Stony Wold Motel on Route 66 in Kingman, Arizona. Photo Mike Ward collection
“The Stony Wold Motel, Kingman, Arizona is constrcuted entirely of black malapai stone, a volcanic stone found abundantly in colorful Arizona. Thoroughly fire proof. Interiors are luxuriously furnished in Monterey furniture with an emphasis on comfortable beds. Bathrooms are completely tiled. Every detail is designed for the comfort and convenience of the traveler. Approved by the American Automobile Association.”
In A Guide Book to Highway 66 published by Jack Rittenhouse in 1946 the Stony Wold was one of sixteen motels and two hotels listed as lodging options. Attesting to the role that Route 66 played in the local economy, Kingman had a population of 2,000 people that year.
The Era of Renaissance
Today both hotels noted by Rittenhouse still stand along Route 66. But the Brunswick and Beale no longer rent rooms. Shuttered for decades and poorly maintined, the once stately Beale faces an uncertain future. The Brunswick has been given a new lease on life and is currently being renovated.
The survival rate of authentic pre interstate highway era motels and auto courts is quite low. The World Monuments Fund noted that these are some of the most endangered properties on Route 66. Surprisingly three of the motels referenced by Rittenhouse still stand. Two of them still rent rooms. In addition there is a motel from 1929 and 1951, now apartments, in Kingman, and two motels from the mid to late 1950s.
Unfortunately the uniquely styled Stony Wold is not counted among the survivors. But is not forgotten. It survives in sepia toned post cards. And it lives on as fond memories with people like Jane Marie Hout whose father built the Stony Wold and other businesses in Kingman.
Sharing America’s Story
At Jim Hinckley’s America we tell people where to go. And we share America’s story. On the June 4th episode of Coffee With Jimour guest was Jane Marie Hout who talked about the Stony Wold Motel, her father’s epic trip to Arizona from New York during the Great Depression, and his many contributions to the development of Kingman.
The podcast was marred a bit by techinical difficulties in the opening minutes. But the free range conversation soon had my full attention, and that of the audience. It was a glimpse into life lived during mid century America. And it provided much needed detail for my ongoing work with Kingman Main Street that is developing a narrated historic disrict walking tour.
Scheduled for an upcoming episode of Coffee With Jim, is a conversation with Ron Clements, auhtor of A Sports Fan’s Guide to Route 66. Talk about the book alone should make for aninteresting half hour. But Ron’s story doesn’t stop there. He and his wife have lived the RV life for more than four years. They have traveled to all forty eight states, and Alaska.
In our quest to find interesting guests for the podcast, we meet some truly interesting and inspirational people. And as it turns out, we also inspire road trips and encourage people to look at this amazing country just a bit differently. Welcome to Jim Hinckley’s America.
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 tourdeveloped 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.
Every spring or summer I would spend a few weeks on family farms near Mentone or Pisgah and Dutton, Alabama up on Sand Mountain. Back around 1963 or 1964 my visit with family coincided with Decoration Day, predecessor to Memorial Day.
I was jsut a kid but what I remember most about that day was the somber tone. Usually when we piled into Uncle Burton’s battered old truck with a picnic basket and set out for a swimming hole on Pisgah Creek there was laughter, teasing, and joking.
This trip was memorable because it was different. We left the dogs behind and instead brought some hand tools like rakes and shovels. It was a work day, and I was set to pulling weeds around the head stones. But unlike when I helped in the vegetable patch or tagged along out to the cotton or corn fields, there was almost no conversation.
To be honest it was unnerving. Perhaps that is another reason that this memory is so vivid after all of these years.
Where It Began
In the closing months of the Ciivil War, and in the years that followed, communities gathered for somber commemoration ceremonies. One of the earliest of these took place in Charleston, South Carolina.
When Confederate troops evacuated the burning city many of the people living among the ruins were former slaves. In late April 1865 these recently emancipated people began exhuming the mass grave of Union soldiers that had died while being held as prisoners at the Charleston race track. They then created a new cemetery. On May 1, according to a reports published in the The New York Tribune and The Charleston Courier, a crowd of 10,000 people including freed slaves and “white” missionaries, staged a parade around the race track.
According to the published stories, thousands of “black children” carried bouquets of flowers and sang “John Brown’s Body” during the parade. Members of Black Union regiments attended as honor guards. Black ministers recited verses from the Bible.
Officially Decoration Day dates to May 30, 1868. An organization of Union veterans — the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR) — established this as a day of remembrance. The graves of soldiers that died in combat would be honoroed y having their graves decorated with flowers.
The first official observance was held that year at Arlington National Cemetery, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. The veranda of the Arlington mansion that was once the the home of General. Robert E. Lee were adorned with black bunting.
