How the West Was Fed: A Tale of Fred Harvey and His Girls


Fred Harvey

Will Rogers described Fred Harvey as the man that “kept the West in food…and wives.” Fred Harvey pioneered many of the innovative approaches to food service, hospitality, and of the Southwest style in both jewelry and architecture.

Fred Harvey Lunchroom, Santa Fe Hotel - Canadian, TX

Fred Harvey Lunchroom, Santa Fe Hotel – Canadia, TX


Scene from The Harvey Girls Film

As a young freight broker, Fred was appalled at the lack of any coordinated approach, inconsistency of service and food quality available to rail passengers. Partnering with the country’s biggest railroad company, the AT & SF, Fred Harvey began first building restaurants and then hotels along the RR route from Chicago to Los Angeles, bringing at the time “ New York and London” quality food to the West. The greatest challenge was to serve excellent meals that could be enjoyed in 20 minutes or less – the allocated time for dining stops.

Fred Harvey’s commitment to excellence and a standard of quality and service set the tone for the changes the Railroad would bring to this new and growing part of our country. The opening of the Raton, NM pass to rail traffic in 1879, heralded the beginning of the end of the Old Santa Fe Trail, and this new mode of transportation, stretching all the way to the Pacific, required the creation of the first chain of restaurants, and then hotels. Standardization, so necessary then, later sadly grew into rampant American led, world-wide “white bread” commercialism. But then, understandably, everything had to be done the “Fred Harvey way,” which assured excellence and predictability to the diners heading west. This was how Fred Harvey fed the West.

The Harvey Girls, Starring Judy Garland

The Harvey Girls, Starring Judy Garland

And how to keep the restaurant service consistent? Fred Harvey created a service army of honest, skilled, educated and attractive women – quickly dubbed “The Harvey Girls,” and from the 1880s until the end of the 1940s, the Harvey Girls totaled 20,000 young ladies spread out along the Western railroad stops. Here were the brides-to-be for the ranchers, merchants and entrepreneurs that grew this country. And to assure a definitive style and architectural excellence, Fred Harvey brilliantly employed the great architect Mary Coulter to design his beautiful hotels…from Las Vegas, NM to Santa Fe, to Albuquerque and on past the Grand Canyon. Mary Coulter is credited with creating what would become the world recognized “Santa Fe Style.” And finally, from simple counter sales in Gallup, NM, Fred Harvey brought together the Indian jewelers with their one-of-a-kind handicrafts, potters and weavers – orchestrating and coordinating their efforts into a look that became, like everything else Fred Harvey, a distinctive style that would lead the way for the future successful refinement and commercialization of Southwestern arts and crafts that we know so well today.

Judy Garland, The Harvey Girls

Judy Garland, The Harvey Girls

So, within a score of years, what began as an idea brought on by Fred Harvey’s distaste of bland and inconsistent railroad fare, turned into the first chain of restaurants, hotels and gift shops in the West. Today, “Fredheads” keep his legacy alive, honoring a man whose vision literally changed the West for the better in everything he touched.

Presently, the New Mexico History Museum has a “must see” show on display commemorating the great visionary and his Harvey Girls. And if you wish to delve more into this historical time, watch The Harvey Girls, a 1946 musical film starring Judy Garland about the opening of a “Harvey House” at a remote whistle stop to provide good food and company to railway travelers.

Continuing the tradition of excellent gourmet fare and the high service standards that Fred Harvey began, the Agoyo Lounge and the accommodations of the Inn on the Alameda, are an enduring salute to this nostalgic time.


Inn on the Alameda, That Enchanting Small Hotel in Old Santa Fe, proudly presents all historical blog posts written by Joe & Michael Schepps. Read about the authors here.



Canby (Left); Sibley (Right) - sourced from The Library of Congress

Canby (Left); Sibley (Right) – sourced from The Library of Congress

Sibley reached Santa Fe on March 13, 1862 (having set out from Texas on February 23, but not before the Union had destroyed the town’s supplies).  The Confederate’s New Mexico campaign that was meant to rely on speed and captured provisions was finding itself bogged down and low on supplies.

