New Mexico November 16, 2017
Spend The Night At This Historic New Mexico Hotel Where Hollywood Cowboys Used To Stay
You might be familiar with the movies and TV shows being shot in New Mexico these days, but did you know that the state’s Western landscape was a location hotspot in the early 1900s too? During those decades, scores of movies (mostly Westerns) were shot in New Mexico.
A bit later, in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s, a number of films were shot in and around Gallup. While these movies were being made, all the big stars stayed at the best digs in town: the El Rancho Hotel.
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El Rancho, now a Route 66 landmark, was built in 1936 to be a base for Gallup's burgeoning wild west movie business.
R.E. Griffith, brother of the famous movie director D.W. Griffith, had visited Gallup earlier in the 1930s and fell in love with the area. Boasting a rustic elegance and superior service, both Griffith brothers encouraged film crews and stars to stay at El Rancho while filming.
The hotel was presented to movie people and travelers along Route 66 as a place to relax and rough it in comfort and style.
The expansive hotel featured a main three-story building with a large lobby and the first handful of rooms. It had several stone fireplaces, a second-floor balcony, and an interior carefully designed to come across as rustic. Service was top-notch too, with hotel staff trained by the hospitality giant of the time, the Fred Harvey Company.
The massive attention-grabbing lobby set the stage for what guests would experience.
Reminiscent of a hunting lodge, the lobby is dominated by a walk-in stone fireplace with stairs running up each side. An interior balcony continues from the stairs and over looks the stunning room below. The lobby is furnished with heavy, dark wood and is decorated with western touches like deer heads, Navajo rugs and punched tinwork.
From Alan Ladd to Zachary Scott, the list of celebrities who stayed at El Rancho while filming in the area is amazing. According to the hotel website, almost 100 of the biggest names of the time.
For those who don't know Ladd or Scott, how about John Wayne and Humphrey Bogart? Doris Day, Mae West, Kirk Douglas and Errol Flynn? Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy? And let's not forget those quintessential cowboys, Tom Mix and Gene Autry. Many of the stars have rooms named after them, as well as their photos on the walls around the hotel common areas.
The Gallup movie-making heydays were in the 1940s and 1950s, but the El Rancho was linked with the movie business until the mid 1960s.
Some of the movies shot in Gallup include: The Bad Man (1941), with Ronald Reagan; Pursued (1947),with Robert Mitchum; The Sea of Grass (1947), with Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn; Only the Valiant (1951), with Gregory Peck; Ace in the Hole (1951), with Kirk Douglas; and A Distant Trumpet (1964), with Troy Donahue and Suzanne Pleshette.
Celebrities like Robert Mitchum and Virginia Mayo stayed in one of El Rancho's double standard rooms (with one double bed) while their deluxe king rooms have hosted the likes of Rosalind Russell and Betty Grable.
They have suites too, like the two-room Marx Brothers Suite (with one king bed and two double beds) and the one-room Bridal Suite. The property also has several basic "motel" rooms which are not in the main historical building, so be sure to ask before you confirm your room.
For something a bit out of the ordinary, check out the Ronald Reagan Suite.
Among the notable guests who have stayed in this room are Ronald Reagan and Paul McCartney. The spacious suite has seating areas and a king bed, but the stunner is the bathroom. Festooned with dark blue tile, the bathroom has double sinks separated by a makeup area, and a deluxe water closet (with toilet, bidet, and shower). Don't forget the bathroom sitting area, complete with coffee station.
Ortega's, the jewelry store at the El Rancho Hotel features handmade jewelry from local artists throughout the region.
Owned by Armand Ortega, a fourth-generation trader, the shop handpicks the best jewelry from Navajo, Zuni, and Hopi artists. Along with jewelry, look for Zuni fetishes, Navajo rugs, and Kachina Dolls.
Serving everyone from bikers to movie stars, the hotel's 49er Lounge has been a Route 66 watering hole for more than 75 years.
Fitting the southwest locale, the bar features a nice selection of tequilas, hand-squeezed margaritas, and Mexican and New Mexican beers. GQ even once named the 49er one of the best bars in America for its quality drinks and non-fussy atmosphere. There is a restaurant on-site at El Rancho too.
Not everything is old-fashioned. All 53 rooms have free WiFi and flat-screen TVs with cable channels.
You'll find El Rancho and all its throwback glory at 1000 East Route 66, in Gallup. Book online through your favorite hotel booking site or directly through
El Rancho's reservation page
Have you stayed at El Rancho? Any plans to add it to your to-do list?