Mysteries

Scott Dunton, Route 66 Association of Kingman president, and employees from Legacy Signs work to retrieve a vintage Packard sign stored at the Old Trails Garage for decades.

The Old Trails Garage dates to 1915. It was built by J.W. Thompson for M.G. Wagner who had operated the original Old Trails Garage on South Front Street, now Topeka Street. It is one of the oldest remaining auto repair facilities in Kingman and retains an unaltered façade appearance. Jasper Brewer, a Mohave County Sheriff, and state representative was the second owner.

The building between the Brunswick Hotel and the garage was built in 1912 by J.W. Thompson and originally housed the Arizona Stores Company, a general mercantile business that also specialized in mining supplies as well as Navajo rugs and similar Native American crafts. A few years after the garage opened it was modified, and for the next several decades was used to support the garage. At different times it served as an auto parts store, a showroom and sales office, and parts room for the various dealerships that operated from the garage.

The garage itself was affiliated with numerous automotive franchises. These included Buick, Cadillac, LaSalle, and Mack Trucks. In the late 1950s and 1960s it was also used as a repair facility for U-Haul trucks.

Façade renovation that included adding the logos of various auto companies in correct script was a joint project between property owners and the Route 66 Association of Kingman Arizona. This included the renovation of the circa 1930 Packard sign.

The signs origins and association with the garage is a mystery. It appears in historic photos on the front of the Packard dealership and garage that was located between Sixth and Seventh Street on Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue. In later photos it appears on Duke’s Garage, a Packard facility, located on Second Street between Front Street and Beale Street.

The sign was placed in storage at the Old Trails Garage at some point after WWII. This was he period when Duke’s relocated to this facility. However, the evidence that the Old Trails garage was associated with Packard is scant at best.

For more than forty years almost every issue of the Mohave Miner carried an advertisement for the Old Trails Garage. There is no mention of an association with Packard aside from the mention of general tune ups such as, quote, “We tune up all cars including Packard, Cadillac, Dodge, Chrysler and Studebaker.”

The registry of Packard dealerships has an address for the three different facilities in Kingman, Arizona, but there is no listing for this address. However, Elmer Gravers who owned the property many years and who had worked in the garage in his youth had a single matchbook that shows the Old Trails Garage as a Packard sales and service facility. Speculation is that there were plans to use the facility as a Packard dealership, but these were never finalized.

Research needed for development of the narrated, self guided historic district walking tour being spearheaded by Kingman Main Street has turned up some interesting tidbits. And it has solved a few mysteries. It has also raised questions, some that just don’t seem to have answers. Welcome to Jim Hinckley’s America.