Perhaps it’s a mystery, or perhaps not, but this old lodge certainly became an enigma to me on my July 2003 visit to the Moreno Valley. Since I was a child in the ’60s and visiting the valley every summer, I’ve always wondered about this old place. Finally, I decided to find out more about it. Or, should I say, “tried to find out more about it?”
The locals said that the Eagle Nest Lodge, just outside of Eagle Nest, New Mexico caught fire about 20 years ago and closed, and that’s about all they say. “Was it closed before that?” I ask, only to be answered by shrugs and blank stares.
There’s no doubt that the old hotel caught fire because there were obvious fire damage signs in two locations at the old lodge. But, the question remains — when?
And, was the fire the cause of the closing? At least one person told me that a later fire was started in a second location, probably by vagrants living in the old lodge. But, still, neither fire has succeeded in demolishing this once wonderful luxury resort.
I was getting confused by what little information I could extract. When I visited the valley every summer more than 30 years ago, the old lodge was already closed and remained so on my many subsequent trips to the valley. I still wanted to know why this once beautiful hotel, with its awesome view of the lake, was left lonely, abandoned, and forgotten.
You can see by the interior pictures and the many outbuildings that the lodge must have been splendid in its day, offering various services. Inside, you could see the restaurant, the Loafer’s Lounge, several fireplaces, including one that is three-sided, in yet, another lounge.
Just outside the front door, the lake beckoned the guests for fishing and boating, and to the right were the remains of a man-made pool and a garden, as well as what appeared to be stables. Several outbuildings were housed on the property, including private cabins and a caretaker’s home.
So, what happened to this place? For two weeks, I asked virtually every person I met, including a local newspaper writer, without success. Finally, I was directed to a lifetime resident of the valley. Though very friendly and forthcoming, he could only say, “Both my mother and my aunt worked there, and they won’t even talk to me about it.”
In the summer of 2004, I asked around again and received the same looks of bewilderment. However, at least one person from Angel Fire speculated that the place had become somewhat of a speakeasy with all manner of vices, including gambling and prostitution, which was why the locals were reluctant to talk about it. However, this is just rumor and speculation with no basis, in fact, from anyone associated with the old lodge.
History of the Eagle Nest Lodge Found
One day while Ann Tyer Walker, from Santa Rosa, California, was browsing the internet in 2004, she stumbled across our story and began to unlock the mystery of the Eagle Nest Lodge. Ann is the daughter of the man who built and ran the lodge for almost two decades. Ann, who only lived at the lodge until age two, gave us what little information she knew while her husband Doug scanned and sent us dozens of photographs. Then the real sleuthing began. Ann followed up with her cousin Shelton Tyer, Jr. from Ardmore, Oklahoma, who worked at the old lodge in the 1930s. Now, at 86, Shelton remembers the hard work his Uncle Bill made him do while at the Eagle Nest Lodge.
In July 2005, we heard directly from Evelyn Gant, Walter Gant’s daughter-in-law, and Dale Gant, the grandson of Walter Gant. Now the facts are completely in, and the mystery is solved.
It all began with a gentleman named Walter Gant, an oilman from Oklahoma. Walter Gant owned the property on the lake and had been involved with Ann’s father, William B. “Bill” Tyer, from Ardmore, Oklahoma, in other business ventures. When Gant decided to build the lodge on the prime real estate overlooking the lake, he hired Ann’s father to oversee the business’s building and running.
When Tyer arrived in Eagle Nest in 1927, he lived in a cabin on the property and began hiring construction people. As the lodge’s construction began, he oversaw the many details of building what would soon become Eagle Nest’s first luxury resort. Walter’s father made the marvelous old doors at the lodge by hand in Oklahoma City and carried to Eagle Nest in a Cord touring car, one door at a time.
When it was completed, the Eagle Nest Lodge included the main building with a large lounge where guests could sit and relax on one side of a three-sided fireplace or drink at a large round wooden bar on the stone hearth. Across from the lounge was a restaurant and coffee shop where home cooking was served to the lodge’s many guests.
Upstairs, the main building provided 12 rooms for weary travelers. Next to the main building was the Casa Loma (House on the Hill), which provided even more rooms for the lodge, considered large for its time. In front of the lodge was a large ornamental fish pond, and near the lodge were stables and a corral. Beyond the Casa Loma Building was the Caretaker’s House, where Mr. Tyer lived. Featuring fishing and hunting expeditions, as well as horse-back riding, the guests had many amenities to entertain them.
As the Eagle Nest Lodge’s popularity increased, the lodge added a guest annex across from the lodge that provided five studio units with their own bathrooms, kitchenettes, and what appears now to be garages or stables beneath the rooms on the lower level. Along the back of the annex sat a wide deck where the guests could sit and leisurely view the lake.
They also connected the main building to the Casa Loma via a walkway/lounge called the Loafer’s Lounge.
Soon after the lodge opened, Bill Tyer’s nephew Shelton Tyer, Jr. from Ardmore, Oklahoma, began to spend summers with his uncle. “Uncle Buddy,” as the family called him, soon put young Shelton to work “earning his keep.” Though Shelton has nothing but fond memories of his uncle and the Eagle Nest Lodge, he laughs when he talks about how hard his uncle made him work, as the young man was not used to such strenuous labor. Working from sun-up to sun-down doing all manner of chores, from bell hopping to washing dishes to wrangling the horses, “Uncle Buddy” kept him busy.
