National Old Trails Road in Kingman, Arizona Photo Mohave Museum of History & Arts

The forlorn looking White Rock Court is counted among the rarest of Route 66 motels. It is a prewar auto court. And it was the only motel in Kingman to be listed in the Negro Motorist Green Book.

In 1915 when Edsel Ford and his college buddies followed the National Old Trails Road west to California, the railroad hotel remained the primary lodging choice for cross country travelers. But to capitalize on the growing number of “automobilists”, a daring new breed of adventuresome traveler, many communities established free campgrounds along the new “highways.”

Entrepreneurs recognized the opportunity and built cafes, garages and gas stations near the campgounds, and as a result, the historic center of a communities busines district shifted. By the dawning of the U.S. highway system in the mid 1920s, primitive cabin camps that provided a few amenities were replacing the campgrounds. This was another manifestation of the entrepreneurial spirit in the first decades of the 20th century.

The next stage in the evolution of roadside lodging made its appearance about the time that the crushing economic poverty of the Great Depression swept a tsunami of refugees along America’s highways.

Dawn of New Era

For the traveler that could afford it, auto courts that offered hot and cold running water, electricity, and maybe even an in room radio began replacing rustic cabin camps. These humble little motels marked the dawn of a new era in highway lodging.

The decline in the popularity of old railroad hotels such as the Hotel Beale and Brunswick Hotel in Kingman, Arizona that had once been the central hub of a towns business district picked up speed. Often they slipped into the niche between roadside camping and the motel, the last step before they become flop houses.

Change seldom occurs without conflict, especially in small towns. And if the status quo is being challenged by an immigrant, the conflict becomes manifest in a swirl of rumor. And with the passing of years those rumors often become the foundation for myths and the seeds for local legends.

The White Rock Court

White Rock Court, Kingman, Arizona

The White Rock Court with two-story owners’ home was built in Kingman along Route 66 of locally quarried stone by Conrad Minka in 1935. As the story goes, he was a first generation Russian immigrant. and former hard rock miner.

The latter would explain his innovative approach to besting the competition. And that was another reason that Minka and the White Rock Court figured prominently in stories that were being told long after he had passed and the motel had closed.

On the hill below the distinctive Sleeping Dutchman rock formation behind the motel, Minka dug an air shaft, and then a tunnel connecting it to the utility corridors carved from the rock under the motel complex. At the bottom of the shaft, he installed a tank that he kept filled with water. Sheets of burlap hung in the water acted as a wick. Fans pulled the cooled air into the rooms.

In the southwest auto courts and motels offered day rates to travelers that planned to cross the deserts at night. This was an attempt by motel owners to counter the lower occupancy rate in the moths of summer due to heat. Why would a traveler spend $2.50 for a motel room when it was cooler sleeping in the car along the highway?

As a result of Minka’s innovation, the White Rock Court was most always full in any season. Further ensuring that his motel was profitable, the White Rock Court was one of two motels in town that would provide service to African Americans. And that was probably another reason rumors about illicit activity swirled around Minka’s motel.

The White Rock Court was listed in A Guide Book to Highway 66 published by Jack Rittenhouse in 1946. The 1952 edition of the American Motel Association Guide with a logo of Sleeprite, Eatrite, Travelrite provided a detailed summary of the motel. Quote, “…on Highway 66 east end of Main Street, 15 modern cottages, conveniently located. Short distance to ideal fishing and hunting. Seventy miles to Boulder Dam. Our motto is always courteous. Mr. and Mrs. Conrad Minka.” The motel remained operational into the 1970s.

Myth, Legend and BS

The White Rock Court was included as a point of interest in the innovative narrated historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street. Likewise with the historic motels neighbor, the Arcadia Lodge that opened in 1939.

The evolution of the motel, the changing face of roadside America, stories Edsel Ford’s adventures, tales from the National Old Trails Road and even the dawning of the legend of Route 66 are woven into a rich tapestry with our newest program series. Summer programs and our fall tour are the first in our new Route 66 centennial series.

Telling people where to go, and sharing America’s story, it is what we do at Jim Hinckley’s America.



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