I just got home from the Romance Writers of America annual conference in Anaheim, California. We had a great trip and enjoyed meeting many of my favorite authors. I was fortunate enough to travel with fellow Filly, Linda Broday, and one of our frequent guests, Jodi Thomas. We had a ball. On the first night we stopped in Flagstaff, Arizona, and had dinner in one of the original hotels … the Weatherford. Many of you know that we’re from the Texas Panhandle and there’s a town in North Texas named Weatherford, so my first comment was “Wonder if this has any connection to Weatherford, Texas?”
To my surprise, I learned the hotel was originally built by a native of Weatherford, Texas.It’s a unique building, but unlike many early frontier structures it is made of stone and brick with a stucco façade. But there is a reason. Like most frontier towns built of wood, disastrous fires plagued early Flagstaff. After a particularly bad series of blazes in 1897, the city passed an ordinance requiring all buildings in the downtown business area to be built of brick, stone or iron. Among the new buildings appearing in 1898 was the Weatherford Hotel, built by John W. Weatherford (1859-1934) and yes he was a native of the North Texas town of Weatherford but not the founder. The original structure housed a general store on the first floor and the Weatherford family upstairs.
In March 1899, Weatherford began construction of a brick three-story hotel addition, with a grand opening on New Year’s Day 1900. For years, the Weatherford Hotel was the most prominent hotel in Flagstaff, entertaining guests such as artist Thomas Moran, publisher William Randolph Hearst, and writer Zane Grey. Grey’s famous novel “The Call of the Canyon” was written in the now Zane Grey Ballroom on the third floor.
A beautiful sunroom occupied part of the top floor and was used for dances and parties, while numerous civic groups engaged the downstairs. A three-sided balcony, visible in the 1905 photograph hanging in the hotel was damaged by fire and removed in 1929, along with the original cupola. At various times, the hotel housed a restaurant, theater, and billiard hall and radio station.
When transcontinental telephone service first reached Flagstaff about 1910, a small brick building with a three-bay façade of red Coconino sandstone was erected south of the Weatherford to serve the telephone company, becoming part of the “Weatherford Block”. The building served its original purpose until around the 1930’s when it underwent the first of two modernizations. The sandstone façade was resurfaced with stucco in a modified art-deco style, and in the 1950’s aluminum siding was added. It was known for some years as the “Le Brea Café”, an establishment whose character does not appear to have elicited any significant historic recollection.
Henry Taylor, the present owner, purchased the hotel in 1975 in an attempt to keep it from being demolished, at a time when the downtown area was in an acute state of disrepair and decline. Today, one would not believe the area could have ever been in that condition. Since then, Henry and his wife Pamela (Sam) have been continually renovating the structure, with the goal of restoring the hotel to its original grandeur.
The café façade renovation completed in 1995 restored the appearance of the original 1909 Telephone Exchange. The building is beautiful with a simple elegance and casual ambience after it was returned to the reminiscent of Flagstaff at its turn of the century heyday.
Have you ever felt like you stepped back into time when you visited a place?
I will give away a copy of Give Me a Texas Outlaw, to one person who leaves a comment today.