Gallup's History of Hospitality
From stagecoach, to railroad, to Route 66, Gallup has been welcoming visitors for 150 years.
Surrounded by razor sharp hogback cliffs and brilliant red sandstone, the community evolved in the 1800s as a transportation and trading hub. The settlement started as an isolated stagecoach stop on the Westward Overland route. The stagecoach stop attracted Navajo, Hopi, and Zuni traders, who would ply their wares to travelers, a tradition that continues today.
Based on the exciting tales associated with the Old West, the bucolic village was relatively quiet and peaceful. False storefronts and wooden sidewalks lined a dirt road, with businesses and traders welcoming travelers from near and far. Over the course of a century that dusty road changed a lot, but throughout Gallup has welcomed travelers from around the world.
When the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, later the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railroad, picked a route for their westbound tracks in 1881, they followed sections of established stagecoach routes. The railroad paymaster, David Gallup, decided to open an office at the stagecoach stop, which was on the construction right-of-way for the proposed tracks. The railroad promptly became the largest employer in the region. Men would “go to Gallup” to pick up their pay. In the absence of an official name, the growing community became Gallup.
With the influx of visitors, small businesses flourished on Main Street; hotels, restaurants, gift shops, galleries, and a variety of entertainment venues. Due to the proximity to Zuni Pueblo, Hopi Three Mesas, and the Navajo Nation, Gallup featured dozens of trading posts specializing in authentic Native American arts and crafts. In fact, several of the vintage trading posts are still around, with both the business and the relationships with the artists passed down from one generation to the next. As a result, Gallup has a better selection and lower prices than anywhere else in New Mexico. This is where collectors and galleries are sourcing their products. It's also a great place for artisans to buy supplies due to the unusually high local demand.
Santa Fe Railroad Depot
The Santa Fe Railroad Depot currently houses the Gallup Cultural Center, with a variety of exhibits and events highlighting the culture, history and heritage of the area. The city renovated the building.
A Fred Harvey property, The El Navajo Hotel, was built west of the railroad station. Originally designed in 1916, the hotel’s construction was delayed due to World War 1, completed in 1923. The design was a blend of Mission style and Spanish Pueblo Revival style, with the Santa Fe Railroad symbol incorporated into the parapet. Unfortunately, the property was demolished in 1957.
Get Your Kicks on Route 66
As more people purchased cars in the 1920s, demand for a better network of roads increased. Route 66, “the Mother Road,” followed the railroad west, incorporating existing highways, including the Grand Canyon Route, National Old Trails Highway, and the Will Rogers Highway. Ultimately crossing eight states and covering over 2,400 miles between Chicago and Los Angeles, Route 66 officially opened on November 11, 1926.
Route 66 cut across New Mexico from Tucumcari to Gallup, making travel and tourism a critical part of the local economy. For travelers, Gallup’s unique blend of Native American culture and frontier ruggedness is authentic New Mexico at its finest.
We invite you to contact us!
Gallup-McKinley County Chamber of Commerce106 W. Highway 66 Gallup, NM, 87301
505-722-2228 or 1-800-380-4989
201 E Highway 66 Gallup, New Mexico 87301 (505) 728-8048
Gallup Cultural Center201 E Highway 66
Gallup, New Mexico 87301
220 W Highway 66 Gallup, New Mexico 87301 (505) 863-1363
Rex Museum220 W Highway 66
Gallup, New Mexico 87301