Topock was the western gateway for eastbound travelers to the State of Arizona and the departure point for westbound travelers to the State of California. Topock probably has as many earlier names, formal and otherwise, as any town on Route 66. It was once named Needles but by the time that the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad arrived it had been re-named Powell for Major John Wesley Powell of Grand Canyon exploration fame. Names used later in the 19th century included Red Rock and Red Crossing, both of which probably had some relationship with the regional geology as the Santa Fe Railroad Bridge was known as the Red Rock Bridge. In the early 20th century it was named for a Colorado River boat captain whose last name was spelled either Mellon or Mullen or Mellen. But finally consistency prevailed and in fact for the entire period of commissioned US Highway 66 it has been named Topock, an Indian name that apparently means a river crossing.
Topock was once a tiny green oasis for the Route 66 traveler but there is nothing left of the early businesses anymore. The settlement did leave its name on the I-40 exit and the Oatman-Topock Highway, which was the early Route 66 alignment to Oatman, and the nearby Topock Marsh.
From the Colorado River and Topock the original alignment of US Highway 66 made a very difficult climb over the Black Mountains of Arizona to reach Kingman.
The Black Mountains are rugged desert mountains.
The Riverview Auto Court was 35 miles east of Needles and just west of the Boundary Cone
The attractive cholla cactus blooms can be captured on camera in late winter
This 1935 view is looking east toward the summit from about one mile east of Oatman
Mission Camp had gas pumps, probably a cafe, and cabins in this 1933 picture
Back in 1926 the question of how to route US Highway 66 across Arizona was certainly discussed. The roadway between Kingman and the Colorado River up and over the Black Mountains of Arizona was one aspect of the routing of US Highway 66 that has always been interesting to me. The very steepest part, called the Gold Roads Grade, is east of Oatman and the name is generally understood to include both the eastern and western approaches to what is now called the Sitgreave's Pass. This narrow, steep, and winding road was supposedly quite a fearful trip for some experienced local drivers. It has been written that it was so steep that popular Ford Model T automobiles could only be driven up the road backwards in some parts since the Model T had a gravity-fed fuel system. (Those Model Ts did not have fuel pumps. In all Model Ts except some two-door cars built very late in the 20-year production run, the fuel tank was positioned high underneath the front seat to allow fuel to flow to the carburetor by gravity. You can imagine then that if the road pitch was steep enough the carburetor in the front of the Model T could actually be higher than the level of fuel in the tank and that would cause the engine to die. Driving the Model T in reverse up a steep hill ensured that fuel flowed continuously to the carburetor.) But, as noted in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66, two alternatives for travelers existed: they could either have their automobiles towed over the summit or they could drive US Highway 466 (now US Highway 93) north over Boulder (now Hoover) Dam.
Locating engineers for any railroad carefully explore the terrain and survey for tracks so that trains would not be subject to too steep a grade. Just a small grade can bring a train to a stop and require helper locomotives to push it through such a stretch. There are no hard-and-fast rules from the steam locomotive era about the use of helpers on mainline grades. Dependences such as the horsepower of the stream locomotive(s) and the tonnage being pulled are the two principal factors in determining if a train needed helpers up a certain grade or not. In very gross and simplistic terms, slopes of 1% (about 50 feet of elevation climb per mile of track run) were usually manageable by steam locomotives but slopes nearing 2% usually required helpers. It is not surprising then that many railroad tracks across the USA followed slow-moving rivers and streams because of their gentle elevation changes.
Helper locomotives were a last resort for most railroads since it meant not only additional locomotives assigned to an area but also required maintenance facilities and more employees.
Locating engineers for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad (later acquired by the Santa Fe Railroad) were successful in avoiding helper operations in northwestern Arizona by following an alignment from the Colorado River at Topock (elevation 600 feet above sea level) up along the gentle Sacramento Wash and then on to Kingman (elevation 3300 feet above sea level) for an elevation gain of 2700 feet in a distance of 50 miles yielding a reasonable eastbound grade of about 1%. Today's town of Yucca, Arizona, was established at the approximate midpoint between Topock and Kingman.
