Arizona historic hotels: Grand Canyon, Sedona, PrescottJuly 19, 2011
by Roger Naylor – May. 3, 2011 10:49 AM
Special for The Republic
With Arizona’s centennial less than a year away, now is a good time to plan your exploration of the state’s history.
A few weeks ago, we gave you a list of the state’s most storied restaurants, plus a look at some classic places to eat along Route 66.
Today, we present a roundup of historical hotels with restaurants worth a visit. Later, we’ll point you to some fun stand-alone restaurants that date to the 1940s. (You can see all the lists at travel.azcentral.com.)
We’re not claiming these are the best hotels and restaurants in the state, or that our list is comprehensive. We’re just spotlighting some of the businesses that have survived for decades and must be doing something right.
Here are eight historical Arizona hotels where you can explore the past, get a good meal and maybe even have a brush with a specter.
Copper Queen Hotel
No history comes without a dollop of tragedy. Ghosts are part of the allure of vintage hotels, and the Copper Queen, which dates to 1902, claims three: a cigar-smoking man, a mischievous little boy and a former lady of the evening, Julia Lowell.
Julia plied her trade at the hotel until, after being rejected by the man she loved, she took her life. Her restless spirit is said to appear most often to men, smiling, whispering and even dancing seductively at the foot of the bed. On Thursday nights, hotel guests can take a guided ghost hunt with a paranormal investigator.
The Copper Queen Saloon and Angela’s Restaurant reflect the Victorian charm of the hotel. The saloon has a great Old West feel, complete with a nearly life-size portrait of Lily Langtree adorning a wall. Angela’s offers seating in the dining room and on a covered patio overlooking the town. The cuisine has taken on an Italian flair, but it still includes items that were offered on the original 1902 Copper Queen menu.
Details: 11 Howell Ave. 520-432-2216, copperqueen.com.
Grand Canyon, South Rim
El Tovar, which dates to 1905, is one of the few structures on the South Rim not designed by Mary Jane Colter. Although Charles Whittlesey lacks Colter’s name recognition, he definitely had some architectural chops, and El Tovar was his crown jewel.
Combining the elegance of a European villa with the rough-hewn comfort of an American hunting lodge, El Tovar is acknowledged as the forerunner of an architectural style known as National Park Rustic. Constructed of native stone and Oregon pine, El Tovar was a Fred Harvey property, one of only three still operating.
Back in the day, well-trained waitresses known as Harvey Girls provided prompt and attentive service. Fresh fruit and vegetables were grown in a nearby greenhouse, and a chicken coop supplied eggs. Milk, butter and cream came from of the resident dairy herd. Water proved harder to come by and was hauled by train 120 miles until a pipeline was constructed in 1932. The guest register at El Tovar is a historical Who’s Who that includes Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Albert Einstein, Zane Grey, Dwight Eisenhower and Elizabeth Taylor, just to name a few. The expansive dining room is notable for high-beamed ceilings and picture windows overlooking the Canyon.
Details: 888-297-2757, grandcanyonlodges.com.
Grand Canyon, North Rim
Grand Canyon Lodge
The original lodge, built in 1928 on the edge of the abyss, was beautiful but short lived: It burned down just four years after completion. A second lodge, slightly less ornate, was built on top of the old foundation, using salvaged stonework, chimneys and walls.
It opened in 1937 with a similar floor plan to the original. Giant picture windows frame stunning views of the Canyon from the restaurant and sunroom. The sunroom holds a bronze statue of Brighty, the famous burro that is the main character in Marguerite Henry’s beloved children’s book “Brighty of the Grand Canyon.”
The remoteness of the lodge limited the food selections in the early years. Reminders of that era can be found in the meatloaf and beef stew on the menu. Yet most of the menu focuses on contemporary and regional offerings, such as Navajo tacos and Utah trout. Sack lunches are available for hikers seeking to explore the Big Ditch.
Details: 877-386-4383, grandcanyonlodgenorth.com.
In the paranormal world, a headless ghost trumps a regular ghost, and that’s one of the spirits said to inhabit the elegant Gadsden. Built in 1907 and rebuilt in 1929 after a devastating fire, the Gadsden is one of Arizona’s grand dames.
The lobby features floor-to-ceiling marble pillars decorated in 14-karat gold leaf supporting a vaulted ceiling. A curving white-marble staircase that survived the fire climbs to the mezzanine, where a Tiffany stained-glass mural stretches 42 feet across one wall. Pancho Villa is said to have ridden his horse up the staircase, resulting in a chip in the seventh step. The restless ghost searching for his noggin is said to be Villa, whose head was stolen by grave robbers.
