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The Murray Hotel, the tallest building in Silver City at five stories, was built in 1937 and is solid concrete, with brickwork varying in the two wings.

 

Lynda Aiman-Smith, a part-owner of the Murray and in charge of operations and marketing, took the Beat on a tour of what's available now and is in the planning and project stage.

"We've seen historic photos of the construction of the Murray," Aiman-Smith said. "They show workers carrying buckets of cement up the scaffolding and pouring it into the forms, so this hotel is all handmade."

She said the South Tower began serving visitors in 1938, and in 1947, the North Tower opened.

The original terrazzo floor in the lobby had been restored to its original beauty. The style of the hotel, Art Deco Streamline Moderne, and many of the Art Deco touches remain.

"The Murray was THE place to stay in the 1940s, '50s, and early '60s," Aiman-Smith said. "Then hard times fell on the hotel with the changes in travel and expectations."

The hotel has had several changes of ownership over the years, and items were "harvested." One of the parts harvested was by a short-term owner who sold the full liquor license. It was abandoned for about 25 years. "Kurt and Julianna Albershardt fell in love with the hotel and bought it in 2005," Aiman-Smith said. "It took almost three years just to clean it up of pigeon poop, left-over debris from squatters, broken glass and other trash. There was graffiti on almost every square inch. €

"The hotel now features 55 rooms, from the standard queen-sized bedroom, with full bath to plush two-room suites, like the Broadway suite overlooking Broadway-a prime spot for watching the Tour of the Gila Criterium," she continued. "Several parts of the hotel are still under reconstruction."

While the hotel, for two years, was operated by an outside €œprofessional € management firm, Aiman-Smith reports that the local owners have taken back the operation, so "it is truly locally owned and locally operated."

A bride and groom, who are planning an upcoming wedding in the ballroom, interrupted the tour, and Aiman-Smith took them to see where the festivities would be held.

"We are working hard to attract visitors and locals. We need our community to know that we are open, and to consider the Murray their €˜other guest room,'" she said upon her return. "It is the best hotel in downtown Silver City, and the best hotel for downtown Silver City. The Murray can be an economic engine for downtown. We have 10 employees, half of them full-time. We value their hard work and ideas. We are supporting families in Silver City and Grant County. Prosperity at the Murray translates directly into prosperity for the whole community."

Pointing out ramps, Aiman-Smith said the Murray went to great pains to make the rooms accessible. She also showed off the original floor in the ballroom, which has been through six refinishings, using only natural tung oil and carnauba wax. Sustainability and natural products provide a largely allergen-free stay for visitors. The hotel is smoke-free and pet-free.

The walls in the ballroom and in the Martha Room, which, in the morning, serves as the venue where a healthy continental breakfast is available to those staying at the hotel, have a hand-plastered lime finish with a pattern created by the plasterer. The Martha Room also features a newly installed pressed tin ceiling with authentic Art Deco pattern.

Original skylights throughout the hotel needed only to have the glass replaced and provide a natural light.

Aiman-Smith said the front desk was moved from its original location on the north wall of the lobby off to the west side of the lobby.

Projects still underway or in the planning stage include the bar area, which was originally Art Deco style, and was called the Copper Lounge. Aiman-Smith said she had heard the bar had a copper top. The original glass blocks form the east wall. The next permutation of the bar was called the Branding Room, and featured a mural of local ranchers' brands. Most of the mural is intact, with one part needing replacing, and the whole mural needs stabilization. The brands of many families who still live in the area are on the mural.

She said the brick in the original South Tower was locally produced. A ship's porthole-design window can be seen on the east side of the bar. Ships were a popular theme of the 1930s, and, in Streamline Moderne style, suggest rockets and outer space.

She showed the doors that were refinished by Gordon West, local entrepreneur of all things wood. The interior walls of the elevator traveled in to the third floor are dark wood refinished by West.

"We made the decision, because we want to be environmentally sustainable, to use radiant heat in the winter throughout the hotel," Aiman-Smith said. "Three high-efficiency boilers, which are computer-controlled, provide the steam for the heat. The radiant system provides a stable temperature, within one degree of variance, to the rooms. If a person gets too hot in the winter, they can open the window and enjoy the fresh, brisk, mountain air of Silver City."

In the summer, the hotel is cooled at night through huge vents that were built into the original structure. Staff members open all the windows in the evening when it cools, and "you can really feel the updraft as the hotel €˜breathes,'" Aiman-Smith said. There is a plan for radiant cooling in the summer that will run chilled water through the wall radiant system.

The east side of the South Tower, in addition to the Branding Room bar, will have a banquet room. Next to it is the start of a catering kitchen, which is the next project in line for development.

"After we raise investment money," Aiman-Smith said, "we can develop relations with local caterers and create package deals. Our future plan is to be able to serve a hot breakfast, instead of the continental breakfast we now provide. And after that the plan is to turn the front retail areas, to the west of the entrance, into a breakfast/brunch and tearoom. Then we plan to apply for a restaurant beer and wine license so we can again offer guests €˜drinks' with meals. €

An original water fountain, just off the lobby, offers a filtered drink to thirsty travelers. "We have a giant reverse-osmosis water system, filtering all water to the hotel," Aiman-Smith said. "A visitor takes a shower in filtered water."

"We saved and reused the original tiles in the bathrooms," Aiman-Smith pointed to the soft natural colors. "What was not possible to save Syzygy Tile matched and made for us."

Parts of the interior stairway feature the original banister, with some areas having required replacement. Peeking out the third floor window, the perfect place for an outdoor terrace for dining could be seen. It is planned to be developed in the future.

"We have a big list of projects," Aiman-Smith said. "When all the papers are filed and in place, we will be poised for a Direct Public Offering, which we will be able to sell only to New Mexico residents. € It will be an opportunity for people who love the idea of this local, unique, healthy, historical place to €œown a piece of the Murray. €

"I never intended to be a hotelier," she said, "but here I am, and I find myself fully committed to doing what I can to make the Murray an engine of prosperity for my whole town."

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