(The steepest railroad grade along western Route 66 is in Cajon Pass where the original single track encountered a northbound grade of 3%. Later a second track was added that zig-zagged around the Pass a bit more and had a northbound grade of 2.2%. Nearly all trains headed by steam locomotives required helpers northbound through Cajon Pass. Most ascending northbound trains were assigned this second track while most descending southbound trains were assigned the first track. But even today some northbound trains headed by diesel locomotives are assigned helpers.)
It is logical that trails and then roadways that developed late in the 19th century and into the 20th century would generally take a cue from the railroads since they followed the gentlest grades. But, of course, roadways did diverge from the railroads for some distances. After all, automobiles can routinely take 10% or steeper grades in their low gears then and now. (That is, unless they have a primitive fuel-supply system as noted above.) And so across Arizona there are some areas where Route 66 and the Santa Fe Railroad are not within earshot of one another. But in the far northwestern region of Arizona is where Route 66 and the railroad are apart for a significant distance of about 50 miles.
I have an Automobile Club map from 1925 just one year before the numbering system of the US Highways came to be. My map shows an existing gravel road between Kingman and Needles via the Black Mountains and Oatman. Apparently some years earlier this road was graded and then improved to facilitate the movement of gold ore from the Black Mountain mines to the lower elevation towns (likely Kingman) for transport and processing. But the map also shows an "unimproved" road between Kingman and Needles that seems to follow the Santa Fe Railroad. (The railroad tracks are not shown on my particular map but it is likely that this unimproved road was very close to the railroad. In fact, railroads often grade a dirt road next to their tracks in remote locations to allow their employees and vehicles access to the railroad bed, track, bridges, etc., for maintenance purposes.)
So my guess is that the most expedient choice back in 1926 for selecting the alignment for the new US Highway 66 was simply to go with the existing gravel road through Oatman, albeit this mountain road was steep, winding and fundamentally problematic for most travelers, rather than embarking upon a substantial effort to improve the "unimproved" road that ran near the railroad tracks.
I have a 1927 Automobile Club map that was printed immediately after the designation of the numbered US highways and it shows US Highway 66 as the gravel road through Oatman but it still shows the unimproved road southeasterly around the Black Mountains. I have a 1928 Automobile Club map that again shows US Highway 66 via Oatman but the unimproved road is no longer shown. Perhaps it had deteriorated or its absence from the map was to ensure that travelers would always take US Highway 66 over the Black Mountains and never consider a deviation with its own risks and problems. (This map also shows that northwestern Arizona was in the Pacific Time Zone then.)
At some point US Highway 66 through the Black Mountains was paved. 1937 is the year cited when US Highway 66 in Arizona was completely paved but the last segment was in Crozier Canyon near Hackberry and Valentine. My guess is that the complete paving over and through the Black Mountains was done not far in advance of that year. Paving helped but did not solve the primary problems (too steep and too winding) of the US Highway 66. I am not sure when the southeasterly lower-elevation road via Yucca was improved and paved. My 1948 Arizona highway map shows the road status as "improved second class" which I assume meant it was still gravel but in much better condition that it was when my 1925 and 1927 Automobile Club maps were published. It was probably paved just prior to Route 66 being moved south to it in October of 1952. So finally after 26 years the Black Mountains were circumvented and Route 66 became a true high-speed highway across Arizona. Of course, this later alignment of Route 66 evolved into the Interstate 40 of today.
I have yet to find any Route 66 guide book, or any book in fact, that does anything more than acknowledge the later lower-elevation alignment through Yucca even though this highway was Route 66 for a quarter of a century, a time comparable to the duration of Route 66 through the Black Mountains. Why is this? I guess that the Black Mountains and Oatman have a certain scenic or historical appeal that does not exist along the later route. And so it is for RPPCs too. In fact, I am not aware of any RPPC from the later alignment of Route 66. So for this web site we'll assume that we are back in the 1940s and we are traveling Route 66 over the Black Mountains.
I think that the Black Mountains hold the distinction of having the highest geographic concentration of different RPPCs of any area along Route 66 in Arizona. Most RPPCs from the Black Mountains region are what I call scenic views that often show the highway itself and perhaps a car or two and some dramatic scenery in the background. There are also a number RPPCs that show man-made structures which include views of Oatman, several auto camps along the way, and some of the mines that existed along the road. It seems that many photographers, Burton Frasher among them, found the Black Mountains particularly photogenic and they have left us with a large legacy of images from the 1930s and 1940s.