Sibley and his forces were now caught between Canby in the south and fresh Union reinforcements to the north.

Taking the offensive, Sibley went out from Santa Fe to attack the Union forces in a fierce battle. Unfortunately for Old Dixie, the Confederates had left behind their remaining military provisions for safekeeping.

Alvin Jewett Johnson's map of Texas and a portion of NM at the height of the Civil War

Alvin Jewett Johnson’s map of Texas and a portion of NM at the height of the Civil War

Following a small skirmish on March 26, both sides waited for reinforcements to arrive and they joined in battle once again on the 28th.  Fierce fighting and aggressive maneuvering led the Confederate forces to advance further than expected.  The Confederates took the Union positions in heavy fighting.  Thankfully for the Yankees, a New Mexican scout by the name of Anastasio Duran led a small force of scouts behind Confederate lines. While the larger battle was taking place, Duran discovered the Confederate supply train. Returning to the Union lines with the news, US troops led by Duran, attacked the Rebel supply train.

It was this attack that turned the tide of battle. 

The supplies were captured with little resistance.  Eighty wagons, loaded with provisions and ammunition with which the Rebels still intended to fuel their campaign, were looted then sent ablaze.  The auxiliary artillery was spiked and over 500 of the Confederate horses and mules were either killed or driven off.  Alerted by the smoke of the burning wagon train, the Confederates were forced to return to Santa Fe. The loss of these supplies and material would prove devastating to the Confederates.  Sibley pulled the remaining troops back to Albuquerque, in the hopes of reinforcements arriving from Texas.

Image of Glorieta Pass taken in 1990 by a National Park Service employee

Image of Glorieta Pass taken in 1990 by a National Park Service employee

By mid-April the Union forces had begun to converge and Sibley decided to retreat.

Confederate control of the northern part of New Mexico had lasted a mere two months.  Union soldiers were dispatched throughout the New Mexico territory and the New Mexico Campaign and the Confederate attempt on the West came to an end. A simple accounting of the Battle of Glorieta Pass belies its importance in the American Civil War.  By closing the door to the West and halting the Confederate advance, The United States was able to concentrate on the war in the South and East, while the rich resources of the Western Territories helped bankroll the delayed, yet successful victory 3 years later.

Many civil war elements remain in Santa Fe today.  The New Mexico History Museum is a few minutes’ walk from the Inn and provides many resources to assist in understanding the campaign.  Glorieta Pass is only 40 minutes from the Inn along a scenic drive, and the battlefield includes an interpretative center as well as a bounty of historical information. 


Joe’s Blog: Kite Flying Styles, The American Science and the Japanese Artistic

Insect Kite from Museum of New MexicoMost of us think of Benjamin Franklin when we think of the first kites. His famous experiment in 1752 “discovered” electricity by capturing negative charges from static electricity passing overhead while he flew a kite with a metal key attached. Mr. Franklin was one of our country’s greatest minds, creating everything from the first public library and volunteer fire department, to drafting the original constitution of the United States. But like many Western minds, his proficiency was foremost in the sciences, so when he thought kite, he thought scientific experiment.

The Japanese, however, thought art and beauty as well when they thought kites, and the current exhibit at the Museum of International Folk Art Museum here in Santa Fe  traces the exquisite history of kite making in Japan. The Inn on the Alameda is delighted to offer a special 3-night package in partnership with the Museum in honor of this exhibit.

It is believed that the kite was originally introduced to Japan by Chinese Buddhist Monks in the 7th and 8th Century AD. These kites were used in celebrations of giving thanks and other spiritual expressions. One can imagine the excitement among the early Japanese who saw for the first time elaborately colored creations that soared seemingly effortlessly in the wind.

