Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Dibs on These Chairs"

Yes, Kate and I would have called "dibs*" on these two chairs in the lobby of the El Rancho Hotel in Gallup, NM, . . . if

we had lived in the Gallup of the 1940s and 1950s. For nearly two decades, the Hotel became a temporary home for many Hollywood stars. From these two seats we could have seen Burt Lancaster, Errol Flynn, Gene Autry, Gregory Peck, Humphrey Bogart, Betty Grable, Jean Harlow, Katherine Hepburn, Mae West, Rosalind Russell, Spencer Tracy, W.C. Fields, the Marx Brothers, John Wayne . . . or any of the other 66 actors and actresses for whom rooms are named in the Hotel. Or any of the other nearly 3000 movie stars who stayed at the Hotel while filming (mostly Westerns) in the area around Gallup.

And the lobby was the primary gathering place for them.

Passing through the rustic wooden doors took us back to the old West. Heavy wooden furniture provided a sense of stability to the lobby. We could imagine a party gathered around this large table planning the next day's shoot.

Original Navajo rugs were prominently displayed on the lobby floor (first photo and photo above) and on the second floor railings (above and below).

The centerpiece of the lobby is this big stone fireplace.

A perfect place for "star-gazing" after a day of filming.

"R.E. Griffith's Hotel El Rancho was built in 1937 as a haven for Hollywood's famous. His well-known brother, D.W. Griffith (director of such classics as Birth of a Nation), encouraged using the rustic elegance of the El Rancho as a base for crews and stars.

El Rancho's elegance included superior service and food of Fred Harvey-trained personnel, accommodations for roughing it in comfort, and gaming tables and liquid refreshments in the tradition of the Old West."

The influence of the Old West was clearly evident in this chair and the accompanying sofa and second chair. I'm not sure their degree of comfort matched their degree of uniqueness.

We thought the El Rancho's lobby was more impressive than that of El Tovar in the Grand Canyon. It had more character and easily incorporated the artistry of the Navajo culture into the dark, rustic architecture to create a comfortable escape.

A spiral staircase takes guests to the second floor where they can enjoy the old movie star photos and western art.

The El Rancho Hotel is a unique historic hotel right on Historic Route 66 and has been designated a National Historic Site.

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*"Dibs" is a common (at least to an older generation) informal convention to reserve or declare full or partial ownership of a community resource, such as a chair.