Day 466 - Eklund Hotel in Clayton
Only a handful of Swedes migrated to the American Southwest, attracted by mining and farming opportunities. Among them was Carl Eklund (1866-1956), who arrived in the United States from Sweden in 1885 aboard the same ship that brought parts of the Statue of Liberty to New York. He made his way to Longmont, Colorado, where he worked for a farmer for three years to repay his transportation debt. He then moved to Folsom, New Mexico, for a job with the railroad being built from Fort Worth to Denver. Eventually, he arrived in Clayton, where he discovered a two-story rock building in which he opened a bar and lunch counter. Seeking a wife, Eklund returned to the Swedish settlement of Ryssby near Longmont, Colorado, where he met and married Gerda Magnie. The couple returned to Clayton, and in 1897 they purchased the rock building. Eklund added an elaborately carved bar (still in use) and a lunch counter. The building was enlarged to include a third floor and “opera balcony.” The Eklund Hotel, Dining Room, and Saloon was recognized by travelers as the fanciest hotel between Fort Worth and Denver.
Eklund, an adventurous man with a free spirit suited to the West, was at various times a cattleman, farmer, sheep man, saloon keeper, stonemason, miner, railroader, civic leader, and hotel operator. He ultimately owned about 150,000 acres of ranch land north of the city, which he called the JE Ranch, after his father, Johannes Eklund. Prominent in politics, Eklund was well known throughout New Mexico.
The hotel (Eklund Hotel, Dining Room, and Saloon at 15 Main Street, phone: 877-355-8631, www.theeklund.com was sold to the history-minded Eklund Association and reopened in 1992 as the Eklund Dining Room and Saloon.
To find anything else Swedish in New Mexico, you have to go to the Museum of International Folk Art (Camino Lejo, off Old Santa Fee Trail) in Santa Feewhere the founder and curator Florence Dibell Bartlett is extra fond of Swedish folk art objects.
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