Bedtime stories: Tours of the historic Murray Hotel offer a glimpse into Silver City's past

Glen Rosales, Albuquerque Journal, N.M.
·3 min read

Feb. 28—Sometimes listening to patrons can spark a little something.

Such is the case with the historic Murray Hotel in Silver City.

The venerable Art Deco establishment has been a fixture in the center of downtown since it was built in 1938, said sales director Lucy Whitmarsh.

"It's a historic hotel and we had a lot of people interested in it because of that," she said. "They'd come through and ask questions."

It happened often enough that hotel ownership decided adding a tour of the building would be a good way to sate the curiosity of visitors.

"We would also have locals come in and they would share stories that were very interesting," Whitmarsh said. "We thought we could put it into a little bit of program and they could get a deep dive into how the hotel came about and how it survived all these years."

Built by local entrepreneur W.D. Murray, the hotel had three retail stores, a restaurant, a coffee shop, a bar and a stately lobby. The rooms included steam closets.

"One of the important things to know is it was really a touchstone for the community," she said. "So many different groups that were involved with their meetings and events and dances. Especially the dances. Well into the 1950s, it was the real center of the community."

Front desk manager Phillip Cave was the real muscle behind the tour initiative.

"I've always had an interest in the history of the hotel," he said. "The hotel was the place to be. It was the heart of Silver City. The stories that I've heard over time have been fascinating. I always wanted to learn more about the people responsible for building the hotel and to make it more interesting for our guests who come here today."

Cave, who put together a historical pamphlet of the hotel, which was shuttered for about two decades before reopening following extensive renovation in 2012, said he has a couple of favorite stories.

"Not long after the hotel opened, December 1938, a man came into the hotel during the nighttime and he robbed the front desk," Cave recalled. "He wore a mask and instructed the night monitor to tie up the bellhop and he in turn tied up the night monitor. He rummaged through the desk drawers and got away with $25 but left the safe, which was unlocked. He could have gotten away with $500."

Another is the tale of Mimi Bibo.

"She was a little lady from France and she operated one of our retail places and had a clothing shop," Cave said. "It was rumored that she operated an illegal gambling ring downstairs of the hotel in the 1950s and 60s."

Of course, any hotel, especially one that was closed for so long, is bound to have its tales of the supernatural.

"I've heard voices in the stairwell that I couldn't explain," he said. "And I've had night workers hear footsteps or noises in our ballroom."

Then there was the spooked out guest.

"I did have a guest during the night that heard a door shut three different times," Cave said. "But there were no guests above or below or near her room."

Neither Cave nor Whitmarsh admitted to knowing of any untoward events that might have happened at the Murray to account for the possibility of some unaccounted-for guests.

"People come and they sense something, if they share something with us, that helps us understand more of what is going on," Whitmarsh said.

For guests who really want a spooky experience, Cave said he's happy to help.

"I do tell guests, for $10 more I can make your stay more haunted," he said with a chuckle.

SILVER CITY NOTE: For the second straight year, COVID-19 has gobbled up the popular Silver City Blues Festival, which is usually held during Memorial Day weekend. In its place, a series of performances will be released online during the weekend of May 29-30. For more information and event schedule see silvercitybluesfestival.org.