The secret of Colter's architecture, Allan Affeldt says as we walk through La Posada's lobby, "is that she's a great storyteller." Colter envisioned La Posada as a grand hacienda. Passengers would step from Santa Fe railcars into a world of aristocratic luxuries ― lavish gardens, hidden courtyards, antiques-filled public rooms.
It was a potent dream, but ill-timed. The hotel opened as the Great Depression began and the era of cross-country train travel was ending. La Posada never flourished; by the 1960s, the Santa Fe Railway had turned it into corporate offices, and by the 1990s it was set for the wrecking ball.
Then Affeldt and Mion heard about it. She was a painter, he a University of California, Irvine, graduate student and social activist. But when they learned that a Mary Colter building would be demolished if someone didn't buy it, they drove to Winslow to visit, and were hooked.
"Allan and I were the only people here for the first year," Mion recalls. "It was surreal." Winslow, while pleased La Posada might be preserved, doubted its future as a hotel. "We told people we'd be renting rooms for $100," Mion recalls. "They said, 'You mean $100 for a week?' " Still, the couple persevered, applying for grants, taking out loans, restoring La Posada room by room. Mion began painting larger canvases, she says, "to fill up the space on the walls."