Los Arcos de Sonora
While on a motorcycle trip through Sonora, Tom and Lynn Matthews found a century-old adobe in the colonial town of Banámichi, 135 miles south of Bisbee, Arizona. On a large corner lot, the property consisted of the original adobe with a bath and two bedrooms added in the 1980s. Enclosed by a seven-foot-high wall, the property also consisted of a patio with a brick bathhouse and outdoor laundry, two persimmon trees, and a lemon tree. A pair of chickens had taken up residence on one room. Out back, a corral was filled with rusting farm equipment. The adobe walls were in rough shape and had been cut down from the classic style to accommodate a tin roof. The whole building was badly in need of restoration.
Construction began in December 2007. The original adobe structure was restored by removing the tin roof and stripping the walls of the old plaster inside and out. Fortunate to have a photo from 1942, the new owners restored the walls to their original height. A new roof was installed and the parapet built up and topped with oversized red bricks called ladrillos. The “chicken room” became an office. Local carpenters built doors and windows; rejas (wrought iron grills) were installed on the front. The entire structure was painted a cheerful yellow.
A two-story hotel with 10 rooms was then built at the rear of the property. Constructed of concrete block, the fully insulated building has U.S.-style electrical and plumbing systems. Floors on the ground floor are stamped concrete, using a multi-layered technique that resulted in a stone-like appearance. Saltillo tile was used for the floors on the second floor. Old doors from the original building serve as headboards for the beds; others became tables. Guest room baths have Talavera sinks and tiles.
Brick arches for which the hotel is named face the courtyard. Instead of a more formal fountain in its center, the Matthews installed a waterfall surrounded with flowering plants and cactus; bougainvilleas provide a burst of color, while coleus and petunias surround the lemon and persimmon trees.
Working with a local construction crew throughout the entire project, Tom was on site almost every day. To support the craftspeople and store owners of Banámichi, he and Lynn purchased construction materials whenever possible from the local hardware store; many of the furnishings were made of mesquite by an area artisan. In a truly symbiotic relationship, the Matthews taught the crew about electrical grounding and different plumbing techniques, while in turn learning a lot about adobe, concrete, and other local building styles.
A September 2009 opening date had been projected for Hotel Los Arcos de Sonora. The Mexican crew did not disappoint, finishing two weeks ahead of schedule. Through the 20-month process, the design changed in subtle ways as the crew and neighbors suggested what colors, materials, and style elements would work and what was appropriate for the site and the setting.
Today this beautiful Sonoran colonial-style hotel features 10 guest rooms, a coffee shop, dining room, and gift shop. For more information, see