El Conquistador is a stately dining room with an Old World menu with Mexican influences. The Cattleman’s Coffee Shop offers a casual yet stylish setting for breakfast or lunch. More than 200 cattle brands cover the walls of the Saddle and Spur Tavern, a great place to cut the trail dust. All three venues look very much as they did in 1929.
Details: 1046 G Ave. 520-364-4481, hotelgadsden.com.
Molly Butler Lodge & Cabins
Molly Butler led the kind of life sweeping romance novels are written about. She arrived in the Arizona Territory by covered wagon. Her first husband was killed by an unidentified gunman in 1904. A mother of three, Molly married John Butler of Greer, and by 1908 they laid the groundwork for the first Butler Lodge.
It opened in 1910 as a modest place for hunters and fisherman. Later, U.S. presidents and movie stars would sit at Molly’s bountiful table. Local produce and game, along with handmade butter and cheeses, were part of the early fare. Many of the recipes that made Molly famous are still in use today.
After Molly died at 87 in 1964, her daughter Hannah built a new lodge to accommodate the growing horde of visitors. Yet several of the original structures still remain from the days when Theodore Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover and John Wayne were guests.
Details: 109 Main St. 928-735-7617, mollybutlerlodge.com.
The Hassayampa opened in 1927 and quickly acquired a ghost. Just months after the lavish hotel opened, a honeymooning couple checked into the balcony suite. The husband went out for cigarettes and never returned. Three days later, Faith, the despondent wife, climbed into the bell tower above the suite and hanged herself.
It’s said that her spirit still appears, floating through the room she once occupied and down the hallways. The scent of lilac follows her. The kitchen staff reports feeling her presence as if poor Faith is searching the building for her wayward husband.
For several decades, the restaurant in the Hassayampa was a simple coffee shop. That changed dramatically in 1985 with the opening of the lovely Peacock Room. Half-moon-shaped booths swaddled in floral-print fabric line the walls. Light streams through high windows, and white linens drape the tables, creating a feel of timeless luxury.
The Peacock Room and adjoining Hassayampa Bar are spread across three tiers that flow down the stairway just off the lobby. Even if you enter the restaurant from the Gurley Street door, be sure to check out the opulent lobby with hand-stenciled wood ceiling beams, talavera-tiled fireplace and vintage 1927 elevator.
Details: 122 E. Gurley St. 928-778-9434, hassayampainn.com.
Few hotels are built from the furniture out, but that’s the unusual legacy of Arizona Inn.
In 1927, Isabella Greenway, a close friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, founded the Arizona Hut, a custom-furniture shop employing disabled World War I veterans. After the stock-market crash in 1929, Greenway, who would soon be elected Arizona’s first U.S. congresswoman, built the Arizona Inn to keep the furniture business viable. The hotel, spread across 14 acres, opened in 1930 and has been run by the Greenway family ever since.
Much of the original hand-crafted furniture still can be seen throughout the hotel. The inn also maintains an on-site cabinet-making shop.
Tucked away in a residential corner of Tucson, Arizona Inn occupies a gracious world infused with a sense of timelessness. Guests will feel as if they’re visiting a serene country estate, unchanged from the days when Gary Cooper and Cary Grant strode the grounds.
The dining room is formal but not stuffy and features a cathedral ceiling, fireplace and courtyard. The cuisine was based entirely on French technique in the 1930s, but today it’s a blend of classic and contemporary fine dining.
Details: 2200 E. Elm St. 520-325-1541, arizonainn.com.
Oak Creek Canyon
Garland’s Oak Creek Lodge
The rugged beauty of Oak Creek Canyon makes it beloved getaway, but it’s also a dandy hideout.
Jesse “Bear” Howard, imprisoned in California for murder in the 1880s, busted out and settled in the canyon, where he built a log cabin in 1908.
The Todd family bought the property in the 1920s and built a cottage and dining room in 1936. Howard’s cabin became the kitchen. Catherine Todd was known for her fried-chicken dinners with pies made from fruit plucked from her orchards. Cabins were built to accommodate overnight guests, and the dining room was added in 1943. Bill and Georgiana Garland, old acquaintances of the Todds, bought the lodge in 1972.
A stay at the lodge includes breakfast, afternoon tea and an elegant dinner. The menu still relies on fruits and vegetables grown on the property. Dinner reservations are available most evenings for a fortunate few who aren’t guests.
And what became of Bear Howard? Apparently he got a little too chatty in a bar one night and was arrested and returned to the California pokey. Family lore claims that guards took pity on the old gent and allowed him to escape again. He returned to Oak Creek Canyon to live out his years.
Details: 8067 N. Arizona 89A. 928-282-3343, garlandslodge.com.