After years of hit and miss attempts that resulted in the demise of numerous historic buildings and countless lost opportunities it looks as though there will now be positive developments in the the promotion of Kingman via Route 66. The seed for this grand endeavor are the fine folks in the photo(I am the grumpy looking little fellow on the left end).
The initial project will be four fold in nature; the development of an interactive website, a clean up project for the Route 66 corridor and historic district, a mural program, and the coordinating of events such as the Route 66 Fun Run as well as development of events for the historic district.
I speak for myself, not the association, from this point forward. With that in mind your thoughts and opinions would be most appreciated.
For more than ten years I dulled my frustration with the disjointed, half hearted efforts to make Kingman a destination rather than a quick stop on the trip to somewhere else with dreaming. Perhaps now some of these will be made manifest.
First, let me briefly detail what gives Kingman unequalled status in regards to potential. We are at the center of one of the longest uninterrupted stretches of Route 66. The skyline that dominates the western horizon in Kingman is a quintessential western landscape (please note the opening photo for this blog. We have a lengthy railroad history. Kingman has an association with a multitude of historic figures including Louis Chevrolet, Barney Oldfield, Charles Lindbergh, Andy Devine, Amelia Earhart, and Clark Gable. Kingman was the site of one of the largest flexible training schools in the nation during World II.
Together these present a nearly unlimited list of potential topics for a mural project. The Mohave Museum of History and Arts has a beautiful mural on one wall and will soon have a Harley Davidson themed mural on the wall facing Route 66. We will begin our “imagination” tour from west to east.
On the west facing wall of the body shop behind Mr. D’s we have a 1930s style automobile flying down Route 66. As a background we have the buttes and mesas that dominate the historic district and looming above that are dark, towering thunderheads. Inspired by the song Ghost Riders in the Sky, closer examination reveals a shadowy wagon train in the cloud formation.
As continuity is a problem along the Route 66 corridor in Kingman the traffic flow has been altered with Beale Street from the intersection with Route 66 on El Travotore Hill to First Street made a one way, west bound street and Andy Devine from the Power House to the Beale intersection being a one way, east bound street. The traffic signal on First and Beale is now reactivated.
An ornate fence runs from the Power House to the depot ensuring folks don’t step into the path of a train. Linking the two buildings is a meandering path shadowed by palo verde, mesquite and ironwood and bordered by a desert botanical garden. Windmills along the way hearken back to when Kingman was known as the city of windmills. Evening walks are encouraged with the use of vintage lighting similar to that found at Mr. D’z.
The depot is now a railroad themed restaurant. It is also a small railroad museum and gift shop with scale model trains rolling through a recreated Kingman circa 1940.
On the other side of the street we have Mr. D’z, the Dream Machine Auto Museum, the car wash refurbished to look like a circa 1930 service station, a small cafe in the rock building, a small park with kiosk that contains a map of historic structures int he downtown area, the post office with a facade that presents the illusion it is circa 1890 in the Arizona Territory.
The west wall of the Old Trails Garage is faced with corrugated tin that presents the illusion of age. The windows and doors in that wall are no longer mere outlines in concrete, they are windows into a shop busily readying the racers cars for the next grueling leg of the 1914 Cactus Derby. If you look closely there in the corner is Louis Chevrolet discussing repairs with a mechanic.
In front it appears as though the garage door is open as the theme from the side is continued here. Out front stands a visible register gas pump just as it was in 1920. A gleaming Packard Sales & Service sign hangs over the door.
The Brunswick Hotel is now longer a diamond in the rough. The whimsical murals of the Sportsman Bar are refurbished in garish color. As the remainder of the buildings on the block are a long ways from a completed restoration photo murals dominate the windows.
A peak into the windows of the store next to the Sportsman reveals a busy saddle shop. The wooden doors that bar entrance to the Sump are now painted to portray the entrance to a crowded, noisy pool hall filled with soldiers from the Kingman Army Airfield. The Nighthawk Saloon is filled with dusty cowboys. The lobby of the Beale is a busy place and in the cafe passengers await the next bus.
On the wall facing Fourth Street a colorful billboard proclaims the wonders awaiting discovery on a trip with Trailways Bus Lines. A bench under shaded trees provides an opportunity for rest before we begin the rest of our tour.
Now we have a choice – south on Fourth Street along old Route 66 to the Hubbs House park or toward the court house and the treasures of Beale Street that include restaurants, antique stores, the coffee shop, an underground miniature golf course/arcade, and more colorful murals.
What other attractions encourage the visitor to make Kingman their base camp for a weekend or week of adventures?
Well there is the scenic overlook park at the crest of El Travatore Hill that provides breathtaking views of the Kingman historic district and the refurbished White Cliffs historic park. There are also the trails at Camp Beale Springs and the Indian themed murals.
Of course where better to stay than Kingman if seeking the wonders found along Route 66 to the east or west, Chloride, or Grand Canyon West? Moreover, didn’t there used to be a banner over the streets that proclaimed Kingman to be the “Gateway to Boulder Dam”?
Could this be the dawn of a new era? Will Kingman become the jewel of Route 66? Stay tuned ….
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