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Renovation preserves La Fonda’s personality

Courtesy La Fonda on the Plaza

SANTA FE, N.M. — In May, La Fonda on the Plaza, the oldest hotel in Santa Fe, N.M., America’s oldest capital city, showed off the early results of the most extensive renovation since it opened.
The renovation of one floor of guest rooms was completed in early May. By August, 164 rooms — all of the rooms except the 10 Terrace suites — will be upgraded.

La Fonda opened in 1922, and it was one of the Harvey Hotels, a chain found in early railroad towns.

The goal of the renovation is to modernize without compromising the hotel’s authenticity and character.

Updated guest rooms will have improved sound insulation, new temperature controls, updated communication systems and more efficient electrical and plumbing systems. Lighting, floor coverings and handcrafted furnishings are also being updated.

“While the renovation represents a significant investment and much-needed improvements, we’ve let the bones of the hotel speak for themselves,” said Jenny Kimball, chairman of the board of La Fonda on the Plaza. “We’re re-creating the comfort and surroundings of our legendary past in a fresh, new way.”

La Fonda has partnered with Santa Fe-based firm Barbara Felix Architecture and Design to preserve original designer Mary Elizabeth Jane Colter’s whimsical, Old World style.

Felix and her team have researched the cultural and aesthetic elements of Colter’s design and are carrying many of the important details to the new La Fonda.

“I love historic restoration because I’m inspired by the storyline that already exists,” Felix said. “Buildings for me have personality. La Fonda has panache, sophistication and intelligence, and I want to show that spark so others can appreciate it.”

Demonstrating the hotel’s commitment to authenticity and the community, many local craftspeople are being used. Additionally, no staff cuts have occurred during the project.

La Fonda on the Plaza sits at the terminus of the Santa Fe Trail and is the only hotel on the historic Santa Fe Plaza. The hotel is a member of Historic Hotels of America.

The hotel has more than 20,347 square feet of event space. Its signature restaurant, La Plazuela, was renovated in 2009 and occupies the hotel’s original 1920s open-air courtyard.