Tsugaru Style Kite from Museum of New Mexico in Santa Fe 2In the 10th Century AD, the characters for “Kami Tobi” first appear in written Japanese history, and these translate into paper hawk – which leads us to speculate that either the first kites looked like or certainly sailed through the air like birds of prey.  While primarily a decorative and visual experience, kites soon were adapted in Japan as construction tools, used to raise loads of roof tiles high aloft to the workers at the many beautiful shrines and temples. It is recorded that one of the largest kites had a wingspan of 75 feet.

By the 12th century, reports emerge of kites carrying people, one such incident resulting in the violent death at the hands of the authorities of a thief who used a large kite to steal the golden scales of an ornamental dolphin high atop the Castle of Nagoya. Another story tells of an exiled Warrior named Minamotot-no-Tametomo  who constructed a large kite to use the winds to carry him and his son back to the mainland.

However, the greatest period of advancement in the design and decoration of Japanese kites occurred in the Edon period from 1603 until 1867, a time when Japan closed its doors to all outside influences. This isolation created an opportunity for Japan to perfect its own interpretation of the kite, when there were created over 130 different regional styles, representing various colorful folkloric, mythological and spiritual themes. The kites were made with light-weight bamboo or cypress woods and covered in hand made papers brightly colored with natural dies and figures defined by black ink.

Today, many festivals celebrate the kite in Japan. On the 5th day of the 5th month,  ( Boy’s Day ), kites are flown throughout the country , as well as for various festivals, the New Year and public holidays. Some kites have the face of the devil to ward off evil spirits. The kite festival known as Hamamatsu, where kite teams do battle in the skies, is viewed by as many as 2,000,000 spectators. Kites are also flown at times of birth, with various good luck symbols purporting good wishes and desired traits to the newborn in a family. These include the carp, the crane and the tortoise.

Tsugaru Style Kite from Museum of New Mexico in Santa FeTherefore, it would seem impossible to not sail over to Museum Hill here in Santa Fe to experience this unique and special exhibit of Japanese kites currently on display at the Museum of International Folk Art. This unique and stunning show lasts through July 2014 and is not to be missed. In addition to our special Tako Kichi package offering, the Inn on the Alameda provides a courtesy shuttle service to the Folk Art Museum for our guests.  We are the closest hotel to both Canyon Road and Museum Hill where the following incredible museums are to be found just up the road: Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian; Museum of Indian Arts and Culture; Museum of Spanish Colonial Art, Museum of International Folk Art. Also, if time allows, be sure and visit the new Santa Fe Botanical Garden, also located at Museum Hill.

In closing I wanted to share some of my own memories of kite flying as a kid on blustery spring days in North Texas, watching my simple store bought wood and paper kite ascending with roll after roll of twine into the warm and windy skies of Dallas.  I certainly never envisioned for a second the images of Chinese Buddhists or Japanese artisans raising high the kites of the Far East; however, I believe I shared that same mysterious magic moment when the tiny spec of my kite disappeared into the clouds following a break of the twine when I could imagine my kite ascending all the way to the heavens like a hawk set free.

From all of us at the Inn on the Alameda, “Go fly a kite!”


Joe Schepps

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage in Santa Fe

Take a renowned portrait photographer, give her the time and opportunity to shoot some iconic artifacts and unique locations, and you end up with portraiture by proxy. The artist herself says it best: “It’s a big country out there. Go ahead, hit the road and find places and things that inspire and mean something to you.”  How fortunate that Santa Fe has some wonderful results of this advice on display!

An exhibition entitled Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage has just opened at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, and it is so worth a visit. The promotion of great women artists has always been part of  the O’Keeffe’s mission, and Ms. Leibovitz was honored in 2010 as one of the Museum’s Women of Distinction. She has returned to the City Different with over 70 works, in an exhibit organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum and sponsored in Santa Fe by a grant from The Burnett Foundation.