The road east from Topock to Oatman is not particularly steep but the climb is steady. Jack Rittenhouse noted some camping locations along this stretch of the road in his 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66.
The Foothill Auto Court was one-half mile west of Oatman. The distinctive rock that look down over Oatman, called the "Elephant Tooth," can be seen in this 1933 RPPC
The plank walkway at the Arizona Hotel was crowded this day. The Arizona Hotel has since been razed but the building to its right still stands. The intriguing Honolulu Club on the right sold Shell gasoline
Gold was discovered in the Black Mountains in 1902 and several years later the Vivian Mining Company began the first large commercial mining effort in the area. The tent camp for workers that sprung up and the collection of quickly-built permanent structures was named Vivian and Vivian became the commercial center for the nearby gold mines. The blockbuster Tom Reed Mine opened in 1908 and the town of Vivian was renamed Oatman. Large-scale gold mining lasted until World War II but when mining slackened, Oatman, once with a population of nearly 10,000 people in its heyday, began a decline and was nearly killed in late 1952 when US Highway 66 was re-aligned to the lower-elevation route through Yucca.
The most prominent surviving and historically significant building in Oatman is the two-story Oatman Hotel which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Originally built as the Durlin Hotel in 1902, a fire damaged the building and when it re-opened in 1924 it was called the Ox Yoke Inn. Several RPPCs also show what looks to be a wood-framed and wood-sided 3-story hotel called the Arizona Hotel in Oatman but it is now gone. The only hotel in Oatman cited in Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 is the Everett Hotel and I do not know why Mr. Rittenhouse did not mention the Ox Yoke Inn in his book. In the 1960s the hotel was renamed the Oatman Hotel.
Like many buildings in the Southwest, the Oatman Hotel has a stucco surface which was applied over very thick walls made from adobe blocks. It has four arches on the front at the street level which gives it a bit of a Spanish mission look. As built the hotel had 24 guest rooms but later owners replaced the first floor rooms with the restaurant and bar that exists today. I don't believe that the upstairs rooms are rented any longer.
The horseshoe curves are the steep and winding roadway between old Gold Road and the summit
The "Gasoline Station and Ice Cream Parlor" at the summit of Route 66 in the Black Mountains
The view to the east from the summit has not changed much in fifty years
East of Oatman is the beginning of what has been known as the "Gold Roads Grade", the most severe winding and steepest road segment in the Black Mountains. Once a small crossroads called Gold Road (Goldroad) was located here among the various mining operations in the area. The summit of the road is 3500 feet high, about 1000 feet higher than Oatman just five miles away. This average road grade is about 4% but, of course, short stretches of the road are steeper than this. Jack Rittenhouse refers to the name of the summit as Gold Hill Summit in his A Guide Book to Highway 66 and notes the presence of a "gasoline station and ice cream parlor". Various RPPCs refer to it in less specific terms but today it is known as Sitgreave's Pass, named for early explorer Lorenzo Sitgreave.
[There is a puzzle surrounding the naming of Sitgreave('s) Pass. The roadway summit of the Black Mountains east of Oatman and Goldroad today is known as Sitgreave's Pass. It is marked as Sitgreaves Pass on my 1948 Arizona highway road map. But Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 employs some different terminology. On pages 109 and 110 Mr. Rittenhouse describes US Highway 66 mileage and the sequence of points of interest for the westbound traveler out of Kingman. From the junction of US 66 and US 466 (basically US Highway 93 now) in downtown Kingman, he describes "Sitgreave Pass" as being just five miles west of Kingman. Then he continues that the road beyond Sitgreave Pass is basically flat and straight for 15 miles or so through "open range". Mr. Rittenhouse next identifies the abandoned Fig Springs Camp as the point where the roadway begins its sharpest rise, which he calls the Gold Roads Grade. He refers to the roadway summit as Gold Hill Summit. Now, how could Sitgreave Pass be just five miles from Kingman? I think that what Mr. Rittenhouse wrote in 1946 was correct then. In the preface to the facsimile edition, Mr. Rittenhouse himself points out a couple of errors that he made back in 1946 but this is not one of them. Further, I have never seen any other writer challenge the notion that Sitgreave Pass was a mere five miles from downtown Kingman in 1946. So here's how I interpret things and why. The path of Route 66 back in 1946 out of Kingman was along a short and scenic canyon carved by a stream along the Santa Fe Railroad tracks. (Part of this road still exists today southwest of Kingman and is actually named Old Trails Road.) Mr. Rittenhouse names this as Sitgreave Pass and describes it as having "rocky, pallisaded walls [that] narrow and widen as you emerge upon a wide plain." This Sitgreave Pass described by Mr. Rittenhouse seems to be the five mile long canyon south of Kingman that connects to present-day McConnico and has nothing to do with the roadway summit of the Black Mountains. (In fact, from present-day McConnico a westbound driver on old Route 66 does travel for about 15 miles on a fairly straight and almost level roadway in an area that could have been open livestock range at one time, so that is consistent with Mr. Rittenhouse's description too.)
