Daniel and Ann Bonelli were true pioneers on the western frontier. They overcame adversity, built an empire, and made an array of contributions to transforming northwestern Arizona. They are credited with founding the town of Rioville, Nevada Territory, a town now buried under the waters of Lake Mead. It was here that George Bonelli was born in 1869 and where his brother died from a rattlesnake bite.
The Bonelli family figures prominently in northwest Arizona history. There is even a Route 66 conenction. And their fascinating home that was built in 1915 is a fascinating attraction that is often overlooked by Kingman visitors.
Work on the self guided, narrated historic disrict walking tours being developed by Kingman Main Street has been quite the voyage of discovery. Kingman has been my adopted home town since 1966. And from a very early age I listened to old timers tell stories and was obsessed with the towns history.
Long ago I came to the realization that the more I learn the more I realize how little I know. This project has illustrated that point.
Exhibit “A’ is the Harvey House that disappeared fromt the streetscape years before I was born. Construction of the Santa Fe Eating House managed by the Fred Harvey Company began in June 1901. It opened with great fanfare on the first of September that year.
Surprisingly, even though the Desert Power & Water Company, now the Powerhouse Visitor Center, became operational in July 1909, the restaurant continued using coal oil lamps until 1912. Electrifying the building was the first in a series of improvements and expansion programs.
In early 1917 construction commenced on a full remodel. This included the addition of a twenty-five-foot dining hall on the north side facing Front Street. An article published in the Daily Miner noted that, quote, “Work on the new dining room of the local Harvey House will be commenced in the next few weeks and rushed to completion. The cutting out of diners on passenger trains will compel the feeding of train passengers at this point and the railroad people are preparing for this contingency.”
Even though it benefitted from being located on Route 66 and at a busy railroad stop, the Great Depression greatly curtailed business. As a result, it closed in 1932. There was a brief reopening for a few months in 1936, and then it closed again until 1942.
That year it was refurbished and reopened to serve as a temporary headquarters for the newly commissioned Kingman Army Airfield. The American Red Cross also operated it as temporary dormitory for arriving cadets.
With completion of the airbase, in 1943 the old eating house was again repurposed. Operated by USO it served as a social and service hall, and as a dormitory for troops passing through Kingman. USO continued using the facility through 1945.
After a brief closure it was leased by the American Legion. An electrical fire in 1952 destroyed the buildings interior. Assessment of damages determined that it was structurally unsound and as a result was razed before the end of the year.
This project has also affirmed a long held conviction. And it has fueled the passion that underlies Jim Hinckley’s America. History is never boring.
History teaches us that some things never change. Percevering in the face of adveristy. Birth. Tragedy. Suicde. Success. Failure. Murder. Mayhem. Some things never change. And so with a study of history we learn to survive, thrive, and enjoy this thing that we call life.