ENTER THE HOTEL ANDALUZ'S LOBBY, in downtown Albuquerque, and the “Middle Casbah,” an alcove seating area, just might invite you to lounge a bit while sipping a cocktail near its fish-tank table. But step outside the entrance and the floor dips away from your foot.
“Guests are always telling us the floor’s uneven and we need to get it fixed,” chuckles General Manager Philip Snyder. But that wonky spot is a piece of history: It’s where decades of bellhops once stood, ready to deliver first-class service.
When the hotel opened its doors on June 9, 1939, it racked up several New Mexico firsts: It was the first building with commercial air-conditioning, the first with an elevator, and the tallest building in Albuquerque.
It was also the first New Mexico setting for founder Conrad Hilton’s hotels. The future hospitality magnate and San Antonio, New Mexico, native was still an upstart in the industry but had established several hotels in Texas. An original Land of Enchantment lobby mural, which shows its age by labeling Truth or Consequences as Hot Springs, points to the locations of the Hilton-owned properties that preceded this hotel. The downtown Albuquerque high-rise must have held a special place in Hilton’s heart, because he and future wife Zsa Zsa Gabor spent the night before their wedding in the penthouse.
The hotel’s glitz tarnished over the decades under various owners and names, until developer Gary Goodman purchased it in 2005. He poured $30 million into renovations and reopened it in 2009 as the Hotel Andaluz. Goodman personally purchased the flamenco photographs that adorn each guestroom and picked out a sculpture for the second-story rooftop bar, Ibiza.
In 2019, the 80-year-old hotel had a homecoming when it became a member of the Curio Collection by Hilton. Goodman still owns it, but can now tap into Hilton’s booking engine and membership program.
The hotel blends eco-friendly features with the mystique of southern Spain, best experienced at its restaurant, Más Tapas y Vino (helmed by Food Network competitor Marc Quiñones), and in the lobby casbahs.
In keeping with its spot on the National Register of Historic Places, the hotel drips with original details, including the carved wooden elevator panels that were hung in the lobby when they proved too heavy for the lift, and the elevator itself, which Hilton is rumored to have won in a card game. The only original punched-tin light fixture hangs in a stairwell off the entrance. How did it escape replacement? “We just can’t reach it,” Snyder jests.