An east-bound automobile descends the Black Mountains on the way toward Kingman
So it is possible that naming the roadway summit of the Black Mountains as Sitgreave's Pass occurred sometime between Mr. Rittenhouse's book of 1946 and my Arizona highway map of 1948. None of the RPPCs that I have seen actually refer to the summit in the Black Mountains as Sitgreaves but rather something more generic like the "summit of the Gold Roads Grade". But these RPPCs were from the 1930s and 1940s. (A more modern photo-chrome postcard names the summit "Sitgreave's Pass" and signage at the summit does as well.) It is possible the little canyon south of Kingman did not have much significance and county residents and public officials looked for a better way to honor the exploratory contributions of Lorenzo Sitgreave and named the summit in the Black Mountains for him. But, alas, this is just my theory and I have been unable to find any verification of it.]
The descent from the summit down the eastern slope of the Black Mountains for the first five miles is also quite steep and windy but as the road descends further the curves are gentler. There are two notable camps along this way that date back to around the time of the designation of US Highway 66. Both are mentioned in Jack Rittenhouse's A Guide Book to Highway 66: Ed's Camp and Cool Springs Camp about one mile apart.
"Ed" Edgerton built Ed's Camp for travelers
Lowell "Ed" Edgerton established Ed's Camp to cater to the travelers on Route 66. A gasoline station and grocery store were the most prominent features but a tourist could pull in and camp for the night on his grounds as well. It is said that business was booming so rapidly when Mr. Edgerton poured a concrete foundation for his new store that he decided to forego traditional walls and commenced directly to build the roof. He screened in the walls and that is how Ed's Camp endures even to this day. Mr. Edgerton was known as a geological expert and was consulted by academic and amateur geologists alike about his knowledge and understanding of the many diverse and in-demand minerals and rocks in the region. Today Ed's Camp and the adjacent Kactus Kafe are abandoned and frozen in time.
Cool Springs Camp was abandoned some years after the re-alignment of Route 66 but was re-built to its original appearance ten years ago
N. R. Dunton established Cool Springs Camp in 1927, one year after US Highway 66 was commissioned. From native stones he built the main building for selling provisions and gasoline and then he built a couple of cabins for travelers. Water was pumped from a natural springs Mr. Dunton discovered a couple miles away. Subsequent owners eventually added a second building as a restaurant and bar. The entire complex was built in a single row along the narrow shoulder of Route 66 before the slope fell off more precipitiously. Cool Springs Camp hung on for another fifteen years after Route 66 was moved to the lower-elevation alignment in late 1952 but was eventually abandoned. The lime-based mortar decayed, some of the noteworthy stonework collapsed, and the building began turning into rubble when Hollywood came calling and movie-set carpenters re-built the structure so demolition experts could rig it to be blown up for the movie Universal Soldier. The site was swept clean which is how it stayed for more than a decade until it was purchased by Ned Leuchtner who had the main building of the camp beautifully and faithfully rebuilt in the same style and design as the original.
