Anyone familiar with Santa Fe history has undoubtedly heard the term “Harvey House”. Before the introduction of the dining car, passenger trains would stop at “eating houses” where the passengers could detrain and have a meal. In many areas, especially the undeveloped southwest, the fare also included rancid meat and otherwise less than Grade A offerings. An employee of the Burlington Route, Fred Harvey, saw the need for quality meals and service, and pitched the idea of a system-wide chain of restaurants/hotels to his employer.
When the Burlington passed on the concept, Harvey approached the Santa Fe, whose management shared his vision. The railroad would build the facilities and provide all supplies, and Harvey would manage the services. Harvey developed a system to feed an entire trainload of passengers within the time constraints of a 30 minute stop. The food and service we impeccable and the facilities were clean, and the name Harvey House quickly became synonymous with a high quality experience. Along with the food, Harvey managed adjoining hotels of equal quality. The Santa Fe promoted the hotels for overnight stops or even as destinations to see the Southwest.
Eventually, there were 84 Harvey Houses along the AT&SF, including three flagship hotels. One of those three was the Castañeda, in Las Vegas, New Mexico, built in 1899. As the Santa Fe added dining cars, staffed by the Fred Harvey Company, the need for trackside eateries diminished, and many of the Harvey Houses closed. The end for the Castañeda came in 1948.
Three and a half decades later, the hotel appears to be neglected, but not in a serious state of disrepair. Today, after an additional three and a half decaades, the Castañeda has been restored, and recently reopened as a hotel.