How many restaurants have a resident ghost? When you’re operating out of a former home, the chances may increase. On August 30, 2014 we were graciously invited to lunch at the Luna Mansion by our dear friend Maurine from Belen New Mexico. It was a wonderful day with a peek at the latest Belen Harvey House exhibit and lunch before we headed home to Tucson. It would end up being a very memorable day. When we got home we discovered a flooded house. However, let’s get back to Luna Mansion.
Here are a few interesting facts about this incredible property. The Mansion was built as a gift from the Santa Fe Railway in exchange for the right-of-way through the Luna-Otero extensive land grant holdings. Apparently there was no cap on the amount of money spent. The railroad would be able to deliver any desired building materials from back East or the Midwest. It’s the only known Victorian Southern Colonial structure constructed of adobe and terron components. It’s one of the first buildings in New Mexico to have a wine cellar that’s perfectly temperated year-round. It’s still in use today. At a time when most homes had little or no closets, the home had walk-in closets, bathrooms and indoor plumbing. The first floor Alvarado Bar received it’s name because five bar stools are from the famous Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque. The bar’s cooler came from a grocery store in Casa Colorado, New Mexico. The fireplace screen was a gift to the Lunas from the infamous silent film-screen actor Rudolph Valentino. Quite a history in one little building. the property is now owned by the Torres family. They have been feeding New Mexicans for over 60 years.
We were fortunate to meet Tomás and receive a personal tour of the mansion.
The former sunroom is now a dining area. It overlooks a patio that can be used on most days in New Mexico.
Many of the glass transoms remain with delicate hand paintings.
There’s a beautiful staircase that leads to the upstairs bar and another private dining room. When you go into these older buildings, you quickly notice how low the banisters were built. It was based on the average height of the population at the time. OSHA would never approve of these today.
Look at the beauty of the hand railing. When you touch this railing your hands rest on a part of the history of New Mexico. The Luna and Otero Families go back to 1530, when some of the most influential, well known heroic Spanish and American explorers came to New Mexico. In 1692, Domingo de Luna arrived in New Mexico on a land grant from the King of Spain. Later Don Pedro Otero moved to Valencia County under similar circumstances. Over time, the families grew, acquired large fortunes in land and livestock, becoming extremely powerful in New Mexico. In the late 1800s, the marriages of Solomon Luna to Adelina Oetero and Manuel A. Otero to Eloisa Luna united these two families into what became known as the Luna-Otero Dynasty.
The Spirit Bar is found on the second floor. The walls are hung with family pictures. It’s a perfect place for a private party. It has been known to have an uninvited guest show up from time to time too.
Here’s a picture of the wine cellar still in use today. It not only stores the wine used by the restaurant, but also private bottles too.
The basement also provides excellent storage. Look at all the bags of pinto beans. These are from a farm in Hatch New Mexico. I bet you thought Hatch only grew chiles. Tomás uses as much locally sourced food as possible, especially meat and fresh vegetables. The food we had for lunch was amazing. Sadly I didn’t get any pictures, but plan to on our next visit.
Now about that ghost. Josefita Manderfield Otero or Pepe, as she was known, lived from 1874-1951. She was married to Don Eduardo. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. William R. Manderfield, the founders of the Santa Fe New Mexican Newspaper, which remains the longest continuously operating newspaper west of the Mississippi. Much of the original art in the Luna Mansion was done by Pepe, who is also credited with giving the home its Southern Colonial style by adding the front portico, the solarium and the stone wall with an iron fence. Numerous witnesses have seen her “spirit” from the 1970s until the present. The picture above the rocking chair is Josefita.
There have been reports of seeing Josefita in former bedrooms on the second floor, the attic storeroom and in this rocking chair. There are many occasions when the chair has begun rocking on it’s on. As you can see, the chair is only for her. Please heed the rope! She may not like sharing.
It’s always wonderful to eat a meal in a building with history. Fortunately this beautiful home was saved. It has been a restaurant for years, often without a stellar reputation for the quality of the food served. Today the Torres family are the perfect stewards for this legacy. With all the families years of culinary experience the food is delicious. Here’s a little family trivia. The Pete and Hortencia Torres Families are historically connected to the Mansion as well. Mercedes Chavez y Luna, Pete’s grandmother and also his great aunt Tillie Chavez lived at the Mansion for ten years in the early 1900s. You too can enjoy a delightful lunch or dinner when you are in Los Lunas, just south of Albuquerque. Luna Mansion can easily be found at 110 West Main Street. If you happen to see Tomás, please let him know Tucson Kathy recommended you stop. When you do, please share your experience in the comments below.