The automobiles suggest that this Fig Springs Camp RPPC is likely from the early 1940s
The history of the Fig Springs Camp is a bit uncertain. Apparently it was built by a family named Bonelli. A residence, gas station, and even a swimming pool were built along the highway. Texaco was the brand of gasoline sold. The swimming pool, it is said, had a following among many Kingman residents who would make the drive to the west to enjoy the pool during hot weather. There were springs but I am not sure if the springs themselves were on Route 66 or off the road. Since the Bonellis planted fig trees in the immediate area the springs were named Fig Springs. If we go back to Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 we can find his notation that Fig Springs Camp was at the base of the Black Mountains where west-bound travelers began their climb and where east-bound travelers finally reached the relatively straight and flat run into Kingman. But Mr. Rittenhouse noted that at the time his guidebook was published Fig Springs Camp had already been abandoned. Perhaps the decreased traffic during the War years did the business in.
Kingman was named for Lewis Kingman, who held the important position as the locating engineer for the Atlantic & Pacific railroad. Since a number of wagon routes already passed through the area before the railroad came, growth of the new town of Kingman was almost assured.
The alignment of the National Old Trails Highway, predecessor to US Highway 66 in this area, was on the east side of the small canyon on the western approach to Kingman. The road, now appropriately named Old Trails Road, shares the eastern canyon wall with the Santa Fe Railroad. This road became the first alignment of US Highway 66 although the highway was later re-aligned to the west side of the canyon for fewer turns and wider lanes where it can be found today. The Santa Fe Railroad main line was originally just a single track in the far West but after World War II the main line was double-tracked between Albuquerque and Los Angeles. (During this huge upgrading effort is when the Santa Fe replaced their single-track Red Rock Bridge across the Colorado River near Needles with the double-track bridge that exists today.) In most locations when the double-tracking of the railroad is to be done, the second track is laid right alongside the original track but sometimes difficult geography or conditions require that the second track be some distance from the original track. That is the case in the higher elevation region of Cajon Pass and it is true here at the western edge of Kingman as well: the newer second track is across the small canyon from the original track.
The Gypsy Garden Court opened in the 1930s and included a cafe, gasoline station, and curio shop. It was renamed the Coronado Court and operated through the halcyon years of Route 66 until it was razed. Its location is now an empty lot.
Charlie Lum came from China in 1922 to work for his father in Kingman. Here he is at the Lewis Cafe on Route 66 between 6th and 7th streets. I believe he is the same Charlie Lum who later owned the Jade Restaurant.
The Lockwood Cafe once served "Chicken in the Rough." Today the building is St. Michael's Catholic Church.
The Casa Linda Cafe was located on Route 66 at 5th Street. The building is occupied by a surveying company today.
This RPPC was taken right after the El Trovatore Court opened in 1939 and its post-War success led to the addition of another row of rooms and a restaurant. The motel rooms are laid out around a courtyard, a design fairly unique for its day.
The Flying A gas station and the Tydway Cafe on Route 66 on the east side of Kingman. Its matchcover proclaimed "Look for the Big Arrow" which is hard to see here but it is the circular white band in the big sign board. The arrowhead itself is lost in the bright sky.
US Highway 66 was on Front Street as it ran parallel and adjacent to the Santa Fe Railroad tracks through Kingman. Two hotels, the Hotel Beale and the next-door Hotel Brunswick, were on Front Street across from the tracks. Situated near the Santa Fe Railroad depot, these two hotels served railroad passengers in addition to other travelers. (Kingman did not have a Harvey House hotel although the Southwestern art-deco style depot did have a restaurant at one time.) In the 1990s the Hotel Brunswick was re-furbished and re-opened while the Hotel Beale fell into disrepair and it has been closed for about twenty years. (A couple of small retail stores and businesses on the street level of the Hotel Beale hung on a bit longer but they eventually closed as well.) The Hotel Beale sign on the supporting lattice structure still towers over the rooftop but is no longer lit. The 1913 Arizona Good Roads Association Illustrated Road Maps and Tour Book has an advertisement on page 114 for the Hotel Beale "opposite depot" which claims to have "47 Handsomely Furnished Rooms" with "All modern improvements" such as "Running Water . . . Baths . . . Electric Lights". The owner was Tom Devine. His son Andy became a movie and television actor and his fame in the 1940s and 1950s led the town leaders to re-name Front Street "Andy Devine Avenue" in 1955. (I remember Andy Devine from my fifties youth as the fictional Marshal Jingles Jones to Wild Bill Hickock on the television series that ran in syndication.)
