Vintage Hotels in Arizona

by Mary Schultz
Visitors to Arizona can find vintage hotels in cities and in small towns.

Visitors to Arizona can find vintage hotels in cities and in small towns.

Arizona, America image by Serenitie from

Arizona has a number of hotels that are at least 50 years old with regional historical significance, and some are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. While many Arizona communities can lay claim to a vintage hotel, a few of these lodgings have a little something extra, such as a past that holds notoriety, unexplained mystery or luxury from a bygone era.

Pancho Villa Rode Here

Douglas, Arizona, is home to Hotel Gadsden, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel first opened in 1907. It was named for James Gadsden, U.S. ambassador to Mexico in 1853 when the United States acquired the Arizona and New Mexico territories in the Gadsden Purchase. Local legend contends that the Mexican revolutionary, Pancho Villa, once rode a horse up the hotel’s wide, sweeping marble staircase and chipped one stair. A fire in 1929 destroyed the hotel except for the historic staircase. The hotel was rebuilt and the chipped stair remains. A genuine Tiffany window graces the area above the landing. The hotel has had its share of visiting dignitaries, with Eleanor Roosevelt as one. It has also been a location for films including "Terminal Velocity" in 1994. Many of the guest rooms have been renovated. The hotel lobby is known as the town’s living room, and its lounge is where locals hang out.

Ghosts Are Registered at the Desk

A ghost register sits on the desk of the Copper Queen Hotel in Bisbee, Arizona. Guests contribute their experiences of being haunted. One ghost that guests report having seen is Julia Lowell, a brokenhearted prostitute who, by reports, ended her own life in the hotel. One guest room is named for her. The hotel joined the National Register of Historic Places back in 1980 and has been operating continuously since 1902. No two of the hotel’s 52 rooms are identical, so return guests can expect a variety of layout and decor. Guest rooms are located on the lower four floors of the hotel and the fifth floor is devoted to the mechanical components of the 1940s elevator. Skeptics who doubt the presence of ghosts may credit eerie noises to the elevator workings.

John Dillinger and Friends Hung Hats Within

The Hotel Congress, also on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1919. The style is described as "Southwest Deco." It offers a vintage experience in that rooms are furnished and decorated in 1920s and 1930s style, complete with antique telephones and radios but no televisions. This is the hotel where Public Enemy No. 1, John Dillinger, hid out from the law with his gang for a time. The floor of the hotel's popular coffee shop, The Cup Cafe, is covered in copper pennies. The hotel has wireless Internet access. Pet friendly-rooms are numbered 223 through 230, with a fee of $10 per pet per night.

Luxury in the Desert Rises Again

A vintage hotel imbued with history is La Posada Hotel and Gardens in Winslow, Arizona. La Posada was the 80,000-square-foot masterpiece of Mary Colter, who was the Fred Harvey Company’s chief designer at a pivotal point in rail travel history. In the 1920s, Winslow was a gateway Santa Fe Railway tourist stop. Travelers would head west to be amazed by wonders such as the Painted Desert. Fred Harvey hotels created luxury in the desert, and this hotel would be a crowning achievement with hidden courtyards, lush gardens and public rooms furnished with antiques. The hotel opening dovetailed with the advent of the Great Depression and the end of the rail travel era. In the 1950s, the railroad converted the hotel for office use, and by the 1990s the property was destined to be demolished. In 1997, new owners bought La Posada and embarked on a restoration project to restore this architectural treasure. La Posada draws guests from around the world and made the 2010 Conde Nast Traveler Gold Reserves list.

On Route 66 Since 1926

The Hotel Monte Vista in Flagstaff, Arizona, was built in 1926 just a block north of famous Route 66. Flagstaff citizens created the hotel to bring tourism to the community, and they raised funds to build it. It has the distinction of having been America’s longest publicly held commercial property until its sale in the 1960s to a private individual. It remains the hotel with the longest history of continuous operation in Flagstaff. Reportedly, a number of guests over the years, including actor John Wayne, mentioned ghost visits. Accommodations on four floors include 50 rooms and suites that feature views of Flagstaff. The hotel’s Monte Vista Lounge features live music performances on the weekends.

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