History of Santa Fe’s Pueblo Bonito Inn
This Santa Fe bed & breakfast inn continues a rich New Mexico lodging tradition of the past. Taking the name of the intriguing archaeological site “Pueblo Bonito” of Chaco Canyon in the San Juan Basin of New Mexico, this enchanting downtown Santa Fe, New Mexico vacation destination is a two story foot-and-a-half thick adobe building having 19 Santa Fe lodging rooms!
It was given its name over 83 years ago by Mr. Al Kempineck who purchased the highly sought after property from U.S Federal Court Judge John McFie in the early 1930’s. Judge McFie served the U.S. Court system from early 1860 to well into the mid 1900’s. He was assigned to the Southwest Texas Territory (which included West Texas and all of New Mexico) prior to New Mexico becoming a state in 1912. During his term, many noteworthy southwestern outlaws showed up on the scene, such as Doc Campbell, Billy the Kid, and Pancho Villa to mention only a few. After purchasing this amazing two-story adobe pueblo-style estate, complete with horse stalls, barn, servant’s quarters, shady gardens and a working bread orno, Mr. Kemenick made the conversion into apartments. Just like the Pueblo Bonito of old (except with indoor plumbing and other inside modern comforts)!
Due to its prime location (in historic downtown Santa Fe, NM just a stone’s throw away from the New Mexico State Capital building), it provided varied necessary services to Santa Fe artists, politicians and community members. With rent as low as $35/month, Pueblo Bonito served home to many colorful people of the day, some of which are now famous such as Hilare Hiler – southwestern artist. There were non-famous folk as well, such as George Sanders who lived with his family at Pueblo Bonito while serving in Los Alamos as personal bodyguard to Robert Oppenheimer, head physicist of the Manhattan project (see pictures). Ladies of the evening were known to keep house at Pueblo Bonito in the earlier days providing services for gentlemen coming in on the Santa Fe Railroad. There was even a neighborhood market conducting business out of San Ildefonso (#20).
In the 1970’s the property changed hands again, but kept it’s occupancy as apartments. Better known as “starving” artists apartments (which at that time inhabited much of Santa Fe), an unknown artist who could not make rent one month left behind three murals upstairs on the indoor hallway next to Isleta (#10) and Santa Ana (#9).
In 1986, a young newly wed couple residing in Dallas, Texas began this popular Santa Fe bed & breakfast we now know as Pueblo Bonito Inn. Herb and Amy Behm at a ripe young age of 28 and 24 decided to make a go of it. With background in franchise location and business management and a degree from Georgetown College, Herb took to providing Santa Fe accommodations beautifully! Amy, a recent graduate of Southern Methodist University and originally from Santa Fe, NM shared her background in marketing and sales with a bachelors of business degree.
Together, the Behm’s worked side-by-side learning the business of B&B innkeeping. With no other employees but themselves for the first year of business and only 12 rooms (now 19) with breakfasts served to the rooms (not like today with a communal room) the learning curve was great. Their goal was then and still is to provide a relax, welcoming and comfortable atmosphere that provides the true character of Pueblo Bonito at an affordable price, while always desiring a return visit from each of their satisfied guests.
The challenge presented by such a unique, historic property has demanded constant tender loving care due to it’s age and Herb and Amy’s desire to keep its authenticity as a prime Southwestern property in the heart of charming, historic downtown Santa Fe. Over the past 28 years, the bed & breakfast inn has had several face lifts from adding showers, to replacing clay plumbing pipes, completely overhauling the communal area, to replacing the original antique kitchen units in rooms with usable new vanities, to placing phones, adding air conditioners, refrigerators and WiFi for each room, as well as redoing the quaint brick pathways, getting a brand new kitchen for breakfast and afternoon tea service, and lighting the outdoor areas adding to the overall Santa Fe Experience!
Through these growth spurts, we have received numerous encouragements from our guests, support from our community and numerous awards from our industry such as:”Best Preservation Renovation for Historical Significance” in 1988 – Santa Fe Historical Society; “Best of Santa Fe” for Accommodation in 1995- Reporter”; 2nd in “Best of Santa Fe” for Bed and Breakfast 2000- Reporter; Featured in Sunset Magazine “Snowy in Santa Fe” article Jan ’04 issue as well as the Santa Fean Magazine article “10 Best Santa Fe Accommodation” March ’04 issue; 2005 “Outstanding Inn of the Southwest”- bedandbreakfast.com; “Top Lodging” for Santa Fe- Sunset Oct ’10 issue; 2011 “Guest Favorite” bnbfinder.com; 2013 “Most Likely to Return” bnbfinder.com . Being named after such a wondrous historic site as Pueblo Bonito in Chaco Canyon, Pueblo Bonito Bed & Breakfast Inn has had a big plate to fill. However, it appears that this quaint little Santa Fe B&B nestled in the heart of the old southwest, is indeed holding its own and has been a true delight to many of it’s patrons over the past 25+ years.