Hotel Monte Vista Picture of the Week

Hotel Monte Vista - Built in the 1920s as an upscale hotel by Flagstaff investors. It was named the Community Hotel until a private corporation purchased it in 1960.
Hotel Monte Vista – Built in the 1920s as an upscale hotel by Flagstaff investors. It was named the Community Hotel until a private corporation purchased it in 1960.

Flagstaff’s downtown is split by the proverbial railroad tracks—but in this case, I don’t think there’s a wrong side. The north side is a historic district; on the other side, old warehouses fill the limited space between the tracks and Northern Arizona University. Each has a distinct vibe of its own.

Older masonry structures make up the historic district and crowd the sidewalks. As a result, the streets are narrow, and parking is limited. If you find a parking spot, it’s easy to walk about the 24 blocks downtown. When the founders laid out the town, they included alleys so deliveries and utilities would be off the street. That may have worked in the mid-twentieth century, but retail space is at a premium, so landlords split the buildings, and now shops occupy the building’s front and back. That means there’s always a beer delivery truck clogging the street somewhere.

I get the feeling that since the city is Arizona’s “premier” ski area, the city planners are using other resort towns as models. There is the usual mix of restaurants, bars, souvenir shops, and galleries for you to spend money in. The building owners maintain the facades well and have decorated them with low-voltage lights—for that Disney Main Street look. However, something’s missing. The Snow Bowl doesn’t draw the same skiers as Aspen, Telluride, or Park City (the airport couldn’t hold that many private jets). So, although I enjoy walking about and seeing the architecture of the old town, it needs more polish.

Nope - I spotted this sign in a tavern window and it confused me for days. Then I realized that it has a different meaning if you move the 'N' from the top, to the bottom.
Nope – I spotted this sign in a tavern window, which confused me for days. Then I realized that it has a different meaning if you move the ‘N’ from the top to the bottom.

If the area north of the tracks is all façade, the south side is another story. It’s more bohemian, rustic, and organic—as you’d expect from a college town. The merchants may slap paint on their industrial buildings and hang an open sign on this side of town. They depend on the product and repeat clientele to survive. You’ll get the same bar food, but without the pretentiousness. For example, this is where the youth hostel is. Over the past two weeks, I’ve shown motel signs from here, and this is where you’ll find a café called the Tourist Home. This eating establishment has good food, but they’ve replaced the wait staff and cashier with your cell phone—petulant geezers like me, beware (they dare to expect tips).

For this week’s picture, we’re going to cross the tracks north to the Aspen and San Francisco Streets intersection. Here we’ll see Flagstaff’s third oversized sign on scaffolding. But this one is on the roof of the Hotel Monte Vista, one of the oldest hotels in Northern Arizona.

Monte Vista has an interesting backstory. It was built in the 1920s with money raised by local citizens. Including a big chunk from Zane Grey, they raised $200,000 to fund an upscale hotel the town desperately needed. It opened on New Year’s Day 1927 as the Community Hotel. It was a publicly held business until private investors bought it in 1960. Besides the hotel, the building was home to the Post Office, newspaper, and radio station, and its lounge was a speak-easy during prohibition. The hotel’s Website has a page with other histories, famous guests, and ghost stories. You can read it here.

I shot this week’s image called Hotel Monte Vista early in the morning before the sun was up and the streets were empty. The lack of light muted the building’s colors. It looks like I was trying for a sepia-toned effect, but I wasn’t. It’s an unusual look for me, and I’m not sure it works. What do you think? I also noticed that the signs on all three of this month’s photos have the sign on the right. I would have changed that had I thought about a grouping layout.Teal 356 - I stumbled on this Porsche while on my morning shoot on the south side of the tracks. It proves that even the bourgeoisie appreciate classy cars.

Teal 356 – I stumbled on this Porsche while on my morning shoot on the south side of the tracks. It proves that even the bourgeoisie appreciate classy cars. You can view my Web version of Hotel Monte Vista on its page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy seeing this month’s trio of hotel signs. Next week, we start a new adventure from Northern Arizona, so be sure to join us.

 

 

Till next time
jw

BTW: A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about coffee cups, contests, and calendars. I asked for your advice and the response I got was: <crickets> – – Silence – – </crickets>. You’re not interested, so to paraphrase Seinfeld’s soup-Nazi character, “NO CUPS FOR YOU—ONE YEAR.” Now I have to shave my head before meeting up with Larry and Mo.

Grand Canyon Hotel Picture of the Week

Almost two centuries ago, a peculiar group of men earned a living by hunting and trapping wild game in the mountain west. That’s right; they were the Mountain Men. Although they were legendary, there were only about a thousand of them, and their heyday only lasted 20 years. They preferred pack mules to people, so they traveled alone. One of these men was exceptional and was admired even among his peers. They called him Ol’ Bill Williams.

The Arizona historian—Marshall Tremble—describes Bill as a 6 foot, skinny redhead with a high-pitched voice and a peculiar walk—more of a stagger. His Osage wife must have had olfactory problems because even his cronies complained that he should take a bath once in a while. I didn’t find any references about Bill’s Arizona travels, but he must have impressed many Arizonans because our state has a trail, an annual gathering, a river, a mountain, and a town named in his honor. That town is the anchor for our October project—Williams, Arizona.

