LAMY — The third time is the third charm for Allan Affeldt, who has a thing for historic railroad outposts pioneered by Fred Harvey in Arizona and New Mexico.
His third effort is restoring and reopening the Legal Tender Saloon & Eating House in Lamy, following similar projects in Winslow, Ariz., and Las Vegas, N.M.
Legal Tender, across the street from the Amtrak station that serves Santa Fe, reopened Aug. 31, and for now, is open for dinner Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
Affeldt made a name for himself in the 1990s in Winslow, where he restored and reopened the 1930 La Posada railroad hotel that has become a favorite subject for travel writers. He followed that with renovations in Las Vegas, N.M., of the circa-1898 Castañeda railroad hotel and the 1882 Plaza Hotel.
He acquired the 70-room Plaza in receivership in 2014 and kept rooms open as he fully renovated rooms and the Range Cafe.
Acquisition of the Castañeda followed in 2017, and he reopened the 20-room hotel and a lounge in April. The fine-dining Kin restaurant under executive chef Sean Sinclair, who previously helmed the kitchen at Luminaria in Santa Fe, will open for a day Oct. 27 as part of Fred Harvey History Weekend. The restaurant won’t officially open until spring.
Affeldt is adding his Lamy and Las Vegas properties to the Museum of New Mexico Foundation’s 10th anniversary Fred Harvey History Weekend Oct. 25-28.
His railroad project in Lamy came about in 2018 when the Lamy Railroad & History Museum called Affeldt. He had gotten to know the museum owners in 2017 when he bought a railroad car from them and moved it to Winslow.
The Lamy Railroad & History Museum board wanted to dissolve the museum and transferred ownership of the Legal Tender building and Pullman dining car across the street to Affeldt’s Winslow Arts Trust at no cost in July 2018. The museum had owned the property since 2006.
Affeldt plans to attach the Pullman car to the west end of the Legal Tender and create yet another dining area for the restaurant.
Affeldt and Legal Tender co-owner Murphy O’Brien, who also owns Cafe Fina, created several dining areas, all evoking the 1880s. There’s the smallish front room with historic gold and red flooring that was scrubbed to newness.
The main dining room includes a player piano that can also be played by hand. At the far end of the dining room is a nook with a single large table that Affeldt sees as a chef’s table. At the far end of the the bar is the former, undoubtedly smoke-filled, El Capitan poker room that now has three six-seat dining tables.
A room off to the side with a pressed tin ceiling that used to have a model railroad now is another dining room that will eventually lead into the Pullman car dining room.
Legal Tender upgrades come with something old, something new, something borrowed and something blue.
The blue-and-white exterior color scheme is courtesy of the 2017 movie Only the Brave that filmed there.
Some of the tables, chairs and wall art came with the building. Quite a few of the tables and chairs, including all the bar stools, were acquired from the Palace Restaurant & Saloon, the downtown Santa Fe establishment that closed in December.
Some art was provided by residents in the region. The kitchen was already outfitted, but Affeldt installed three new walk-in coolers and other equipment.
Unlike La Posada, the Plaza and the Castañeda, which were each multimillion-dollar projects, the Legal Tender’s costliest expense was the $500,000 liquor license, Affeldt said.
“It was in pretty good shape,” he added.
A lot of labor was done by Affeldt and O’Brien and their staffs.
Affeldt eventually hopes O’Brien and his nephew, Rory O’Brien, expand to breakfast, lunch and dinner seven days a week.
What is known as Legal Tender today was built as the Pflueger General Merchandise Store in 1881 with the Annex Saloon added to the east end in 1884. The building became the Pink Garter Saloon in the 1930s and got its Legal Tender name in 1969, according to the Lamy Railroad and History Museum.
The prior Legal Tender closed in 1998. The Lamy Railroad and History Museum opened in 2006, and museum volunteers did run a part-time restaurant for a while.
“What is so interesting is the authenticity of Lamy,” Affeldt said. “This is 1888. If you want an authentic Victorian experience, you come to Lamy.”