History of Lodging in Cloudcroft — The Lodge and The Texas House

by Arlan Ponder

The Lodge

The original Cloudcroft Lodge was built in 1899 with the billing that it would become “one of the greatest summer resorts in the West.” The dining and kitchen areas of the two-story structure faced Possum Avenue (now US Highway 82) and the front of the building faced Chipmunk Avenue at the end of Wren Place.

With a headline of “The Cloudcroft Lodge Gone Up In Smoke,” the June 19th, 1909, edition of the Cloudcroft Silver Lining announced the tragic news that the Lodge had succumb to fire.

“The fire was doubtlessly caused by a defective flue as there was a good fire in the fireplace up to midnight, being Saturday night and the guests having been assembled around the fire having a good time,” the story stated.

The overall feeling at the time was the fire was “the greatest loss Cloudcroft had ever experienced.” However by 1911, The Lodge was rebuilt at its current location on Corona Place and despite renovations and the addition of central heat and air, the facility has remained as it was when it entertained the likes of Judy Garland, Gilbert Roland, Clark Gable, Pancho Villa and most-recently Sam Donaldson and New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson.

In the 1930s the resort was managed by Conrad Hilton, who was born and raised in San Antonio, New Mexico. According to reports, Hilton was familiar with The Lodge and wanted to be closer to his family, while his own hotel chain slowly began its climb to prominence.

The Lodge’s 47 rooms are decorated with a unique Victorian flair with many antiques, as well as modern amenities to make the stay a truly “unique” one.

“This magnificent monument to a vanished age possesses a quality unlike any other mountain resort in the West,” Thomassie said. “The Lodge’s restaurant, named after its resident ghost, Rebecca, serves some of the finest Southwestern and continental cuisine.”

The Lodge also features seasonal activities including golf on one of the world’s tallest course at 9,000 feet, mountain biking or hiking on trails in the Lincoln National Forest and inner-tubing, cross-country skiing or snowmobiling when the snow permits.

In 1992, The Lodge was once again purchased by the Great Inns of the Rockies, Inc., a small privately held corporation that aspires to own and operate small resort hotels and country inns in the Rocky Mountain Region. The company previously owned The Lodge from 1986 to 1990, according to Thomassie.

For more information on The Lodge, call 1-800-395-6343 or visit their Web site at www.thelodgeresort.com.

The Texas Hotel

The two-story white building at the northeast corner of Burro Avenue and Mescalero Place is one of Cloudcroft’s oldest landmarks and is probably best known as “The Texas Hotel.”

Originally built in 1899 and known as “The Virginia,” the hotel was designed to compete for tourists who finished the trip to Cloudcroft from Toboggan Canyon by stage.

The first mention of the hotel in local newspapers was in May 1902 when reports indicated there were “extensive improvements and new buildings” being added. On May 28th, 1904, the Cloudcroft Silver Lining reported that Perry Kearney had purchased the hotel and planned even more renovations to make it “the best furnished and neatest in town.”

An ad for sale of the hotel was placed by Kearney in May 1906. It offered a main building with 18 rooms and two cottages — one with six rooms and one with four rooms — all on three lots. The asking price — $3,000 – half in cash and the balance on time.

The name was changed in 1911 from “Virginia” to “Texas” by then-owner Gustave and Anna Breckheimer of Marshall, Texas. At that time, one of the cottages was torn down for materials to build a house in Alamogordo and a second cottage burned down in 1915. Anna, or Annie as she was known, opened a small restaurant in the two-room cottage to the east of the hotel and arranged for his sister, Kate Smith, to operate it.

According to George Bernhardt, Smith’s grandson, there were 22 rooms in the main building and cottages with one bathroom and two toilets — one for women and one for men. Baths cost 25 cents and notice had to be given in advance for hot water.

Smith purchased the hotel from her sister in 1924 and operated it until she died in 1938 — just as the economy was starting to pull out of the Great Depression.

The present owner, Margaret Wall, purchased the property in 1982 and opened Mar & Mar Colliques. The second floor area was remodeled down to 12 rooms, but still retained the original skylight and hallway of the old hotel.

“On a clear day you can see about four different mountain ranges. You can see Sierra Blanca over that way and you can see the other mountains out that way,” Wall said as she finished-up “winterizing” one of the doors on the historic hotel. “I have the best view in the whole Village.”

Wall said she has closed her business after 20 years, but she still gets people who stop by and talk to her about the old hotel.

“I always have people stop by that tell me about their grandparents spending their honeymoon up here or how they spent a day or two here,” she said. “I even heard a story once from a lady that said she was born upstairs.”

Wall said there is a lot of history in the Village that some of the new residents don’t know. She also said she is excited to see the Village growing — some for the good and some she wasn’t sure about — but one thing is for sure lodging will continue to be important to the Village and its visitors for some time to come.

(c) 2003 The Mountain Monthly