Monday, May 7, 2018

Historic Hotels of the West

By Kristy McCaffrey

This summer season, visit a historic hotel in the Western United States, built during the glory days of leisure travel.

Arizona Biltmore
Located in Phoenix and opened in 1929, the Arizona Biltmore was built by Albert Chase McArthur with famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s collaboration. It was constructed with pre-cast blocks made from desert sand that was found at the construction site. Chewing gum magnate William Wrigley, Jr. once owned the resort, which has hosted many famous celebrities: Marilyn Monroe, the Reagans (they spent their honeymoon here), and Irving Berlin (who penned White Christmas during a stay). Also, a bartender created the famous tequila sunrise cocktail for a guest at the resort. Of note is The Mystery Room, a Prohibition-era speakeasy that once had a light to warn partiers of approaching federal agents.

Arizona Biltmore 1931.
Arizona Biltmore today.

Camelback Inn
Opened in 1936, this resort was the dream of a young hotel manager who convinced investors to help him build a resort in the desert outside of Phoenix, Arizona. When it opened, visitors endured a 12-mile bumpy ride along a dirt road from the train station to the secluded property. Early guests included Clark Gable, Jimmy Stewart, and Bette Davis. In 1967, frequent guest Willard Marriott, Sr., purchased the Inn and made it the company’s first resort. Camelback Inn is the only Arizona resort with its own chapel, built in 1959.

Camelback Inn 1936.

Camelback Inn today.

Hotel del Coronado
In 1888, the Hotel del Coronado opened on Coronado Island in San Diego, California—a seaside resort that would become “the talk of the Western world.” The all-wooden structure was a technological marvel—it had its own ice machine, electrical generator, and a steam-powered hydraulic elevator. It has been the backdrop for dozens of movies, and Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz developed their “Ricky and Lucy” personas here. The Crown Room’s expansive ceiling is paneled in Oregon sugar pine, and some reports say Wizard of Oz author L. Frank Baum designed the massive chandeliers. The author spent his winters at the hotel from 1904 to 1910, during which he wrote four books.

Hotel del Coronado in the early 1900s.

Hotel del Coronado today.

The Brown Palace Hotel
Opened in 1892 in downtown Denver, Colorado, the Brown Palace Hotel was made with Colorado red granite and Arizona sandstone, and cost $1.6 million, an astronomical sum at that time. Dwight Eisenhower used the hotel as his presidential campaign headquarters in 1952, and The Beatles stayed here on their U.S. tour. Tunnels beneath the hotel reportedly once led to a brothel across the street.

Brown Palace Hotel in the early 1900s.

Brown Palace Hotel today.

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Patti Sherry-Crews said...

There's something about those old hotels! Once again you've stirred my wanderlust. Love the then and now photos.

Andrea Downing said...

Some interesting info here, Kristy--you could do this as a series, there are so many fabulous old hotels in the west. Some National Park ones come to mind, and my favorite is the Occidental in Buffalo, WY., where Owen Wister, Teddy Roosevelt, ands the Sundance Kid all stayed. More please!

Kristy McCaffrey said...

I've got wanderlust too. Always fun to visit these old hotels.

Kristy McCaffrey said...

You're right. There are so many other hotels worth featuring. I just might do that!!