.”

Los Poblanos’ guest rooms are varied. Those in the inn reflect New Mexico’s culture; others are in 1930s dairy-style buildings.

For meeting groups, the 1,500-square-foot architecturally significant cultural center is a gem.

Its 1,325-square-foot ballroom with a hand-carved ceiling, decorative Spanish tile and large fireplace can host receptions for up to 150. Four sets of french doors open to six acres of surrounding gardens, the 20-foot covered Grand Portal and the Fireplace Terrace.

The Gilpin Gallery, Albuquerque’s first art gallery, is ideal for board meetings, retreats and receptions for up to 100.

Also, close to the inn is a multipurpose room that can be used for groups of up to 20.

“We wanted to create an environment with off-site meetings in mind,” said Rembe. “It is designed to provide the optimal setting for small groups such as board meetings.

“Guests stay on the property; they eat food mostly grown on the property; the amenities found in their rooms are made on the property. Those experiences make them think differently. It inspires them,” said Rembe.

For groups with rigorous schedules, Los Poblanos proves an effective environment.

“Each meeting room has big windows that can provide fresh air and cross drafts,” said Rembe. “Breakouts can be out on the patio. It is counterintuitive to typical meeting rooms. Some people go to meetings that are [in settings] similar to their work environment. Our environment inspires great thinking.”

The working organic farm also provides team-building activities such as harvesting the food and cooking a meal together, said Rembe.

Groups from scientists to nonprofits have stayed at Los Poblanos.

“We always get the same response from everyone,” said Rembe. “This place allows them to slow down and have an effective meeting.”


Bishop’s Lodge

Santa Fe, N.M.
From its adobe architecture to the Sangre de  Cristo Mountains that serve as a backdrop, the Bishop’s Lodge near Santa Fe is a breath of fresh air — literally.

“People come here to experience the outdoors,” said Jeff Lashar, director of sales and marketing at the 450-acre ranch resort. “In fact, we sometimes kick people outside for a breath of fresh air.”

A Catholic bishop truly did give the resort its start, when he built a lodge and chapel a few miles from Santa Fe nearly 160 years ago.

After Bishop Jean Baptiste Lamy died, his ranch passed into the hands of a wealthy Midwestern family and then to a Colorado mining magnate, who built accommodations, preserved original buildings and named his resort the Bishop’s Lodge.

Today’s property includes 111 guest accommodations, most in 14 lodges, but a number also in two- and three-bedroom villas. Its setting in the Tesuque Valley makes the resort seem remote, yet it is only seven minutes from Santa Fe’s historic plaza.

“The view from the villas is incredible,” said Lashar. “On a clear day, you can see Colorado.”
Although the resort’s meeting space totals 8,000 square feet, its average meeting size is small, about 25 people. However six or seven times a year, groups take over the entire property. “We are looking to increase that,” said Lashar.

Its newest meeting space is a conference center for groups of as many as 320 members. When combined with a flagstone prefunction area, the space is 4,200 square feet. French doors lead to outdoor spaces warmed by wood-burning fireplaces. Indoors, a number of meeting rooms also have fireplaces, and every space has windows as well.

Barns and a corral remind that the Bishop’s Lodge is very much a ranch resort, where team building means working with horses or cooking a batch of chili.

“We can take groups up to the mesa for a cowboy cookout with beans and steaks and ribs, with a nice view of the sunset,” said Lashar. “They can ride horses up there.

“Instead of a typical coffee break, people can go out and shoot skeet to get rid of stress,” said Lashar. “And while other hotels have spas, we are the only resort with spa treatments under a big Indian tent.”