Self Portrait © Annie Leibovitz

The exhibit is evocative and unexpected in equal measures. If you follow the curator’s path, you’ll start with a photo of a snake skeleton embedded in a banco at Georgia O’Keeffe’s home and end with an aerial view of Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, both representations of a Celtic symbol believed to represent travel from the inner life to the outer soul or higher spirit forms.

The sense of a spiritual journey runs through the whole show, from the places and objects Leibovitz chose to shoot right through to the subtext the viewer intuits from the resulting images. A picture of the worn compass that Thomas Jefferson gave to the Lewis and Clark expedition is positioned across from an amusing shot of a small model of the Lincoln Monument perched alongside the giant foot of the monument itself. John Muir’s notebooks and Charles Darwin’s skeleton of a pigeon shine a light on a few of the curiosities that attract the scientific mind.

John Muir's Notebook, Annie Leibovitz, courtesy of the artist

Annie Leibovitz, John Muir botanical specimen, John Muir National Historic Site, Martinez, California, 2011. © Annie Leibovitz. From “Pilgrimage” (Random House, 2011)

Notable women of history receive their due, with a panorama of a evening gown worn by opera singer, Marian Anderson, placed near a photo of Emily Dickinson’s simple white dress. Eleanor Roosevelt’s quiet domicile, Val-Kill, is full of the furniture she had manufactured. The desk of Virginia Woolf is swept clean, in contrast to the quote from her husband that she was “not merely untidy, but squalid.” In a nod to the artistic feminist past, 19th century photographer Julia Margaret Cameron (who, interestingly, was Virginia Woolf’s great-aunt) is represented by a piece depicting the garden door through which her famous neighbor, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, was able to visit in secrecy (nothing shady, just avoiding his many fans). Both the hard and the soft sides of the famed sharp-shooter, Annie Oakley, are revealed by a bullet hole in the center of a heart.

There are artifacts and architecture of all kinds highlighting other artists, from Martha Graham’s iron gates juxtaposed with Isamu Noguchi’s props to Pete Seeger’s incredibly crowded home workshop to Ansel Adams’ glowing red darkroom. You can turn 180 degrees from a rumination on Sigmund Freud’s couch and see the Graceland graves of Elvis Presley’s family. Bet Freud would have a field day with that!

01_CR0837 (800x428)

Georgia O’Keeffe, Purple Hills Ghost Ranch-2 / Purple Hills No II, 1934. Oil on canvas affixed to Masonite, 16 1/4 x 30 1/4 in. Georgia O’Keeffe Museum. Gift of The Burnett Foundation © Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Of course, the visionary Georgia O’Keeffe herself is acknowledged through photos of her house, her studio daybed and her pastels. And you should definitely allow enough time to head back through the Museum to see Georgia O’Keeffe and and the Faraway: Nature and Image, which will be on display through May 5, 2013.

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage will be on exhibit at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum through May 5, 2013. This is a pictorial journey worth taking!





Annie Leibovitz in Santa Fe at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum

Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage at the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum February 15-May 5, 2013

Self-Portrait, copyright, Annie Leibovitz

Self-Portrait, copyright, Annie Leibovitz

Since its inception, the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum has had as part of its mission the celebration of women artists. And this year, Santa Fe is in for a treat, as the Museum brings us “Annie Leibovitz: Pilgrimage,” an exhibition organized by the Smithsonian American Art Museum. The exhibit is comprised of photographs made between April 2009 and May 2011 and tours nationally to 8 different museums.

This renowned photographer has turned her talents towards subjects quite removed from the portraits for which she is so well-known. The work in this new exhibit is based purely on the artist being emotionally or intellectually moved by the subject. Over the course of two separate trips to New Mexico, Ms. Leibovitz captured images of O’Keeffe’s Abiquiu home, the stunning landscape at Ghost Ranch and its environs, and in the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum vault itself.

And there’s an extra special event in conjunction with this exciting exhibit! Ms. Leibovitz will be speaking about her work on Tuesday, February 12, 2012 at 6:00 p.m. at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in downtown Santa Fe. Tickets will be available at

The Georgia O’Keeffe Museum is located at 217 Johnson Street in Santa Fe, NM.

