Mysteries, Clues and The Occasional Answer

Excavation in 1935 for the cellar of the post office in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Promote Kingman collection

In 1898, the year that William Harvey Hubbs was elected Mohave County Sheriff, a fire swept along Front Street. It started in the White Hills Mercantile Company. Soon the Gaddis & Perry warehouse, the Kingman Mercantile Company, E. F. Thompson’s saloon, Rosborough and Laswell’s saloon, three Chinese restaurants, the Kingman House Hotel, and George Bowers livery stable and other businesses were ablaze. Also destroyed was the Hubbs House Hotel.

Like the mythical Phoenix the Hotel Beale rose from the ashes. This disaster was the third time that the hotel opened by Hubbs in 1887 had been destroyed by fire. And so, the following year Hubbs in limited partnership with Samuel Crozier and John Mulligan built a new, modern two-story hotel with concrete, brick, and masonry.

In 1902 a syndicate headed by Ida Crozier and H.H. Watkins bought out the interests of Hubbs and Mulligan for $15,000. With the hiring of an experienced hotel manager from California, the forty-room hotel proved to be a profitable endeavor.

Still, lots of small western towns had modern hotels that reflected their prosperity and their hopes for a bright and prosperous future. But not every town had someone like Thomas Devine who purchased the hotel in 1906 and later served as Mohave County Treasurer. And not every hotel had someone like Devine to transform the property from showpiece into a shining gem.

Born to Irish immigrant parents on a farm near Kalamazoo, Michigan in 1869, Devine was raised in Kansas, apprenticed as a blacksmith, and went to work for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. After working a stint with the Union Pacific Railroad, he moved to Flagstaff in the Arizona territory and worked as a brakeman for the Arizona. Lumber & Timber Company log train. After an injury on the railroad cost him a leg, he took work with Flagstaff Electric Light Company. And then he served two terms as Coconino County Treasurer.

In 1906 he, his wife Amy, a daughter, and one year old son Andrew, moved to Kingman after he purchased the Hotel Beale. An article published in 1913 noted his success. Quote, “Under Devine’s able management this enterprise has prospered and expanded rapidly and the hotel is today a fine modern hostelry, equipped with all the accessories necessary to the comfort and convenience of its guests.”

In 1916, Devine dramatically transformed the hotel. An article published in the Kingman Miner carried a headline that read, “$50,000 for Beale Improvements.” It noted that, “R.W. Lescher, a well-known Phoenix architect was in Kingman with plans for Beale improvements.” The Albrech Anderson construction company of Phoenix commenced work with the razing of buildings at the rear of the hotel. Then a three-story addition was built. The façade was given a modern appearance.

Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue, at Fourth Street, was the heart of the city for nearly 90 years. Photo Mike Ward collection

The interior was remodeled, hot and cold water was added to the rooms, a modern steam heat system was installed, and the saloon was expanded. The store fronts and saloon in the basement with a barbershop was also remodeled. The result, as the article noted, was the transformation of the Beale into one of the finest hotels in the state. The remodel included addition of the Indian Room adorned with an array of artifacts. Also, on display and for sale were a large collection of Navajo Rugs. The room became a major attraction in Kingman.

The room was also used for an array of meetings and conferences. This included meetings of the Arizona Good Roads Association hosted by Devine. Devine and members of the association in Mohave County, in Needles, California, and in Coconino County were instrumental in lobbying for the National Old Trails Highway to be rerouted across northern Arizona. Initially the highway traversed the state diagonally from Springerville to Yuma. The National Old Trails Highway was predecessor to Route 66.

Leading attorneys opened offices at the hotel. Visiting optometrists and medical specialists rented rooms. Politicians stumping for votes, developers, mining companies and ranchers all gathered at the hotel. The Mohave County Chamber of Commerce and the first J.C. Penny rented storefronts. Auto dealers displayed the new models at the hotel. The local newspaper carried a list of guests that had checked into the hotel in each weekly edition. This included celebrities.

While filming Ace of the Saddle at Tap Duncan’s Hackberry Ranch in 1918, Harry Carey stayed at the Hotel Beale. So did Buster Keaton in 1925 while filming Go West at Tap Duncan’s Valley View Ranch. Charles Lindbergh was a frequent guest during construction of Port Kingman, the passenger terminal for the pioneer Transcontinental Air Transport. And during the gala opening ceremony for the terminal, Amelia Earhart was a guest. Greta Garbo signed the register using an alias. Jack Dempsey boldly signed his name with a flourish.

A boxing ring in the cellar adjoined the Sump, a bar, during the early 1920s. It was there that Louis L’Amour, who was working in the Katherine Mine at the time, kicked off a short-lived amateur boxing career under the name Mickey.

In 1927, the year after Thomas Devine sold the hotel to Lulu Hall, the AAA Hotel, Garage and Service Station Directory noted that rooms at the Hotel Beale ranged from $1.50 to $3.00 per night. For the budget conscious traveler that could forego more luxurious amenities, the Brunswick Hotel offered rooms for $1 per night.

The hotels decline commenced in the late 1930s with construction of modern motels such as the White Rock Court, Arcadia Lodge, the first Kingman motel with a swimming pool, and El Trovatore Autel. These were the years when Kingman made the transition from territorial era frontier town to modern, bustling community.

In 1935, construction commenced on the first post office building. Prior to this date the post office was housed in a shared store front. Route 66 was rerouted along Front Street in front of the Hotel Beale and paved. Motel resorts such as the El Trovatore and Arcadia, the first motel in town with a swimming pool. Clark gable and carol Lombard but the town in the spotlight when they married at the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Evidence of the fade from prominence is found in the Directory of Motor Courts, Cottages & Hotels published in 1940 by AAA. For the first time since the mid-1920s the Hotel Beale was not listed. The severe housing shortage that resulted from construction and servicing of the Kingman Army Airfield during WWII slowed its decline. Through the 1950s hotel still rented rooms by the night, but it also began renting them by the week and the month, and it was beginning to show its age

The storefronts remained a popular location as they fronted Route 66. And the Beale Café and bars did a booming business. But by the 1970s the slide for the hotel and the downtown business district had begun in earnest. Then with completion of I40 and the bypass of Route 66, they quickly were transformed into tarnished and neglected historic relics.

The Sump had closed, was gutted, and used for storage. The Beale Café and lobby barbershop closed. The hotel became a low rate rent by the week or month facility. Then the storefronts were left empty and were used for storage.

Faltering attempts to breathe new life into the old hotel included transforming rooms on the mezzanine into small shops. But the expense of operation, and the costly need for major repairs, led to the buildings complete closure. The once stately pride of Kingman became a point of contention as a renaissance dawned in the historic heart of the city.

Surprisingly vestiges of its former glory still abound. Hidden behind a more modern façade added in the late 1930s are leaded glass windows and ornate iron support columns. Much of the custom furniture that was added after the 1916 remodel remain on the mezzanine or is stacked in rooms.

The switchboard, mahogany front desk, and staircase railings are all intact. In the dim light that filters through the dust covered skylight, they still have a sheen. In the corner the massive safe with Hotel Beale on the door in gold leaf stands empty. The shoeshine stand used by actor Andy Devine as a young man is still in the lobby.

Unraveling the history of Kingman and its landmark for the self guided, narrated historic district walking tours being developed by Kingman Main Street seems to be a never ending quest for answers. But it often seems that for every historic mystery or puzzled resolved, new discoveries open the door on new mysteries. Jim Hinckley’s America, shared adventures, historic mysteries solved, always an adventure.