Sunday, March 13, 2016

The Harvey Houses

A few days ago, THC and the Mrs stayed at La Posada Hotel in Winslow, Arizona on our last evening before arriving in Phoenix.  La Posada is a complete restoration of the Harvey House hotel built in 1929.  The Harvey Houses are a real piece of Americana and an integral part of the story of the Americanization of the Southwest.

Seventeen year-old Fred Harvey emigrated to the United States from England in 1853.  For years he worked in the food industry, opening and running restaurants and food supply businesses and built a reputation for honesty, service and cleanliness. Fred Harvey.jpg With a handshake deal in 1876, Harvey and the Atichison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad began a long partnership that endured until 1963.  At many of the stops along the line, Harvey and the railroad constructed Harvey Houses, a combination of restaurant, hotel and origination point for tours of the sights of the American Southwest.  Eventually there were to be 84 Harvey Houses, known for their high quality food and service, catering to wealthy and middle class travelers.  The operation became so large that Harvey operated its own refrigerator railcars on the Santa Fe and the Harvey Houses are considered the first restaurant chain to operate in the United States.

The Harvey Houses were also known for their wait staff which was completely female (and white) and known as The Harvey Girls (and also the title of a hit 1946 movie, starring Judy Garland and Angela Lansbury, set at a Harvey hotel, which tells you how embedded the brand was in American culture in the early 20th century).

The Harvey company was also fairly unusual for the time, employing a female architect, Mary Coulter, to design several of the Houses, including the one at Winslow.

La Posada is a fun place to stay.  The restoration is impressive, the rooms are well-decorated (we stayed in the Emilio Estevez room)
and it still serves as an Amtrak station.  And it's only one block away from a guy standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.

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