Founded in 1975 by the Kirkpatrick family, the Inn and Spa at Loretto sits on the former site of the historic Our Lady of Loretto Academy and is adjacent to the famed Loretto Chapel featuring the miraculous staircase. Now one of the most photographed buildings in the state, the Inn is a Santa Fe icon and testament to the city's modern history. From its beginnings as a unique adobe style Best Western to the property it is today, the Inn remains true to its roots - imparting casual sophistication with sincere Southwest hospitality and authentic Santa Fe style.
By 1968 the Loretto Academy was a collection of old, dilapidated buildings that had not seen love in decades. The Sisters did their best to maintain the school and Chapel, but with limited funds and virtually no support from the Archdioceses they were unable to keep up the maintenance on the buildings and were eventually forced to sell the property and merge with St. Michael's High School. Left to crumble on a premier lot in the heart of downtown Santa Fe, the campus remained untouched and unwanted.
Following a lead from a prominent real estate friend who had seen the property during a visit to New Mexico in 1970, oldest brother Jim Kirkpatrick promptly flew to Santa Fe and was instantly enchanted. Immediately after his visit Kirkpatrick began market analysis in July of 1970 and on February 1, 1971 he became the proud owner of the 4.5 acre lot. He had a vision to establish a new hotel in Santa Fe, which at the time had very few accommodations. With a burgeoning tourism industry and creative culture reinvigorating Santa Fe, the timing was just right for a new era of travelers coming to discover the history and authentic culture of the southwest.
Kirkpatrick enlisted the expertise of architect Herald Stewart. The original plans for the property encompassed 200 rooms housed in one monolithic adobe tower – a much grander and more costly plan that the humble four story Pueblo style building that was eventually built. Multiple design proposals were created and in true Santa Fe fashion a committee was established to review and approve the building plans. Historic preservationist and renowned architect John Gaw Meem, as well as architect William Lumpkin both sat on the board. When Stewart presented the final plans for Inn to the committee Gaw Meem praised his vision stating “I could kiss you! Finally someone gets my vision.” Herald was applauded by the committee for creating one of the first commercial buildings in Santa Fe to adopt the Pueblo Revival Style that Gaw Meem had spearheaded. The Inn immediately became a city icon representing what modern Santa Feans deemed “Santa Fe Style.” Today, the Inn stands as a landmark hotel welcoming guests from all over the world in search of creating their own authentic memories of the City Different.
As Kirkpatrick set out to create a masterpiece, one building was so special that they, along with architect Herald Stewart, felt it deserved special attention and recognition - the abandoned and crumbling Loretto Chapel. The Archdioceses had no need for it and no desire to fund the ongoing, and costly maintenance. The city of Santa Fe turned it down as well. But Kirkpatrick and Stewart fell in love with the small ornate church and set out on a mission to preserve its legacy. The team restored the Gothic style chapel and opened it as a historic landmark and museum in 1975. Today the Chapel, which features the miraculous staircase, is one of the most visited historic sites in New Mexico. Visitors are invited to tour the building daily, and non-Roman Catholic mass is held there each Sunday.
During the initial construction phase a fire broke out destroying all but two of the buildings; only the Chapel and the opportunity school were spared. The hotel was completed and opened in October 1975, boasting only four stories, a 24-hour diner, bar and pool. The opportunity school building was converted to retail space serving patrons of the hotel, as well as locals and walker buyers via West Alameda Street. As a quaint hotel that embodied the spirit and culture of the region, details like traditional ancient Mimbres symbols where painted on the interior walls by local artists, sconces and chandeliers in the common areas were commissioned with careful attention to detail, and traditional Vigas and Latias lined the hallways. Everything one would expect from a Santa Fe Style Inn was included with sheer perfection. Architect Herald Stewart oversaw the exterior and interior design to ensure no detail was forgotten. Much of the original design is still present today. Even in times of expansion the Inn has always maintained its connection to the cultures of New Mexico’s ancient peoples.
Jim Kirkpatrick’s brother Charles and sister-in-law June were onsite to oversee the construction project and open the hotel. In the early 1980’s Jim and his family relocated from Tulsa, OK, to Santa Fe and assumed operations of the property. The fifth story, which now houses the Inn’s Penthouse and 3 suites, was added at this time as the living quarters for the Kirkpatrick family. Maggie and Ben Kirkpatrick, two of the siblings, recall many memories of not only growing up on property – but also running it. As Maggie recalls, “It really was a family owned and operated hotel. We worked in housekeeping, the restaurant, front desk. You name it, we worked it. We were young and really didn’t have much experience. It was literally on the job training.”
In 2009. the interior was updated by the renowned international design team Zimmerman and Associates. Every detail within the hotel was masterfully crafted to reflect the culture and sophistication of Santa Fe - paying homage once again to the ancient Pueblo peoples of New Mexico.
Many team members have worked at the hotel for over 25 years, and a few have been with the property from the beginning. The Kirkpatrick family still owns and operates the adjacent Loretto Chapel – a must see for anyone visiting Santa Fe. They patronize the hotel and remain important partners of the property. The family can frequently be seen around the hotel, and are always are always willing to stop and share their stories about the iconic Inn and Spa at Loretto.