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New Mexico - Route 66

El Rancho Hotel, Gallup

Joe Massaglia constructed the El Rancho Hotel in 1936 along U.S. Route 66 for Mr. R.E. “Griff” Griffith, brother of the famous movie director D.W. Griffith. El Rancho Hotel is a large, rambling, Rustic style building that still feeds the fantasy of the Old West in Gallup, New Mexico. Griff came to Gallup in the early 1930s and fell in love with the area, returning a few years later to build the hotel. From the very start, El Rancho was the center of the movie industry in Gallup. Both Griff and his brother encouraged moviemakers to use El Rancho as a base for crews and stars on location because of its proximity to striking western landscapes and the hotel’s rustic elegance. When it opened in 1936, the El Rancho boasted superior service and accommodations for roughing it in comfort. Its employees were trained by the famous Fred Harvey Company hotel and restaurant chain.

The El Rancho Hotel is built of brick, random ashlar stone, and roughhewn wood. Some of the brick areas consist of unusual and intentionally laid wavy brickwork that gives the hotel a rusticated fantasy appearance. The rambling hotel revolves around a central three-story building containing the main lobby and early rooms. It has a pitched wood shake roof with several brick and stone chimneys. The main entry has a large portico and a second floor balcony supported by six square wood posts with lathed and rounded tops. This section is reminiscent of the southern Plantation style.

The main entry leads into a square lobby with a crisscross balustrade balcony running around the perimeter at the second-story level. The ambiance of this room combines rusticated western grandeur with the feel of a hunting lodge. The lobby is furnished with heavy, carved, dark wood furniture and has Navajo rugs hanging from the balcony, deer head trophies hanging from the columns, and stamped tin lights. At the rear of the lobby is a spectacular walk-in fireplace cove made of brick and random ashlar stonework. On each side of the massive fireplace, wooden stairways wind their way up to the balcony, which encircles the first floor. The stairs are made of split logs, and the railings are of naturally bent, stripped, and polished tree limbs. Several rooftop patios are lined with photographs of scenes and movie stars from westerns filmed in Gallup.

El Rancho continued to be linked to Hollywood and the movie industry until the mid-1960s. Ronald Reagan, John Wayne, Katherine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Errol Flynn, Kirk Douglas, Gregory Peck, and Humphrey Bogart are only a few of the film stars who stayed at the hotel while making movies in the vicinity. By 1964, however, the lure of the western hero was fading, and brilliant Technicolor vistas were replacing dramatic, stark images in black and white. The mysterious West was no longer mysterious but readily available by automobile along Route 66 and the almost completed Interstate-40.

Armand Ortega, a well-known Indian trader, bought the hotel and restored it to its original luster. Today, the hotel is a popular stop for Route 66 travelers, who can stay in rooms named for movie stars who were guests before them. El Rancho was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1988 and received a Cost-Share Grant from the National Park Service Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program in 2003 for a new wood shingle roof.


The El Rancho Hotel is located at 1000 East 66 on the corner of Route 66 and Ford Dr. in Gallup, NM. When approaching from I-40, take exit 22 and turn south onto Ford Drive/Miyamura. The hotel has both overnight accommodations and a restaurant. For information, call the hotel at 505-863-9311, or visit the hotel's website.

Lodging in Gallup, NM

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