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Hotel History

Our Taos Historic Inn

Columbian Hotel c.1930There has been a Taos hotel on the current site of La Fonda de Taos as early as 1820. The first establishment, called the St. Vrain Mercantile Store, supplied locals and travelers alike with everything from tack and seed, rooms and a saloon. Numerous fires over the next 60 years changed the face of Taos Plaza again and again. Fortunately the hotel escaped these tragedies. The Taos hotel property changed hands many times, but always had rooms and a bath for the weary travelers that no doubt were exhausted from the long and strenuous trek on the rough roads to this remote and most beautiful mountain community.

Columbian Hotel c.1890 courtesy of Corina SantistevanIn 1880 Aloysius Liebert built the Columbian Hotel & Bar here on the south side of Taos Plaza. Aloysius was a leader in the close-knit community and the hotel and bar naturally became a gathering place where dances were held in the spacious lobby.

Robert Pooler and his wife, the former Maclovia Mares, purchased the hotel and bar in 1900 and ran it together until a disgruntled customer who had been kicked out of the establishment for being drunk and disorderly shot Robert to death in the Columbian Bar in 1909. The Taos hotel was run by Maclovia and her heirs until they sold it in the late 1920's.

Columbian Hotel Bar c.1906 courtesy of Manuelita EsquibelIt was during the first part of the 20th century that the face of Taos began to change and become an important art colony. On their way to Mexico on September 4, 1898 two young artists, Ernest Blumenschein and Bert Phillips, broke their wagon wheel just north of Taos. "Blumy" as he came to be called, road into town on horseback with the broken wheel to have it repaired and became enchanted with Taos and its natural beauty, its colorful cultures and "the light". These were the founding members of the Taos Society of Artists and many of their peers followed. Phillips and "Blumy", and several other members of Taos Society of Artists met at the hotel for breakfast and cards ("Long" John Dunn ran his roulette wheel in the Columbian) on a regular basis and hung many of their paintings in the lobby of the hotel. Thus began the tradition of the hotel as an art center, a tradition that continues today with the Gallery La Fonda located in the hotel lobby. We are proud of our history and hope you can see it at our historic Taos hotel.

Jame Karavas c.19371922 brought brothers James and John Karavas, along with James’ wife Noula and their 5-year-old son Saki, to Taos in search of the American promise of a better life. They had emigrated from Greece to New York where Saki was born. On arrival in Taos they leased the restaurant in the Columbian Hotel. By the end of the decade they purchased the hotel from Maclovia's heirs. After completing major renovations, which included adding a second and third story to this pueblo revival style building, the brothers open the "La Fonda", Spanish for "the Inn", in 1937.

Saki Karavas c.1967After the death of his father James, Saki Karavas bought out his uncle's interest in the hotel in 1953 and ran the hotel until his death in 1996. Saki was a serious art collector and quite a Taos figure. His love for women and his charisma earned him the title of the "Don Juan of Taos".

He was also a big fan of D.H. Lawrence and owned several first editions of his literary works. When Frieda Lawrence died in August of 1956 her estate, which included the Lawrence "Forbidden Art" paintings, passed on to her then husband Angelino Ravagli. Later that same year Angelino sold them to Saki and he displayed them in his office along with innumerable other paintings and photos and one could pay a dollar or two to view them. Today representations of the "Forbidden Art Collection" hang in their own gallery in the Taos hotel.

Saki Karavas and George Sahd c.1969Never married, Saki bequeathed his hotel and the paintings to his good friend, George and Cordelia Sahd’s family. The Sahd's, themselves entrenched in Taos history (George Sahd founded the Ranchos Trading Post around 1938), began renovation of the hotel in 1998.

For decades, this historic Taos hotel has been a gathering place for local, national and international artists, writers, film celebrities and political dignitaries. Such celebrities include, Prince Peter of Greece, Judy Garland, Georgia O'Keefe, Tennessee Williams, Millicent Rogers, Mabel Dodge Luhan, Lady Dorothy Brett, Robert DeNiro, Dennis Weaver, Dennis Hopper Peter Fonda, Julia Roberts, Rock Hudson and numerous others. Join our historic Taos hotel on your next stay in Taos, New Mexico and count yourselves as part of living history.

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