La Posada Hotel in Winslow is one of architect Mary Colter's masterpieces.
Built in 1929 along the railroad tracks, it was a refuge for weary rail riders. But when both the railroad and the local economy took a hit in the 1950's, La Posada had to close its doors. Forty years later, Winslow residents Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion bought the forgotten, dilapidated structure and turned it into a unique, multi-million dollar hotel and art gallery. And now, as Arizona Public Radio's Justin Regan reports, the couple has decided to present La Posada as an estate gift to Northern Arizona University.
Ricardo Campos is visiting La Posada from Albuquerque. He's on a tour of architect Mary Colter's most famous buildings. Standing in the hotel's grand lobby, Campos says, "I have always heard of this hotel, and I'm impressed they have different displays and historical explanations of her work."
The sprawling two-story building is lush with gardens, boasts one of the best restaurants in the state, and many of the rooms are named after famous artists. From the time it was built in 1929, until the 1950's, it was a premiere and glamorous destination for travelers. But, when the Santa Fe Railway took a nose dive, so did the town of Winslow. And La Posada almost went with it. Allan Affeldt is one of the current owners of the iconic hotel. He says, "the Santa Fe Railway, who owned it, just decided they would gut it."
That's why Affeldt and his wife, artist Tina Mion, bought La Posada in 1997. They found it on a list of the 10 most important buildings in the country that were about to be torn down. "We really bought the building on a lark and then had to figure out what to do with it," Affeldt says. "So, we just started renovating a few rooms at a time. I think that it's largely successful because it's as much an art project as a business, and people get that when they come here."
Art is everywhere: From the furniture, to the rugs, to Tina Mion's own wall-sized paintings. People come from all over the world to stay here. That's something Affeldt and Mion hope will continue for many generations to come. Which is why they have decided to leave the historic hotel to Northern Arizona University.
"It's an estate gift," Mion says. "So it is after we die, and we don't have any intentions of dying for decades." The couple doesn't have children and doesn't foresee giving the hotel to any other relatives. They believe NAU shares their vision of art, education and historical preservation. "We really love the educational aspects that Northern Arizona University offers people," Mion says. "In art, in environmental studies, in hotel design. And there's a lot of cross-overs that we think would be really beneficial for the people of northern Arizona."
This cross-over is already happening. NAU's sustainable studies program conducted a greenhouse gas inventory of the hotel. The College of Arts and Letters does lecture and exchange programs. And there are more collaborations in the works.
Anne Morgan is the Assistant Vice President of University Advancement. She says, "there's obvious partnerships with Hotel and Restaurant Management. Also, they are putting in a contemporary fine art museum, and they've been working already with our museum study students and some of our art students relating to some of the items they already have, such as the largest Navajo weaving in the world."
Morgan says the financial details of the gift are still being worked out. But, at this point, everyone involved envisions mostly philanthropic ventures. "We're not going to be running it for profit in the sense that we're going to be doling it out to shareholders," she says. "It's, hopefully, going to fund things like the fine art museum, student internships, helping out with different programs that are happening in Winslow. So, it will be run, ultimately, for a charitable purpose."
For Allan Affeldt and Tina Mion that's exactly the future they want for the historic and beloved hotel. "We think that the university will make an ideal steward," Affeldt says. "We want to keep it growing for hundreds of years," adds Mion, "not turn it into a Days Inn or go back to what it was when we bought it, which was an abandoned relic."
Though any party can back out at any time, as of right now, the approximately 10 million dollar deal is sound.