A vintage neon sign again glows bright along Route 66.

Welcome To El Trovatore – Unincorporated. When I discovered that simple sign in the basement of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts in Kingman, Arizona, I had my second piece of hard evidence that the urban myth was a reality. But I lacked answers. And nearly five years later, I am no closer to unraveling the mystery.

Welcome To El Trovatore

About a dozen years ago I was working on a project to document historic motels, and hotels in Kingman. One of these was the prewar El Trovatore Motel complex.

During my research I found a simple single paragraph in a copy of the AAA Directory of Motor Courts and Cottages published in 1940. The listing noted that the 30 unit motel, with adjoining cafe, was located on Route 66 one mile east of Kingman in El Trovatore.

El Trovatore? Over the years I had heard mention of El Trovatore in conversations with some old timers. But there was no evidence that it was seperate from Kingman.

The More That I Learn

That simple listing proved an adage learned long ago. The more that I learn, the more that I realize how little I know.

Before discovery of the listing in the AAA guide, I had some knowledge about El Tovatore Hill. A post 1921 alignment of the National Old Trails Road climbed the hill from west to east in a graceful “S”. That road, now Chadwick Drive, became Route 66 in 1926.

I also knew that the steep escarpment was the reason that the first alignment of the National Old Trails Road followed South Front Street (Topeka Street today) east and the through Slaughter House Canyon to the Hualapai Mountain foothills. I also knew that this was the course for a late 19th century wagon road that connected Kingman with Hackberry.

But, apparently, there was a town or community of El Trovatore.

The Sign

This long vanished roadside oasis stood at the summit of El Trovatore Hill along Route 66 near Kingman, Arizona. Authors collection

A few years passed between the AAA guidebook discovery and finding the sign in the basement. In between was acquisition of an early 1930s postcard, and locating where the pictured restaurant had been located.

This cafe was located along what is now Chadwick Drive, near the summit of El Trovatore Hill about a city block away from the El Trovatore Motel. The postcard indicated that the restaurant was in Kingman.

But, as I later learned, the El Trovatore sign was placed almost directly across the highway from the cafe. But when?

When was the unincorporated community of El Trovatore established, when did it become part of Kingman, and when was the sign added to the roadside? When was it removed and where was it before ending up in the museum basement? Questions that lead to questions.

What I Do Know About El Trovatore

Here is what I do know. And these are my thoughts, my speculation based on the puzzle pieces that I have uncovered to date.

An article about bypass construction from July 1946.

The road that carried National Old Trails Road, and Route 66, traffic up the hill in the “S” curves was built in late 1920 or early 1921. The El Trovatore sign dates to sometime between 1935 and 1939.

The section of the highway around El Trovatre Hill was bypassed with a cut through El Trvatore Hill constructed in 1946. This article from July 1946 indicates that the constructioon connects Kingman with El Trovatore.

So, we can assume with a bit of confidence that El Trovatore existed for at least a decade. But even this gets a bit confusing. Properties to the east, such as Hood’s Court & Market showed a Kingman address, but only in some places. In others the location was given as El Trovatore.

Well, at Jim Hinckley’s America we share America’s story. And on occasion we share American mysteries.





Chadwick Drive, an early alignment of Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona

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