Williams is another railroad town along Arizona’s northern east/west corridor. First Nation people, trappers, railroads, and dust bowl migrants stopped here because there’s water. It’s located on the Colorado Plateau about an hour west of the Flagstaff volcanoes. A few miles west of Williams, you quickly descend into the transition zone and the grasslands around Ash Fork.

Sultana Bar - Williams has a couple of proper dive-bars right out of a Micky Spillane novel.
Sultana Bar – Williams has a couple of proper dive bars right out of a Micky Spillane novel.

The current attraction of Williams today is Route 66 memorabilia. Shops line the historic downtown area selling posters, t-shirts, car signs, and other useless trinkets of that ilk. But that’s not what we’ll be concentrating on this month. I’ve already covered that in our Seligman series. Besides, I’ve already said that Route 66 may have already jumped the shark. Car stuff was important for my generation, and maybe the one following us. Millennials don’t seem interested in cars or property. Owning a car was our independence. To them, it’s a ball and chain.

Williams began as a railroad town on one of the busiest routes in the country. It also has a couple of exciting spurs. One that goes past my house into Phoenix and another that runs to the Grand Canyon. Santa Fe built that line to lure eastern tourists into seeing the park. That ride is still famous today, and passengers get dumped at the El Tovar Hotel. If you had deep pockets, you could hop a train at Grand Central Station and stay in two of Arizona’s historic hotels—the Railroad Hotel in Williams and El Tovar at the canyon.

Grand Canyon Hotel - The historic Grand Canyon Hotel's neon sign lights up a couple of blocks in downtown Williams.
Grand Canyon Hotel – The historic Grand Canyon Hotel’s neon sign lights up a couple of blocks in downtown Williams.

As I said already, I’m not going to focus (get it?) on the Route 66 stuff this month, but I couldn’t help myself when I saw the historic and bright neon lights—ooh, shiny. I love them, especially when they’re not working completely. So that explains this week’s featured image that I call Grand Canyon Hotel (or should it be H tel). I’m not sure that I’d stay there. It would be like staying at Miss Kitty’s Long Branch Saloon—dancing girls, cards, drunks, and gunfights all night long. The sign is the brightest on the street, and it casts its red glow for blocks.

Also, in the lower-left corner of the photo, you can see the Red Raven’s awning. Trip Advisor rates it the top restaurant in Williams. Queen Anne and I had a wonderful meal there. It’s a bit pricy but better than the rest of the burger-and-fries joints in town. I’ll write a complete review if you’re interested—that means begging me in the comments.

You can see a larger version of Grand Canyon Hotel on its Web Page by clicking here. Next week, we’ll start our tour of the Williams area, and you can see what we found. Come back then.

Until next time — jw

Out Buildings Picture of the Week

Any discussion about Black Canyon City wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Rock Springs, so I saved that for last this month. It’s hard for me to know where to begin. If you say that name, most Phoenicians will think about the pie restaurant. It’s understandable, it’s been open for a century now, and every time we drive by and think about stopping, we don’t because it’s packed. Like Yogi Berra said,” Nobody goes there anymore, because it’s too crowded.” As for lasting 100 years, I’d like to extend my congratulations, but I don’t want to talk about pies, I want to discuss its history.

Out Buildings
Out Buildings – A pair of tin roofs on storage sheds behind the Rock Springs Cafe.

Before cars, trains or airplanes—when I was a child—travelers stopped at Rock Springs because it was a reliable source of good water. People came here for centuries before Caucasians lived in Arizona. On your next visit, take the time to stroll around the grounds and look for the Waterfall signs. Outback, you’ll see water drizzling over polished and worn boulders—that’s Rock Springs. The restaurant has a couple of tables out there so you can enjoy a waterside cocktail. I imagine that the flow over the falls is pretty good at times, but when it’s dry, it’s more like forgetting to turn off your garden hose.

The water is the reason that Ben Warner opened a tent-like store, and—in 1918—built a hotel on this site. In case you didn’t notice,  I love these historical buildings. Fortunately, the café has a Web Page that speaks of its history and shows an old photo of the block building—with an A-1 Beer sign hanging from the portico. I really wanted to capture an image of that hotel and talk about some of its famous guests; like Jean Harlow, Tom Mix, and Wyatt Earp. I couldn’t. Decades of hastily planned expansions have camouflaged the original building. Only hints of the original hotel sick out here and there. After circling the restaurant as the sun rose, I gave up and shot other subjects.

On one of my laps, I saw this interesting pattern of weathered tin roofs on a couple of storage sheds behind the Rock Creek Café. It’s as if they knew that I would be shooting this because they built a simple plank fence that masks the clutter and adds a perspective line to the scene. When I took this shot, I honestly didn’t pay attention to the clouds, but let’s not tell anyone. I’ll claim that I planned it. I call this week’s image: Out Buildings.

You can see a larger version of Out Buildings on its Web Page by clicking here. I hope you enjoy viewing this week’s post and come back next week when we begin a new monthly series from a different place in Yavapai County.

Until next time — jw