General and Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant presided over the ceremonies. After speeches from government officials, offices, and veterans, children from the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Orphan Home and members of the GAR made their way through the cemetery, placing flowers on both Union and Confederate graves. This was followed by hyms and prayers for the families of fallen soldiers, and for national healing.
Unifying The Nation
National healing and unification after the tragedy that was the American Civil War was a long time coming. In 1873, New York was the first state to designate Memorial Day as a legal holiday.By the dawn of the new century, many cities and communities observed Memorial Day. Numerous states had had declared it a legal holiday.
After World War I, it became an occasion for honoring those who died in all of America’s wars. But it wasn’t until 1971 that Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act and established that Memorial Day was to be commemorated on the last Monday of May. And that is the orignins of the tradition at Arlington National Cemetery in which a small American flag is placed on each grave, and the President or Vice President lays a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
In the states that once formed the Confederate States of America, divisions ran deep. Decoration Day celebrations often honored the Confederate dead. Mississippi celebrated Confederate Memorial Day on the last Monday of April, Alabama on the fourth Monday of April, and Georgia on April 26. North and South Carolina observed it on May 10, Louisiana on June 3. Tennessee actually callied it Confederate Decoration Day. Texas celebrated Confederate Heroes Day on January 19. In Virginia the last Monday in May was designated Confederate Memorial Day.
Still, many of these states also honored the fallen dead on the holiday at the end of May. That was another reason I remember my childhood experience with Decoration Day. Even at that young age it seemed odd to see the line of weathered headtones adorned with a blending of American and Confederate battle flags fluttering on the breeze.
That sunny day that I remember so well took place sixty years ago. The horrendous war that so many people celebrate by waving the flag associated with rebellion ended more than one hundred fifty years ago.
This Memorial Day, as is my custom, I walked through Mountain View Cemetery taking time to read the inscriptions of veterans headstones. The POW flag and American flag unleashed a swirl of emotion about our nations past, and worries about our nations future as we have embraced division over unity.
This photo of the Mohave County Courthouse in Kingman, Arizona from an event in 1928 is just one piece of the puzzle.
Plans for landscaping of the grounds at the new Mohave County Courthouse were delayed due to WWI. But by the mid-1920s retaining walls had been completed and trees planted. Then in 1928 a monument with plaque that read, “IN MEMORY OF THE MEN AND WOMEN OF MOHAVE COUNTY WHO SERVED IN THE WORLD WAR 1917 – 1918” was erected. As I learned while working on the narrated self gudied historic district walking tour developed by Kingman Main Street, this is a very rare WWI memorial.
The “Spirit of the American Doughboy” created by sculptor Earnest Moore Viquesney is one of the most popular WWI statues produced. It is estimated that a full ten percent of WWI memorials used this distinctive sculpture.
Honoring A Hometown Hero
But what makes this particular monument unique is that this statue was one of three that were dedicated to a Native American. The honoree was Sam Swaskegame of the Hualapai tribe who was killed in action in the Marne campaign battle of Blanc Mont, France on October 7, 1918.
The second statue on the monument is also a rarity. Created by the same sculptor, “The SPIRIT OF THE AMERICAN NAVY” was not as popular as the doughboy. Only seven of these statues are known to exist.
Local volunteers started construction of the stone base for the WWI monument and the pond that would surround it at the end of April 1928. Ora Gruninger, a Kingman contractor, supervised the work and spearheaded the collection of donations. The base cost $150. The $2,650 for the monument included $1,000 apiece for the statues with the remainder being used for the machine gun, and the bronze plaque.
A Memorial Day To Remember
The statues were shipped from Chicago on May 1, 1928. According to newspaper accounts, the dedication ceremony on May 30, 1928, started at 9:30 a.m. with a parade from the firehouse near Fifth and Beale Streets. The parade then made its way to the Mohave County Courthouse. The parade was led by Ed Wishon, the commander of the local American Legion post. At 10 a.m., Mr. Wishon performed as master of ceremonies for the dedication. Judge Ross H. Blakely invoked the dedication.
At some point around the turn of the century the machine gun was stolen. On June 29, 2019, a rededication ceremony was held in commemoration of the 101st anniversary of the battle of Belleau Wood. The ceremony included replacement of the Colt 1895 machine gun with a bronze replica created by artist/sculptor Clyde Ross Morgan of Sedona, Arizona.
In Kingman there is one more memorial to Sam Swaskegeme. Fittingly, ithe Kingman the American Legion chapter is designated Swaskageme Post 14. This building on Third and Oak Streets in Kingman, Arizona is a tangible link to WWII and the Kingman Army Airfield. Originally this was parts from two buildings; the base theater and the officers club. In the late 1940’s, a group of local veterans acquired the buildings, cut them into three sections, and transported them along Route 66 to the current location.