Most of the motels, cafes, and gasoline stations in Kingman lined Andy Devine Avenue from one end of town to the other. (A few motels and gasoline stations were located on West Beale Street to capture traffic on US Highway 93 - once US Highway 466 - north of the junction with US 66.) Some of the old motels are still in business for nightly lodging but others are for long-term rentals only. There are a number of large empty lots mostly on the north side of Andy Devine Avenue which were the locations of old motels that once existed on Route 66 but were razed in the last ten to twenty years.
The Santa Fe Railroad tracks are always on the east-bound Route 66 traveler's right side all the way to Seligman. Sometimes the tracks are close to the highway, especially in Crozier Canyon in the Hackberry/Valentine area north of Kingman, but sometimes they are a half-mile or so away in the distance. Small businesses thrived along this northern loop, serving all the Route 66 travelers, until 1978 when Interstate 40 was completed and business collapsed.
Hackberry was named for the desert plant growing in these parts. Most residences are east of the railroad tracks where the Old Trails Highway went but the later traveler-oriented businesses were all on Route 66 west of the railroad tracks. Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 mentions that there were three gasoline stations in town. The only one that endures today was called the Northside Grocery that once sold Enco gasoline and advertised that it was open 24 hours a day. The Northside Grocery was the first business an eastbound traveler encountered. (How can the Northside Grocery be the first business encountered? It is because Route 66 takes an unexpected but brief directional turn as it follows Crozier Canyon in the Hackberry area so an eastbound traveler approaches from the northwest and continues through Hackberry in a southeasterly direction until the highway turns north again.) The Northside Grocery is now known as the Hackberry General Store and it has been restored as a contemporary tourist stop and simply can not be missed.
Valentine, named for the federal Commissioner of Indian Affairs in the early part of the twentieth century, is a small town of two parts. Most of the traveler-oriented businesses were in the southern portion of the town, although many of them have by now been either completely razed or in ruins. A mile or so farther north on old Route 66 is the northern portion of the town defined by the boarded-up red brick two-story Indian School. Open in 1917, closed in about 1937, and re-opened later and operated until 1969, the Indian School is a reminder that this area is actually a small detached portion of the large Hualapai Indian Reservation headquartered north in Peach Springs. This segment of Route 66 was the last unpaved section of the highway. Only when it was paved in 1937 did continuous pavement stretch all the way between Chicago and Los Angeles.
The name Beale, which appears in Kingman, is from Lt. Edward F. Beale, who was assigned to survey a wagon road across the territories of Arizona and New Mexico and into California in 1857. Lt. Beale took a contingent of 25 camels along with his military party in part to evaluate the animals abilities in the southwestern deserts. The route of his wagon road preceded the railroad and US Highway 66, both of which would generally follow his route.
Truxton, the maiden name of his mother, was left by Lt. Beale to this location where water was found. (I have also seen a reference that states this was the name of Lt. Beale's son as well, although that reference spells his son's name as "Truxtun". But the Beale Memorial Library in Bakersfield, California, is on Truxtun Avenue, so this spelling may be the most historically correct.) A pump house and water tank were eventually built for steam locomotives. As a designated town Truxton dates back only to the early fifties. It is neither mentioned in Jack Rittenhouse's book nor does it appear on early Arizona highway maps. The Frontier Motel and Café on the east side of the road (US Highway 66 is running closer to north-south here rather than east-west) is still open for business. The abandoned Orlando Motel is on the west side of old highway 66. Farther north also on the west side is the semi-abandoned Barker Apartments that looks to be another old motel. Since Ray and Mildred Barker operated the Frontier Motel and Café from 1957 through the latter heyday of Route 66 perhaps this old motel was abandoned after the Interstate 40 bypass and the Barkers acquired it to be used as apartments for local residents. But I really do not know.
The Qumacho Café and Motel of Peach Springs has been razed. The Qumacho Café once served Chicken in the Rough®
Water was found in this area now named Peach Springs in the mid-eighteenth century and Spanish Padre Father Garces (for whom the Harvey House in Needles, California, is named) named it St. Basil's Well. Native Americans were the first occupants of the region, of course, and the tribe whose headquarters is in the town is now known as the Hualapai (pronounced something like Wal-a-pai). The 1500 square-mile Hualapai Indian Reservation consists of the far northeast corner of Mohave County and the far northwest corner of Coconino County. The area was given the secular name of Indian Springs by Lt. Beale in the mid-nineteenth century. It is believed that it was renamed Peach Springs for the peach orchards that were established in the area by early Mormon settlers. The Santa Fe Railroad came to utilize this water for their steam locomotives.