A Santa Fe Christmas!

We’re thinking holidays, how about you? Planning to travel to New Mexico in December? We are happy to offer some suggestions to make your Santa Fe holiday travel bright!

Here at the Inn on the Alameda, we welcome the arrival of the winter holiday season by lighting the Chanukah candles on Saturday, December 8 after sunset.

Happy Chanukah!

On Sunday, December 9, beginning at 3:00pm, Chabad Santa Fe invites everyone to attend a free Chanukah event on the Santa Fe Plaza, with a Community Menorah Lighting followed by a concert, featuring Jono Manson. And the Inn is also delighted to welcome any of our guests to light the candles in our Lobby on any of the eight nights of Chanukah.

Also on December 9, the annual holiday tradition of Las Posadas, a re-eanctment of the Holy Family’s search for shelter, takes place beginning at 5:30pm on the Plaza. This procession begins at the Palace pf the Governors and processes around the Plaza, and all are welcome to join. The devil makes an appearance to taunt the crowd, and booing ensues until an angel appears with a light sending blessings on those assembled. The walk concludes back at the Palace of the Governors, where biscochitos and hot cider are on tap.

Warming Up after Las Posadas

Thanks to the many wonderful museum gift shops and unique boutiques, Santa Fe has great options for picking up a  holiday gift that cannot be duplicated. Each museum shop’s selection is curated around the individual museum’s mission, so you can find Native American treasures, Spanish heritage gifts, and folk art oddities. The Plaza area is a mecca for cowboy boots, souvenir potholders, velvet skirts, and of course, jewelry.  And don’t worry, guys, there’s a cigar shop if you need to escape !

Case Trading Post at the Wheelwright Museum

Holiday music will be resounding through the City Different, known for its commitment to the musical performance. The Lensic has a roster of lyrical events to pick and choose from. Aaron Neville brings his sweet voice to Santa Fe with a Christmas concert on Monday, December 10 at 7:30pm. The Santa Fe Symphony and Chorus celebrates its birthday in music on Sunday, December 16 at 4:00pm. On Monday, December 17, the Santa Fe Concert Band, led by the inestimable Greg Heltman, offers its annual free concert at 7:00pm; this is your chance to carol! On December 24, at 5:00pm, the Santa Fe Concert Association welcomes an 11-year-old virtuoso pianist and composer, Emily Bear, to perform a Christmas Eve concert, also at the Lensic.  And the musical year ends on New Year’s Eve with a performance by the Harlem String Quartet at 5:00pm.

Of course, the Lensic is not our only venue! Santa Fe Pro Musica will be ensconced in the Loretto Chapel for two performances nightly at 6:00pm and 8:00pm from Thursday, December 20 through Monday, December 24, presenting their annual Baroque Christmas Concert. On Saturday, December 29 at 6:00pm and Sunday, December 30 at 3:00pm, Pro Musica offers a Mozart Holiday Concert at the St. Francis Auditorium.

Our Beautiful Cathedral is Perfect for Carols

On December 14, 18, 20, 21 & 22, at 8:00pm, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale presents a concert of Carols and Lullabies in the perfect location for such music, the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis. And on Sunday, December 15, the Chorale welcomes any and all to The Big Sing, a performance guaranteed to be the largest choir singing in New Mexico, taking place at 3:00pm at Cristo Rey Church. Not to be outdone, the 12-voice Santa Fe Women’s Ensemble performs A Winter Festival of Song on Saturday, December 14 at 7:00pm at the Loretto Chapel and Sunday, December 15 at 3:00pm at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Chapel.

If you are staying in Santa Fe over the winter holidays, it’s a very good idea to have dinner reservations, and our concierge-trained staff is happy to recommend and reserve for you. We are here to answer all of your holiday questions, whether you are staying with us or not…just ask!