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Burnham and Root Montezuma Hotel Drawings

Identifier: SWA-Montezuma Hotel

Scope and Content

The Montezuma Hotel Drawings Collection contains five originals, five negatives and five photocopies of drawings of the Montezuma Hotel by Burnham and Root Architects for the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Las Vegas (Hot Springs), New Mexico, 1881-1883. The set of drawings and its copies include: first story, second story, third floor, roof plan, and sewer plan.


  • 1881-1883

Language of Materials


Access Restrictions

The collection is open for research.

Copy Restrictions

Limited duplication of CSWR material is allowed for research purposes. User is responsible for compliance with all copyright, privacy, and libel laws. Permission is required for publication or distribution. Due to their fragile nature, the original set of drawings is not available for reproduction. Instead, patrons can utilize negatives of these historic drawings or refer to a complete set of photocopies.

Biographical Information

Daniel Burnham was born in Henderson, New York in 1846. He studied at the New Church School in Waltham, Massachusetts and received private tutoring. He worked for William Le Baron Jenney in his Chicago office for a short time. After several failed attempts in other businesses, he eventually joined the architectural firm of Carter, Drake and Wright. Burnham’s future partner, John Wellborn Root was born in Lumpkin, Georgia, and raised in Atlanta. When Union troops occupied Atlanta in 1864, Root went to Liverpool, England to study at the Clare Mount School. In 1866, he returned to the United States and in 1869 he graduated in civil engineering from New York University. For several years, he worked in a series of offices in both New York and Chicago.

Burnham and Root first met in 1872 in the Chicago offices of Carter, Drake, and Wright where both worked as draftsmen. In 1873 the two established a successful partnership. During their eighteen years together, Burnham and Root designed private houses for the Chicago elite, office buildings, apartment buildings, railroad stations, warehouses, schools, hospitals, and churches. Burnham managed the office and promoted sales while Root headed the design department. In addition to the Montezuma Hotel, they gained recognition by designing for the plan for the World’s Columbian Exposition (the Chicago World’s Fair) in 1891.Their buildings are known for their innovative structural components, detailed surface treatments, and the handling of interior and exterior volumes.

From 1881-1883, the Montezuma Hotel was designed and construction overseen by the architectural firm of Burnham and Root. Commissioned by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Re Railroad, the hotel could be accessed by train at the entrance to Gallinas Canyon. In close proximity to a set of natural hot springs, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad capitalized on this feature by piping mineral water directly into the hotel. The waters were praised for their curative powers, and the hotel soon became a draw for wealthy Easterners suffering from tuberculosis and other ailments. The hotel dining room, framed in stained glass windows and decorated by elaborate chandeliers, could accommodate five hundred guests. The resort attracted famous visitors, such as Emperor Hirohito and President Theodore Roosevelt. Constructed of shingles, wood and sandstone, it was the only hotel of its time to be lit entirely by electricity. Known for its medieval turrets and a tall, conical-shaped tower, the building is sometimes referred to as “Montezuma Castle." The hotel was built against a mountain, with two wings dedicated to guest rooms and quarters for staff. Despite its size, the building projected a rustic, almost residential feel.

The Montezuma Hotel has a difficult history. In 1884, it went up in flames, was rebuilt and was nearly burned to the ground again in 1885. Unfortunately, eight guests died in the fire. The hotel was rebuilt a third time and called “The Phoenix." Later, new owners restored the hotel to its original name. In 1903, the Montezuma Hotel closed and the building was used occasionally until 1922. At this point, the Baptist Church of New Mexico obtained possession and the building was reincarnated as Montezuma College. Plagued by financial problems, brought on by the Great Depression, the school closed its doors in 1931. The building again stood vacant for several years, until the Catholic Church purchased it in 1936. At this time, the Jesuits assumed residency and the hotel became a seminary, where young men were trained for the priesthood until 1972. The building then sat empty for a decade and was subject to vandalism and decay. However, the Jesuits made a little money renting the building out as a set for the low budget horror movie The Evil in 1978.

In 1981, the Montezuma was purchased by industrialist and philanthropist Armand Hammer for use as a United World College. In 1997, it was placed on the list of America’s Most Endangered Places by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. In 2000 and 2001, the school invested over ten million dollars restoring the building, and it has won awards as one of the great historical restorations in the United States. It is also the first historic property west of the Mississippi to be designated one of "America's Treasures" by the White House Millennium Council. While many of the building’s magnificent interior and exterior details were restored, modern touches were added, including two eight-foot glass sculptures designed specifically for the hotel’s enormous dining room by artist Dale Chihuly. Today, the United World College offers free tours of the building.


3 folders (.20 linear ft.)


This collection is composed of five original architectural drawings, negatives and photographic copies that detail plans for the original Montezuma Hotel, located in (Hot Springs) Las Vegas, New Mexico.

Related Archival Material

Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company Architectural Drawings, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico Libraries

Processing Information

Original drawings are encapsulated in archival sleeves.
Finding Aid of the Burnham and Root Montezuma Hotel Drawings, 1881-1883
Audra Bellmore and Jane Sinclair
© 2009
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Revision Statements

  • Monday, 20210524: Attribute normal is missing or blank.

Repository Details

Part of the UNM Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections Repository

University of New Mexico Center for Southwest Research & Special Collections
University Libraries, MSC05 3020
1 University of New Mexico
Albuquerque NM 87131