Of his uncle, Shelton says that, though Bill Tyer had him working hard, he was also a great teacher, ensuring that the chores were performed correctly. Shelton also has great memories of horseback riding, fishing, and hiking while spending summers at the lodge.
Shelton lived in the “bunkhouse” on the lower level of the Guest Annex, which they called the “Apartment Building” at the time. It is this area that appears that it was later used as garages or stables. Upstairs there were five apartments for additional guests. One of his many jobs was to keep the heater going in the Guest Annex building. Besides serving as a bunkhouse, other lower-level areas were utilized for storage for ice, coal, and various supplies for the lodge.
In the early 1930s, Bill Tyer met a woman named Hazel Kay, who had come out from Colorado City, Texas, to visit her sister in Ute Park one summer. Through the grapevine, Tyer had heard that Hazel was in the area, and when a waitress quit suddenly, he contacted Hazel’s sister to see if Hazel might be interested in working for a couple of weeks. As an additional incentive, Bill told Hazel that working at the lodge would be a good place to meet single wealthy oil company executives from Oklahoma. Hazel accepted and filled in for a couple of weeks as a waitress. In fact, she enjoyed working at the lodge so much that she hired on again the next summer. Long story short, Hazel didn’t fall in love with a rich oilman from Oklahoma — she fell in love with Bill Tyer. In April 1934, the couple drove to Belen, New Mexico, to get married. After their return to the lodge, the newlyweds operated the resort together for many years. Entertaining the lodge’s many guests, they were also often visited by the lodge’s owner, Walter Gant and his wife Evah, for fishing and hunting expeditions.
In August of 1940, Walter Gant’s son Jack and his wife Evelyn ran the lodge when Bill Tyer had surgery, and Hazel wanted to join him. At that time, the guests included Dr. Gilbert Hovey Grosvenor, editor of the National Geographic Magazine, and his wife, Elsie Bell Grosvenor. Elsie was the daughter of Alexander Graham Bell, the inventor of the telephone. The couple became friends with the Grosvenors and stayed with them in their home in Bethesda, Maryland when Jack was stationed there during World War II.
When Bill Tyer recovered from his surgery, he and Hazel resumed the running of the lodge. Two years later, when Bill was 58 and his wife Hazel was 38, they gave birth to their only child, Ann, in 1942. Though Bill and Hazel had a fine time living and working at the lodge, just two years after Ann’s birth, they returned to Bill’s home in Ardmore, Oklahoma, to be closer to his family. Though Hazel loved it at the lodge, she felt the area was too remote and the winters too severe to live there with a toddler.
The nation was immersed in World War II when the Tyers returned to Oklahoma. Rationing of gas, tires, and food was the norm, and vacation travelers were far and few between amid the war effort. When the Tyers returned to Oklahoma, the beautiful lodge closed down, never to be opened as a commercial resort again.
The lodge was then utilized by Walter, his wife Eva, and their four children as a vacation resort for many years. Though all of the family continued to visit, Walter’s grandson, Dale, had told us he stayed at the lodge every summer for two months from 1951 until 1961, when he went off to college. When Eva died in 1953, Walter remarried a woman named Mamie, and the couple continued to utilize the lodge as a vacation home, along with the rest of the family members. As Walter Gant’s children and grandchildren enjoyed the lodge and its scenic amenities, no strong drink or gambling was condoned. Family members believe the lodge was never utilized as a gambling casino, despite the many rumors.
During these years, Walter’s son Jack and his wife Evelyn became friends with other prominent family members of the Moreno Valley, including Tal and Jannine Neal and the Gallaghers.
From the 1950s until he died in the late 1970s, another one of Walter’s sons lived at the lodge off and on. Afterward, another of Walter’s grandsons lived there for several years. Before long, the lodge soon fell into disrepair. The property and the surrounding land were put up for sale; however, due to the lodge’s condition and potential renovation or demolition costs, the property sat vacant for years.
As the old buildings sat idle, continuing to deteriorate, vandals and vagrants used the place, further reducing its beauty and damaging the structures.
Because of their long family history and love of the area, Walter’s daughter-in-law Evelyn Gant and her son Dale built a beautiful chalet on the west side of the lake, completed in December 2004. The Gant family continues to enjoy the area in their new vacation home as they reminisce about the old lodge’s days and the many happy times enjoyed by the family on this beautiful part of the lake.
Evelyn assures us that the Gant family history in Eagle Nest is a long way from over, as a whole new generation continues to visit the new chalet called the “Dream Catcher.”
Though the lodge was scheduled for demolition in 2005, it was saved, at least temporarily, by a new buyer. When Legends of America re-visited Eagle Nest in 2008, we learned a man from Hawaii had purchased the land and buildings. Though local talk said he might renovate the old hotel, nothing was done besides demolishing the stables. The substantial acreage was then subdivided into three parcels and again placed for sale.
When we checked on it via Google Satellite images in 2021, the old lodge still appears to sit, deteriorated to such a degree that it is doubtful that anyone could ever restore the old place — it would have to be rebuilt entirely. From what we can tell, it is not currently for sale.
A big thanks to Doug and Ann Walker, Ann’s cousin Shelton Tyer, Jr., Evelyn Gant, and Dale Gant for their contributions in solving the mystery and setting the record straight on this beautiful old place on the lake. The abandoned Eagle Nest Lodge sits off Highway 64 as you reach the lake coming in from Cimarron.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander/Legends of America, updated July 2022.
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