The La Fonda Hotel was built in Santa Fe in 1920, but didn’t become really successful until the Santa Fe Railway purchased it in 1925. The hotel was designed by Isaac Rapp, who is sometimes called “the creator of the Santa Fe style. But the railway hired Mary Colter to decorate the interior, and she as much as Rapp helped create that style. While Rapp modeled the exterior on pueblo structures (though with contemporary building materials beneath the faux-adobe surface), it was Colter who decided to feature exposed beams (locally known as visa) in the interior and to combine Hispanic and Native American designs throughout the hotel.
Of course, the railway commissioned Fred Harvey to operate the hotel. This 1963 brochure came out near the end of Fred Harvey’s operation. Indeed, the brochure’s list of “other Fred Harvey Houses in the Southwest” includes just four, with two others blacked out. Still, La Fonda was maintained as a first-class operation, and still is today. The Harvey family and Santa Fe sold the hotel to a local family in 1968.
These postcards were not issued by the railway or by the Fred Harvey company, but at least some of them are based on photos provided by the Harvey company.
The “Indian room,” or gift shop, gave travelers an opportunity to bring the Santa Fe style back home.
A comparison of this postcard from the 1930s with a photo of a guest room in the 1963 brochure shows that guest room decorations became more muted over time but still retained a Southwest flavor.
This postcard is from the 1950s or 1960s, but photographs of the La Fonda dining room from the 1920s show that it hadn’t changed much from Mary Colter’s original design.