Good-bye Queen Victoria, Hello Art Deco

Silver City’s Murray Hotel is Art Deco to its core, with polished marble chips in the terrazzo floor of the lobby and a graceful arc to its front canopy.

The Murray Hotel in Silver City is truly one of the “Grand Old Ladies of the Desert.” But her style is not Victorian. She’s modern — Art Deco.

It’s said that Art Deco is the first American architectural movement that looked forward rather than backward. Popularized between the World Wars, Art Deco represented the world of tomorrow, of luxury and sophistication.

Silver City’s Murray Hotel was built in 1938. From the gracefully simple arc of its front canopy to the polished marble chips in the terrazzo floor of the lobby, this hotel is Art Deco to its core. “Late-period international Moderne, actually,” former owner Kurt Albershardt once told me. “But, yes,” he smiled, “Art Deco.”

This kind of international flavor was at the heart of the Art Deco movement, having originated in Paris at the “Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes” in 1925. Look hard and you will find the origin of the term Art Deco embedded in that title.

“It was built in six months, right at the end of the Depression,” Kurt continued. He then led me on a quick tour of the basement, pointing out the poured concrete post-and-beam construction. It was labor-

intensive, but labor was cheap. So was concrete, and it had another benefit — it was fireproof.

After years of standing vacant, the five-story hotel reopened in 2012 with 53 rooms ready for guests, and with furniture obtained from the stately Sir Francis Drake Hotel in San Francisco. The Murray also has a huge professional-style ballroom complete with springs under a maple dance floor.

Back in 1938, Conrad Hilton attended the grand opening of the Murray Hotel. It was that noteworthy, and gave him a peek into the future of the hotel business. His Conrad Hilton Hotel in Albuquerque would open the following year.

The beautiful Murray Hotel remains open for business in downtown Silver City. Room rates start at $84.

Besides restaurants and shops, here’s another item of interest that is an easy walk from the hotel: The Big Ditch. Denuded hillsides plus a huge rain in July of 1895 created what is known as The Big Ditch. It’s now a downtown park, 55 feet below street level.

Jon Knudsen is a freelance writer and retired educator. Email him at

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