Most of the Peach Springs of the Route 66 halcyon era is gone. The most interesting structure left is the large white-painted brick building on the south side of the road that once was Osterman's Shell station. It was later called the Peach Springs Garage but it still sold Shell gasoline and motor oils. It opened in the 1920s and operated into the 1990s. The structure is still intact but it seems a significant number of birds have nested in the rafters as they have access through the many broken and missing windows. Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 mentions three places for lodging but none of these old auto courts exist anymore. The 1932-era Caravan Inn was purchased by the Boyds in 1938 who renamed it the Peach Springs Motel and operated it through nearly the entire Route 66 era. When the Interstate 40 bypass was completed in 1978, business collapsed but Beatrice Boyd, widowed and nearing her retirement years anyway, continued to operate the old motel into the early 1980s at a much slower pace than before. The buildings are gone now.
Walter Peck was not the first person to discover the Grand Canyon Caverns: local Hualapai Indians knew about them too. But in 1927 Mr. Peck obtained a lease on the land, configured a winch system, and lowered paying visitors by rope down into what he called the Yampai Caverns (I think named for the Santa Fe Railroad siding nearby). The caverns were soon renamed the Coconino Caverns for the county in which they are located. When a more modern ladder and stair system was built by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936, the cavern became readily accessible. But this was the Depression and little money could be made from the travelers and the dirt-poor families fleeing the Dust Bowl. By the late 1930s Mr. Peck relinquished the lease and the caverns were operated by a succession of others over the subsequent years.
Ownership in the 1960s brought a new name - Dinosaur Caverns - and a fun, family-friendly collection of outside dinosaur statues and gift items that seemed to define the business in the later Route 66 years, albeit dinosaurs had really nothing to do with the caverns or the area around them. Grand plans were made for a "Dinosaur City" in the immediate vicinity and the Caverns Motel and a post office were established but that was about it. In 1978 came the Interstate 40 bypass. The caverns took on their fourth name, the Grand Canyon Caverns, to try to link them to the famous nearby National Park. The caverns and the motel are still open today.
Hyde Park offered "a café, gas, and cabins" according to Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 .
The Hyde Park complex was less than two miles south of the Grand Canyon Caverns at Hyde Park Road (today's Milepost 117). In the very early days the Caverns had no overnight lodging so Hyde Park was the closest place for visitors to stay. The foundations of Hyde Park can be seen from a driveway-like pull-out. Please respect the ruins and do not take souvenirs from the property.
This white-washed log structure seen in this old RPPC no longer exists, replaced by more modern buildings. Conoco gas pumps are out front and "Fresh Eggs" are "For Sale"
Up until 2009 the remaining structures of Deer Lodge had been signed as the Calvary Baptist Institute but the property has had alternate names during the previous two decades that implied a religious affiliation. I have never seen much activity here though. In 2009 a "For Sale" sign was posted on the complex and today the property seems to be a personal residence. The Deer Lodge is on the west side of old Route 66 near milepost 120. Entrepreneur Stan Wakefield owned the Deer Lodge in the 1930s and even operated the Coconino Caverns for a while in the late 1930s after Walter Peck gave up on them. During this time Mr. Wakefield exhibited geological artifacts at the Deer Lodge store that he claimed came from the Caverns, thus encouraging westbound Route 66 travelers to visit the Caverns down the road. Jack Rittenhouse's 1946 A Guide Book to Highway 66 mentions that Deer Lodge had "cabins and gas" but later matchcovers state that it also had a café and bar as well.
The Atlantic & Pacific railroad arrived in 1882 as it pushed west from Albuquerque into California. The railroad was eventually acquired by the Santa Fe Railroad. The town was once known as Prescott Junction because a railroad line branched from the main line here for connection to the town of Prescott. When an improved Prescott branch line was built to the east and connected with the main railroad line at Ash Fork, the town was renamed for Jesse Seligman, a railroad financier from New York. The Santa Fe Railroad's construction of the Havasu Harvey House in 1905 is credited with the subsequent development of Seligman since it seemed to elevate this small town in stature among other small towns that dotted northern Arizona at the time. But with the decrease in passenger traffic after the War, the Havasu Harvey House ceased being used as a hotel in 1954. Part of the Harvey House was used as a station for railroad passengers (Santa Fe and later Amtrak) for another thirty years until Seligman was abandoned as a train stop. Portions of the building were then used by the Santa Fe railroad as an office and materials storage facility but in 2008 the railroad vacated the premises and the Havasu Harvey House was razed.
