Formally opened December 17, 1937, The El Rancho Hotel was built by the brother of the movie magnet, D.W. Griffith. Drawn by the many films made in the area, Ronald Reagan, Spencer Tracy, Katherine Hepburn, and Kirk Douglas were some of the many stars listed in the guest register. Autographed photos of the stars, Navajo Rugs & Mounted trophy animal heads adorn the magnificent two-story open lobby with its circular staircase.
The El Rancho Hotel was built by Joe Massaglia in 1937 for R.E. “Griff” Griffith. Originally, Griffith came to Gallup to direct a film. He later returned to build the El Rancho Hotel. He also managed the local Chief Theater. From the 1930s to the 1950s, the hotel became a temporary home for many Hollywood stars.
It also became a stopping point for tourists driving on old Route 66. The hotel is now protected by the National Historic Preservation Society. This historic hotel is continually cared for by Mr. Ortega, who has made it his personal hobby since its purchase. The hotel is decorated and furnished in the Old West rustic style. It is constructed of original brick, ash tar stone, and massive wooden beams with a pitched wood shale roof. The large portico overlooks the entrance and reflects the Southern Plantation style. Entering through the solid wood doors, one views the lobby’s grandeur. The floor is brick, inlaid in a basket weave pattern, and the light fixtures are stamped aluminum. The stone fireplace cove is surrounded by handmade wooden staircases that spiral to the second-floor balcony. The balcony encircles the lobby and displays original hotel photos and many autographed pictures of the Hollywood stars. Mr. Armand Ortega has recaptured the hotel’s splendor and charm of yesterday.
The Bad Man, an MGM film starring Wallace Beery & Ronald Reagan in 1940; Sundown, a Wanger film starring Gene Tierney in 1941; Desert Song, starring Dennis Morgan in 1942; Song Of The Nile, starring Maria Montez & Jon Hall in 1944; Four Faces West & Colorado Territory, both were starring Joel McCrea in 1947-48; Streets Of Laredo, starring William Holden & William Bendix in 1948; Rocky Mountain, starring Errol Flynn in 1950; Big Carnival, starring Kirk Douglas in 1950; Raton Pass, starring Dennis Morgan in 1951; New Mexico, starring Lew Ayres in 1950; Fort Defiance, starring Dane Clark in 1950; Fort Massacre, starring Joel McCrea in 1957; A Distant Trumpet, starring Troy Donahue & Suzanne Pleshette in 1963; The Hallelujah Trail, starring Burt Lancaster & Lee Remick in 1964.