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A Visit to The Navajo Hogan, a Historic Landmark Restaurant in Colorado Springs
Pictures of the outside and the inside of the building
Landmark building review
Why it is historic
Along Colorado's Front Range, many restaurants seem to come and go with the seasons, like life cycles of plants for instance: an Asian restaurant in the summertime, then empty until late spring when it is resurrected in a Mexican style complete with an outside patio, tables holding icy Margaritas and cerveza, for the more hardy patrons to enjoy a sapphire sky and an exhilarating soft breeze. But, wow, that terrific view! Later in the year though ... is that a gift shop there now ... when did that happen?
- One restaurant that was not razed or did not undergo an extreme makeover is the Navaho Hogan, which make many of us extremely happy, but now for the Hogan's early beginnings. The following information was taken from the restaurant's menu back page but it is also available on Johnny's Navajo Hogan Roadhouse website.
The first owner, Nicholas Fontecchio built the Navajo Hogan as a roadhouse in 1935. At that time, the only venue for live entertainment was the Broadmoor Hotel. Nicholas was convinced that the potential for a dance club/nightclub in Colorado Springs was enormous. Nicholas moved west as a labor organizer for the United Mine Workers to help organize the mine workers of Colorado. He had also spent considerable time with the Navajo Indians, many of whom were miners. Therefore, the Navajo Hogan Roadhouse was modeled and constructed after a Navajo Indian dwelling. The two large domes were constructed “without a single nail,” truly an engineering marvel. Nicholas' goal was to provide a place for everyone from the region to gather along with the miners to interact together without affiliations, to meet as individuals and bond as friends and neighbors.
The “Hogan” is a sacred home for the Dine(Navajo) people who practice traditional religion. Every Navajo family must have the Hogan for ceremonies to keep themselves in balance even if they live most of the time in a more conventional home. The Navajo Hogan has operated as a dance club, night club, strip club, high class restaurant, live music venue, and landmark restaurant in Southern Colorado for more than 67 years. The “dining room” was built in 1937 and the upstairs bathrooms were moved and replaced with the kitchen in 1980. There was a fire in the dining room in the 1980’s where the only casualty was a 6’ stuffed grizzly bear. Damage to the floor forced replacement of it and smoke damage discolored the ceiling. The Hogan was placed on the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior in September of 1990 (see picture).
- After the building's purchase, it was thoroughly cleaned and some renovations were made but apparently, the new owner, Johnny Nolan, wanted to keep the interior as 'original' as possible. Mr. Nolan was also able to add 'Johnny' to the former restaurant name.
Having lunch at Johnny's Navajo Hogan Restaurant
The Hogan is currently open seven days a week for lunch and dinner. Three members of my family and I decided to have lunch there rather than an evening meal. The day was bright and sunny as we made the trek to Colorado Springs. After taking an assortment of pictures outside, we entered the restaurant and was greeted by a pleasant hostess at the end of a short hallway area.
Each of us ordered a meal that we had not chosen on previous visits. Instead of the chicken quesadilla or a hamburger, I opted for the chicken burrito. My husband ordered the fish and chips, my son the bacon cheeseburger, and another family the salmon salad. See the pictures; sorry that we did not get one of the salmon salad. You'll have to take my word that it was an attractive and tasty plate of food.
Our server was excellent and provided knowledgeable questions we had about the entrees and beverages. The Hogan has an array of cocktails and beer, both on tap and bottled.
While we enjoyed our luncheon, it may well be the domed ceiling structures that will draw us back to the Hogan. I plan to take visiting family members as it is one of a kind. Actually, this past summer, a nephew from another state lunched with me there. I wonder when the stiffness left his neck as he spent so much time looking up at the marvelous construction.
- I have never been to the Hogan during the evening but, even though 'Roadhouse' was part of the original name, the whole family can enjoy a lunch there. Probably the ceiling structure will be even more visible at that time. There is a stage in the 'back' hogan, used by musicians on Saturday nights. The floor is a nice hardwood and great for dancing.
Dining under the Hogan's domed ceiling
I don't remember when I first time I visited the Navajo Hogan but I always tried to go when it was open. The food has changed over the years but, no matter what was on the menu, it was a good place to have lunch. By the way, the sign was always lit up at night.