The Central Commercial Building is less than one block off Route 66. It is a tangible link to more than a century of Kingman history with a fascinating and surprisinig story.
On the corner of Fourth and Beale Street is the former Powers Building that is now home to the Art Hub. Named for M. I Powers, president of Citizens Bank, the building dates to 1911. Originally the ground floor was occupied by the Citizens Bank and Kingman post office Upstairs was an office complex for the towns leading attorney’s and doctors as well as several mining companies.
Many original architectural details remain. Leaded glass windows over the heavy oak doors provide a glimpse into the buildings former glory. Likewise with the marble entry ways, and the vault that is now used for storage.
A Mercantile Empire
In 1916 Lovin & Withers purchased property along Fourth Street from the alley to Citizens Bank. The company also purchased the adjoining property on Beale Street east to the Mohave Miner offices, now the parking lot for Floyd & Company. Work commenced on what was to be Central Commercial, the largest and most modern store in northern Arizona with razing buildings on both sides of the bank and the excavation of a cellar.
The Central Commercial complex on Beale and Fourth Street that was built around the bank opened on August 20, 1917. It was a gala celebration. A nearly full-page advertisement in the Mohave Miner read, quote, “Central Commercial Company successor to Lovin & Withers cordially invite you to the opening of their new store. Music by Los Angeles Colored Orchestra. Dance by above at open air pavilion 9:00 P.M.” The cornerstone for the store that was promoted as the finest in northern Arizona with a full inventory for home, ranch, or mine was Lovin & Withers Mercantile.
Henry Lovin and John Withers were Mohave County pioneers with vision. By 1900 they had built a fortune in mining, real estate, and ranching, and through profitable partnerships. They celebrated the dawn of the new century with establishment of Lovin & Withers Mercantile.
The partners contributions to the development of Mohave County were diverse. Lovin served two terms as Mohave County Sheriff, served on the committee that drafted the state of Arizona constitution, and was Mohave County’s first state senator. Withers served on the board of directors at Citizens Bank, was a major partner in several mining companies, and with Lovin built numerous homes in Kingman as rental properties.
Within ten years Lovin & Withers Mercantile was one of the largest retailers in northwestern Arizona. Stores in Chloride, Oatman, Goldroad and other mining camps supplied the remote towns with an impressive array of goods from barbed wire to produce and auto parts. To supply their far-flung mercantile empire, the company pioneered the use of trucking in Mohave County.
The Second Chapter
An article published in 1916 indicates that Jay Gates had become the front man for the company. Quote, “W.L. Peters who has made this his territory for the past fourteen years for the Swift Packing Company and F.C. Flicklinger of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company were guests of Jay Gates of Lovin & Withers Company on a trip to Chloride.”
Gates was a recent arrival in Kingman. In search of opportunity Jay Gates had left Elkins, West Virginia in 1911 and set his sights on California. For reasons unknown he stopped in Kingman. As it turned out this was rather fortuitous. The opportunity he sought was found with employment at Lovin & Withers.
An article published on July 14, 1917, noted that, quote, “The interior of the building of Lovin & Withers, now known as the Central Commercial Company, is fast filling with hardwood furniture of all kinds. The wall shelf cases are all of hardwood and are enclosed to keep the dust and dirt from the interior with glass doors. Refrigeration and glass of all kinds have been provided and once in operation will make this the best-appointed store in this southwest country.”
Corresponding to the construction of Central Commercial was a full remodel of the Powers Building and Citizens Bank. A brief article in Volume 18 of Coast Banker published in 1917 noted that, “The Citizens Bank has taken possession of its remodeled banking room, and now has one of the most modern and best equipped banking headquarters in this part of the state.”
Gates and Central Commercial were to play pivotal roles in Kingman and Mohave County development. Stores were opened in Flagstaff, Ash Fork, Seligman, Oatman, Chloride, and Goldroad, the Route 66 corridor after 1926. By this year the company was also opereating a series of distribution centers and a regional trucking company.
In December 1922, it was announced that Gates had facilitated establishment of a Rotary Club chapter in Kingman and would serve as a director. He would be involved with numerous civic organizations including the gun club. Then in 1923, Gates purchased controlling interest in Central Commercial. His family would manage the store until 1978 when it was acquired by Babbitts, an Arizona based department store.
A Celebrity Connection
There is also a celebrity association with Central Commercial and the Gates family. On April 6, 1926, George Farley Grantham married Ruby Lois Gates, the sister of Jay Gates.
Grantham was born in Galena, Kansas in 1900, moved with his family to Goldroad, Arizona in 1910 and attended school in Kingman. A few years later his family moved to Flagstaff where he attended Flagstaff High School and Northern Arizona University.
A gifted athlete, at the end of the 1922 season he was hired as a second baseman for the Chicago Cubs. Between 1922 and 1934 he played for the Chicago Cubs, Pittsburgh Pirates, Cincinnati Reds, and New York Giants. He also played in the 1925 and 1927 World Series.
After retiring Grantham and his family relocated to Kingman. He died on March 16, 1954 and is interred in Mountain View Cemetery in Kingman.
The Central Commerical complex and Powers Building are tangible to territorial era history. They are also points of interest on the innovative narrated, self guided historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street. As author Jim Hinckley provided narration for the tour, it is anohter example of what we do best at Jim Hinckley’s America – tell people where to go and share America’s story.