HISTORY OF HOTEL ST. FRANCIS
Santa Fe's Oldest Hotel on the National Register of Historic Places
1922 The old De Vargas Hotel's demise was almost as famous as its guest list and probably a lot more mysterious. In January 1922, the De Vargas burned to the ground leaving only the brick chimney to mark the location. It was the biggest fire in Santa Fe in 300 years. There were no high winds to keep the blast alive, however the fire lasted for roughly six hours even though the fire department was located directly across the street. The fire was shockingly silent and so unexpected that guests were unaware and kept checking into their favorite rooms while the hotel was burning.
1924 William "Bill" Sargent, former Mayor of Santa Fe from 1914-1918, rebuilt the beloved De Vargas Hotel in a new location on Don Gaspar Avenue. The new hotel joined a two-story 1888 building on the north side with a new three-story building on the south. When the hotel opened its doors in 1924, guests were greeted with a lavish style of early Californian Mission Revival with a touch of European elegance. The De Vargas Hotel became known as a first class hotel, where men wore top hats and ladies wore the finest dresses. It was a place of grandeur where the bellhops could only escort guests to their rooms after being shown their marriage license, and where house detectives patrolled the halls throughout the night to ensure that all guests stayed in their own rooms. The hotel boasted a wonderful dining room and a bar run by Ben Jaffa, who kept a large blackboard where he posted news about elections and the World Series results. The De Vargas Hotel became such a popular meeting place for politicians during the 1920s and 1930s that it became known as "The Hotel" and served as their unofficial meeting room. Within the walls of the De Vargas, one could only imagine the important decisions that were made "unofficially." After World War II the De Vargas Hotel seemed to lose its popularity, and as a result, its splendor.
1947 The hotel was sold to Pat Vigil and David Armijo in 1947. Pat and Celina Vigil ran the hotel as husband and wife for several decades. According to Celina, politicians continued to stay at the hotel, until the 1960s when the modern motel became increasingly more popular as it allowed for guests to park their car in front of their room. Despite this, the De Vargas Hotel lived on. Instead of being known as the politicians' playground, the De Vargas picked up a new reputation as the working man's hotel. The accommodations were known as basic, "a bed and a sink and a bathroom down the hall." The De Vargas was where guests' "basic needs were met, so the guests were warm, dry and safe."
1986 Patricia and Goodwin Taylor, residents of Virginia, purchased a leasehold in the hotel from the Vigil and Armijo Families, remodeled and reopened the De Vargas Hotel as the Hotel St. Francis in 1986 with a decadent Victorian style. The old De Vargas Hotel had 98 guestrooms originally, but in order to create private bathrooms that were lacking in the original hotel, the guestroom count was reduced to 79. In addition, a new restaurant and bar replaced the original barber and beauty shops.
2008 Heritage Hotels and Resorts acquired the hotel in 2008 and purchased the leasehold. Heritage Hotels fully renovated the hotel to create a new experience for the hotel guests. The design inspiration comes from the patron saint of Santa Fe, St. Francis of Assisi. St. Francis was a wealthy nobleman raised in privilege, who chose to give up his life of luxury to follow the teachings of Christ. In 1209, he founded the Franciscan Order, which provided for a simple existence. The Franciscan missionaries significantly influenced the settlement of Santa Fe and northern New Mexico by bringing their religion, architecture, agriculture, artistry, and culinary expertise to the region.