Being locked out of Facebook has made it a challenge to share the adventure and to tell people where to go. But if you read a biography on Louis Chevrolet, Charles Nash, Fred Harvey or President Eisenhower, or books about famous battles in WWI, WWII, the American Revolutionary War, or the battle of Carthage in 149 B.C., a common theme is discovered. You will also learn a valuable lesson about living life with minimal frustration.
First is flexibility. Times change. Carefully crated battle plans usually fall apart when the first bullet is fired. The second is adaptability. You may be a very talented Model T Ford mechanic and that is a good thing, if it was 1920 or if you own a Model T. But with the passing of years that skill becomes a liability if you never learn how to do more than work on a Model T.
So, I have been developing the podcast, working to improve the website, and testing new platforms to host our live stream programs. But I have also been dusting off old skills with work on The Beast, the 1951 Chevy panel truck that is to become a rolling Route 66 information center, mobile studio for our Jim Hinckley’s America programs, and book store.
A manifestation of my attempt to blend old and new talents is the narrated historic district walking tour being developed.by Kingman Main Street. One of the points of interest for the tour is a vacant lot along the railroad tracks dominated by a massive lizzard. But this junction of North Front Street (Andy Devine Avenu/Route 66) and Fourth Street was once dominated by the railroad depot and the Harvey House.
Construction of the Santa Fe Eating House in Kingman, Arizona that was 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 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 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.
Developing this tour has been an eye opening experience, to say the very least. Counted among the interesting discoveries was the story of the Central Commerical store, Jay Gates, the man who transformed a small rural Arizona store into a mercantile empire, his daughter Ruby, and her husband George Grantham, a second baseman that played in the 1925 world series. But that is a story for another day.