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First News Winter 2010

The Colorful History of the St. James Hotel

Grand Hotel On the Santa Fe Trail
The saga of the St. James Hotel began in Washington D.C. with the arrival of a Frenchman whose life became intertwined with the people, and a place that became known as the Village of Cimarron, New Mexico. Situated on the Santa Fe Trail, Cimarron's location attracted a variety of colorful characters in the old West. From lawmen to outlaws and everyone in between, the fine food and atmosphere at the original St. James Hotel attracted them all.

Who was this Frenchman?
   A chef, Henri Lambert, loved to prepare great food. His reputation grew until he became the personal chef of President Abraham Lincoln. After Lincoln's death in 1865, Henri Lambert and his wife Mary traveled west and settled in northeastern New Mexico. Initially the Lamberts made their home in Elizabethtown, a rough mining community northwest of Cimarron. Henri Lambert tried mining but soon returned to his real profession as a chef. The gold ore began to play out and by 1871 houses and mines began to disappear in Elizabethtown. Prominent men in Cimarron enticed the Lamberts to move their business.

Wild and Unruly Cimarron
   "Cimarron" is Spanish for wild or unruly and the Village of Cimarron lived up to that description. There was little if any law enforcement. Arguments were settled with bullets and in many instances justice was a result of vigilantes. This is where the Lamberts opened their saloon in 1872. Drinking, gambling and guns usually resulted in violence and death. "Lambert's place," as the saloon became known, was no exception. An overly happy cowboy might shoot his gun off or a fight would break out then bullets would fly. The lives of 26 people ended this way, and there are hundreds of holes in the ceiling of the bar, too. Talk around town after a busy night usually began with, "Wonder who got killed at Lambert's place this weekend?" In spite of this, Henri and Mary Lambert's business thrived. Hotel rooms were added and it became one of the finest establishments in the West.

Colorful Guests of the Hotel
   A kaleidoscope of colorful characters, from the famous to the infamous, frequented the saloon and stayed in the hotel. The Earp brothers and their wives stopped there on their way to Tombstone. Buffalo Bill Cody met Annie Oakley while staying at the St. James. "Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show" was created with Annie Oakley as one of its stars. Lew Wallace, former Governor of New Mexico, wrote part of his novel Ben Hur during his visits to this area. Author Zane Grey began writing his novel Fighting Caravans while staying in Room 22. Outlaws such as Jesse James and Black Jack Ketchum rested in the hotel. Wander around the downstairs area of the St. James and look at the old photos to learn more about the guests of yesteryear.

Some Believe the St. James is Haunted
   Now, many of the lesser-known characters from years past make their presence known to current guests and employees of the hotel. Imagine hearing giggling children running down the hall when there are none in the hotel, or smell the scent of rose perfume - so strong you can barely stand it. But no one is there. Employees who set up a dining table have even returned to find all the silverware piled in the middle. You may see a cowboy looking back at you from a mirror, who is a ghost with his own private room in the hotel. No one knows for sure why they are here but respect their right to "be" at the St. James!

   Come and enjoy the St. James Hotel. Just like Henri Lambert, we take pride in the food we serve guests. Menu selections vary from juicy steaks to excellent trout. While enjoying the bar, look up to see the bullet holes and imagine .

St. James Hotel
17th & Collinson
Cimarron, NM 87714
(575) 376-2664


Newsletter photography by Michael Babnick Photography

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