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Hoffman: Hilltop House History

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Hilltop House Hotel before demolition. Photo credit: Carol A. Clarke/ladailypost.com

Wendy Hoffman
Los Alamos

Firefighter Meal Repair. Film crew residence. Hosting a wedding reception. Provides a productive location for corporate meetings. In its storied history, Hilltop House has done it all.

Its core, what it was conceived and created for, is much the same. In short, it is the culmination of efficiency, service, pragmatism and environmental benefits. Add to all this an incredible mix of entrepreneurship and construction materials.

The late Bob and Alice Waterman had been in the hospitality industry for “a long time,” their son Roger said shortly before he died on March 5. I was. Because the facility has served the needs of so many communities over his 30+ years.

“It’s outside the market, on the outskirts of town, and there’s nothing left that’s worth salvaging. We’re going to face some restoration issues, so if we can replace it with something else, that’s fine.” he said.

And this statement pretty much sums up the Waterman family’s business philosophy. Conceptize, reuse, reuse, recycle, move, move forward (all for the benefit of the town).

Roger and his father flew a small plane into western New Mexico around 1964 and “landed on old Route 66,” he said.they put it in the northeast corner of 15th and Trinity. They named it Los Alamos Motor Lodge and included what he called a small burger joint. Those buildings are still in their original locations and now serve as offices, retail stores, and his one medical facility, Trinity Urgent Care.

Roger and his brother Ted signed a contract in 1973 to demolish the barracks at Kirtland Air Force Base after the war. Seeing another hospitality opportunity, Bob Waterman and his partner Benny Moore purchased four of his barracks from the brothers’ salvage business, becoming the 24-room White Rock Motor Lodge. To the delight of the children watching, it was later removed and a new his ground floor was built under the original structure, making the motel twice his size.

After achieving success with these businesses, Elder Waterman decided that the relatively young but growing county needed another hotel with more amenities. In the mid-’70s, he purchased the former Finna Gas Garage, which was built by the federal government as a fuel depot at the junction of Trinity Drive and Central Avenue. Vehicles were parked behind what is now the Marimak Shopping Center.

At the same time Roger was at Gallup demolishing Manuelito Hall, a former school for Native American children. And steel was also procured from the boys’ salvage business and used to assemble the beginnings of the hotel in the bunker’s garage. We soon had a lobby, gas station, and guest rooms. Then Roger said, “Dad decided he needed a cafe,” and Hilltop His House His Cafe was born. “The cafe did well,” he added.

The unusual project also included a bar joist from an old Safeway store in Farmington, salvaged by Bob’s brother, “Uncle Jack,” Roger added. Used for hotel handrails. But material reuse was not the end of the story.

According to Roger, by the late ’70s, the brothers had launched a homebuilding business at their Santo Domingo Pueblo facility. With their eldest brother Kent on board the operation, they dubbed it Namre Tau (like ecnalubmA, which works best in the rearview mirror) and dived into a new experience.

“I never built anything from scratch,” he said.

True to their innovative style, they have created a conveyor system that assembles the house and then moves it to the buyer’s location. At least he two parsonages in town were Namretou’s homes. But just as it was going on, an official involved with a movie being shot in Jemez said he wanted to rent a room in his house at Hilltop. The facilities were not enough to accommodate everyone, so the brothers put Namletaw in high gear and built hotel rooms instead of houses. With the ability to transport four 24-by-24-foot sections per truck, he was able to grow the hotel from 42 rooms to 92 rooms and sign on for filming.

Roger commented, “Everything we’ve done was the result of something else.” This was also the case with the advent of Trinity Sights. Trinity Sights is finally an elegant restaurant on his second floor of the hotel with to-die-for views and a history like no other in the city.

“There were only 30 seats in the small cafe,” he said. So, in true Waterman fashion, they looked to other projects they were involved in. These included the demolition of an old Navajo cargo depot in Albuquerque (Roger) and various buildings at Texas Army Air Station Amarillo (Ted).

Roger said the latter project included a church with wooden arches, which happened to fit the proposed contours of the restaurant above Hilltop House’s convenience store. Together they decided that both the cargo project and the chapel arches could be used for the Trinity site, assuming safety standards were met.

“We hired a local civil engineer to evaluate graded structural steel for use in multi-level projects,” he said. answer? “Yes, it’s safe. It works.” So he said, “My father bought the church from Ted and delivered it to Los Alamos,” but they discovered a potential glitch. The timber building was four to five feet too tall for the wind shear of the project.” As with any project, safety measures were a priority and the arch legs were cut back. “I was the guy who placed (the arches),” said Roger with a grin.

After making other appropriate adjustments, Trinity Sights was born and has become the preferred venue for community events that require a dignified yet welcoming atmosphere. Other businesses may move in as the Hilltop House Cafe location is vacant. Real Estate Associates (REA), owned by Jane Hoffman and Barbara Ball, occupied the building for several years before it was removed, Roger said. properties.

“I gave them a year’s notice,” he said.

It is located next to the current Hermans Automotive and is called Hermans Auto Body.

Following Waterman’s pattern, the opening of a restaurant above a gas station and an accompanying convenience store prompted even more changes. Although it had never happened, the family was uncomfortable with the gas station right below the new eatery.

“We moved the lobby to the south end of the hotel, so now we have a new lobby with two bedroom suites above it. We moved for two reasons. and that the fuel tank had to be replaced.”

As such, the shop and station were moved to the north end of the building, with the former undergoing an upgrade to become the Hilltop Deli Mart. But even that didn’t achieve everything the family wanted to bring to the community.

According to Roger, the emergence of such a classy establishment spurred their thinking in the direction that “we’re going to need meeting space.” A survey of the land and building revealed that there was enough room for two more two-bedroom suites and 2,500-3,000 square feet of meeting space. And yes, it’s back to their unique supply chain system.

“The lab was demolishing the floor of the library,” said Waterman. “We went to a salvage yard and purchased interlocking flooring. We also used more Navajo Freight steel and had a meeting space.” Or completed a long-standing project by making it a room that can accommodate several small groups.

Most county residents who have lived in the town for 20 years or more have ridden the Trinity Sites elevator at least once for a romantic dinner, lunch with colleagues, or a company party. As the town prepares to say its final goodbyes to this iconic location, which was sold to investors by a family in 2005, Hilltop House is a home-owned community built with ingenuity and love for the community. testament to the many benefits of a small, family-owned business. And the difference in being built on eco-friendly systems was probably years ahead of its time.

“We were in[the salvage business]to make money or save money,” said Roger.

Still, this big guy who once drove rail cars to Montana and returned for the film feels a personal connection to the reuse, reuse, and recycling methods his family has employed over the years.

“It breaks my heart every time I see something demolished instead of being taken apart,” he said. “Changes in personnel have made it more difficult to retrieve materials. Salvage is no longer practical for small businesses. So these materials are just thrown away.”

But behind the coin are the memories and dreams that have been created within Hilltop House and Trinity Sites, and perhaps even the tiny Hilltop House Cafe. They are too precious to be lost, discarded, or discarded.

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