Value Score No Data
Good For Families
Where the West was won (well, fought over!)
As soon as I read about the St James Hotel, I knew I wanted to stay here, and indeed one of our main reasons for including this corner of New Mexico in our route was in order to do so. The hotel boasts an incredible history for anyone who has ever been even slightly excited by tales of the Wild West. If you grew up watching cowboy films, whether old John Wayne Westerns or, like me, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, you will be fascinated by the real-life events that took place here at the St James.
It was opened by a French chef, Henri Lambert, in 1872, and soon became the place to stay in Cimarron. Given the nature of the town, it is unsurprising that many of its guests were famous or even notorious. The Earp brothers and their wives stopped here on their way to Tombstone. Buffalo Bill Cody was a friend of the Lamberts and stayed here often, as did Annie Oakley. Author Zane Grey began writing his novel Fighting Caravans while visiting the hotel, and various outlaws, including Jesse James, Billy the Kid and Black Jack Ketchum, also stayed here.
Cimarron was a wild place in those days, and fights at "Lambert's place", as the saloon became known, were commonplace. Everyone carried a gun, and wasn’t slow to use it. The ceiling of the bar is pockmarked with bullet holes, bearing testament to the 26 people killed here during those fights.
The hotel offers a choice of historic rooms in the main building or more modern ones in the adjacent annexe. My choice would have been for the former, but Chris (less enamoured of history than I am) opted for the creature comforts and lower prices of the latter, and on this (rare!) occasion, his choice won out. Our room was large, with a king-size bed and all mod cons. What it lacked in atmosphere it gained on size and price – in fact it was the bargain of the trip! When I’d called some weeks before to reserve a room (there are no online reservations) I was told it would be $80 plus tax, but on arrival we were informed that there was an off season deal for mid-week reservations and it would cost only half that!
Unique Quality: We did get a chance to see a few of the historic rooms, as on the ground floor of the main building the corridor is lined with old photos and framed press clippings, and you can also view any unoccupied rooms – my fourth photo shows one of these. In my eyes it looks lovely – but Chris was keen to point out the much smaller size of both room and bed ;-)
Whether staying in the main building or the annexe, you can of course experience the historic atmosphere of the public rooms – lobby, dining room and bar. Please see my Restaurant tip for information about the latter two, and photo two for an image of the impressive lobby.
Directions: A couple of blocks south of Highway 64, and well-signposted (although note that if you're driving east the large sign is just beyond the turning – if you reach the Visitor Centre you’ve passed it)
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