Early US Highway 66 came through Seligman on what today is Railroad Avenue, running parallel-to and immediately adjacent to the tracks and the Havasu Harvey House. Most of the town's businesses were then located on this street. In 1933 Route 66 was moved one block north to the more commonly known and particularly-wide thoroughfare of Chino Avenue. Chino Avenue took its name from the Chino Valley to the southeast and the name Chino is still applied to the wash just beyond the western edge of the town and the hillside "point" that Route 66 squeezes around to reach Seligman from the west. Tourism became a major business of Seligman as the great increase in automobile traffic after the War spawned numerous gasoline stations, cafes and motels along Chino Avenue. The good times lasted for thirty years until 1978 when Interstate 40 bypassed the city.
I am not aware of any street scene RPPC view from Seligman but perhaps some exist. The most famous image of Seligman is Andreas Feininger's photograph from 1947 that was used as a cover for Life Magazine. The image has since been made available as an art poster.
Ash Fork began as a camp for the Atlantic & Pacific Railroad as the railroad pushed its tracks west in 1882. Groves of ash trees were the source of the name "Ash" which was applied to a nearby canyon and the creeks that drained it. The joining of the creeks led to the naming of the town Ash Fork. Soon large-scale ranching operations spread out from Ash Fork, occupying the open range lands both north and south of the town. Ash Fork became an important railroad shipment point for both livestock and metallic ores mined in the area. Today it promotes itself as the "Flagstone Capital of the World".
The rock-faced Copper State Court began in 1924 as a gas station and store. The motel units were added in 1928. The gas station closed and the front building was converted into a residence. The Court is still open principally for long-term renters.
The railroad tracks from Prescott Junction (i.e., Seligman) to Prescott, Arizona, were in terrible condition. An improperly-designed and prepared roadbed required a complete re-building of the line. The Santa Fe took the opportunity to completely re-align its track to Prescott by moving the northern part to Ash Fork in 1893, and then they built on to Phoenix by 1895. The new branch, more robust but still twisty, was nicknamed the "Peavine Line." The Santa Fe Railroad built the Escalante Harvey House in Ash Fork in 1907.
Lewis Street, which ran close to the railroad tracks, was the early alignment of Route 66 through downtown Ash Fork. The increase in leisure and commercial travel after the War required dividing Route 66 traffic and Lewis Street became westbound 66 and adjacent Park Avenue became eastbound 66, a condition that still exists today. The earliest motels were built on Lewis Street and then a couple of later ones were built on Park Avenue.
The Escalante Harvey House was closed in 1948 and razed in the 1970s. I am not sure why the hotel was closed that year since passenger train service, albeit declining from the pre-War levels, was still somewhat healthy and would be for several more years. Perhaps Harvey Houses in nearby Williams and Seligman made the Escalante redundant.
By 1960 the Santa Fe had graded a brand new roadbed and laid new rails for an improved east-west double track mainline in this area of northern Arizona. The new mainline left the original track alignment about eight miles west of Ash Fork, closer to Seligman actually, near the ghost town of Crookton, and then rejoined the original track alignment at Williams. When these improved mainline tracks were operational nearly all freight and passenger traffic was moved ten miles north of Ash Fork. The rails of the original mainline west of Ash Fork were ripped up leaving only the infrequently-used Peavine Line tracks from Williams to Ash Fork and then to points south.
In 1977 a big fire swept through Ash Fork burning many of the old wooden buildings. A second fire a decade later wiped out most of the remaining buildings. This is why so few buildings visible in the historic RPPCs exist today in Ash Fork.
Eastbound Route 66 begins one of its longer, steadier climbs east of Ash Fork (5100 feet in elevation) reaching Williams (6700 feet in elevation) in less than 20 miles. Locals call it Ash Fork Hill.