Eclectic Path to Kingman
As you head West along Route 66, past the original Meteor City Trading Post, you'll find yourself in an eclectic mix of active and abandoned historic sites, along with some famous Mother Road Icons that are more impressive, and alive in person.
These are some of our favorites from the western half of our Arizona Route 66 journey. While this is by no means all of the small towns and sites along your path, these are what caught our lens, and tickled our fancy the most. Click on an image to go to the Arizona Route 66 Gallery. Links in text will take you to more information and stories on the subject referenced.
Two Guns became one of many tourist stops along Route 66 with a gas station, overnight accommodations, a cafe, and a souvenir shop for the many travelers of the Mother Road. Later a "zoo" was added to the popular tourist stop which included mountain lions, panthers, and bobcats.
After I-40 bypassed Two Guns, it, like so many other popular Route 66 stops, died a quick death. Although numerous resuscitations have been attempted for Two Guns, it still sits lonely and abandoned today.
The area has a much richer history though, just beside Two Guns, where you will find Canyon Diablo. Now just ghost town ruins of rock and buildings a shell of their former self, Canyon Diablo originated as a railroad town in 1880 when construction was halted until a bridge could be built over the canyon.
The canyon had earlier been given its name by a soldier named Lieutenant Whipple in 1853 when it presented such an obstacle to his thirty-fifth parallel survey party. Having to go miles out of their way to get across, he appropriately named it Devil’s Canyon. When the town was born, it took the canyon's name, which ended up being extremely appropriate for the reputation that the town would soon earn.
There being no law enforcement in the settlement, it quickly became a wild and lawless place as drifters, gamblers, and outlaws made their way to town.The saloons, gambling dens and brothels never closed, running 24 hours a day. The town comprised mostly of shacks with two lines of buildings facing each other across the rocky road on the north side of the railroad right-of-way. The "street," aptly referred to as Hell Street, included fourteen saloons, ten gambling houses, four brothels and two dance halls. Wedged between these businesses were a couple of eating counters, a grocery and a dry goods store. Canyon Diablo was said to be meaner than Tombstone and Dodge City combined.
The old Twin Arrows Trading Post at exit 219 off I-40 is a long lasting Route 66 icon that was in business not to long ago. Sadly, for years, its prominent red and yellow arrows were deteriorating against the desert winds and the Arizona sun. However, in August, 2009, they were restored and look better than they have in years. State officials have put up concrete barriers around the property now, and there is really no great way to park and photo, so be careful.
Literally surrounded by seven natural wonders, Flagstaff, Arizona is often called the "The City of Seven Wonders" because it sits in the midst of the Coconino National Forest and is surrounded by the Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon, Walnut Canyon, Wupatki National Monument, Sunset Crater National Monument, and the San Francisco Peaks. First settled by white men around 1871, how Flagstaff obtained its name has several versions, all having to do with stripping a lone pine tree and making it into a flagpole.
When Route 66 plowed through the burgeoning city of Flagstaff, a number of motor courts, auto services and diners sprouted up along the new highway. Today, the city still sports a number of vintage cafes and motor courts along its historic downtown district.
A "must see" along the old route is the Museum Club at 3404 E. Route 66. The building was first built by Dean Eldredge, a taxidermist, in 1931. Originally, the building housed Dean’s large collection of stuffed animals, rifles and Indian artifacts. Some five years later, the building was sold to Doc Williams in 1936, a Flagstaff saddle maker, who turned the museum into a nightclub. Continuing to operate as one of Arizona’s premiere nightclubs, this structure that once sat on the outskirts of town is now surrounded by the bustling city. It is also said to be haunted.
Williams, known as the Gateway to the Grand Canyon, has a rich history in the Old West. In the early nineteenth century, mountain men began to push west in search of the plentiful game, when the fur trade was at an all time high. One of these men was William Sherley Williams. "Old Bill,” which he was most often called, wandered all over the western states as a trapper and a scout on the Santa Fe Trail. Soon, other men in search of gold began to roam the area.
Attracting sheep and cattle ranchers, the settlement was founded in 1876, taking the name of the famous mountain man, Bill Williams. In 1881 the first post office was established and on September 1, 1882 the railroad finally arrived. In no time at all, Williams became the shipping center for the nearby ranching and lumber industries.
In the beginning, Williams, like so many other towns of the Old West, gained a reputation as a rough and rowdy settlement filled with saloons, brothels, gambling houses and opium dens. Restricted by a town ordinance to Railroad Avenue’s "Saloon Row," it didn't stop the numerous cowboys, railroad men and lumberjacks from frequenting these many businesses.
In 1926, Route 66 was completed through Williams, which spurred several new businesses along the highway. Ironically, the entire town would suffer the consequences of Americans need for speed when Williams became the very last Route 66 town to be bypassed by I-40 on October 13, 1984. Williams, like other Route 66 towns suffered, but because of its proximity to the Grand Canyon, not nearly to the degree of many other small towns along the Mother Road. It was in the same year, that Williams' entire downtown business district was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
We skipped the Grand Canyon this trip, but we've been there before, and have a gallery dedicated to this incredible Natural Wonder you can see HERE, which includes photos from our photo friend David Fisk and more.
Ash Fork got its start when the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, later known as the Santa Fe Railroad, pushed through in October, 1882. Originally established as only a railroad siding, it was named by F.W. Smith, General Superintendent of the railroad, for the many ash trees growing on the town site.
Unfortunately, in 1893 the entire town of Ash Fork burned to the ground. However, it was soon rebuilt on the other side of railroad tracks, where it continues to stand today. The stone industry remained profitable, the stones of which were used to rebuild much of town. Before long, citizens proclaimed the town as the "Flagstone Capital of the World."
As the railroad became more popular, the Fred Harvey Escalante Hotel was built in 1907. Opening on March 1, 1907, it was built of steel and concrete in the Mission Style of Spanish architecture. The large hotel and restaurant were 420' X 200' and cost about $115,000. On the ground floor, it featured a lunch room fitted with a circular counter, complete with the ever popular Harvey Girls. It also sported a large curio shop, news stand/reading room, and a barber shop. It would be demolished in the late 1970's, however a Monument stands in it's place today (above left photo).
When Route 66 came through, the Fred Harvey Escalante Hotel and restaurant catered to both highway and railroad travelers. The new highway also brought a boost to the town’s economy; but, later, when the Mother Road received an upgrade to a divided highway, it resulted in the destruction of many of the storefronts, sidewalks, and residential streets.
In 1960, the Santa Fe Railroad moved its main line north and away from Ash Fork, resulting in the town losing nearly half its population. Another large fire, known locally as the "Big Fire," devastated the community on November 20, 1977, destroying most of the downtown businesses.
At the same time, I-40 was being built, which closely followed Route 66, with the exception of the stretch between Ash Fork and Kingman, where Route 66 took a more northerly, less direct route. Bypassing the community, it was yet another blow to the local economy, which has never fully recovered.
Seligman is a town that has embraced the Mother Road and has really done a wonderful job in preserving its rich history, and attracts thousands every year to its iconic and still active businesses.
When pioneers along the Beale Wagon Road passed through this area in the mid nineteenth century, it was known as Mint Valley. Later, when the Prescott and Central Arizona Railroad planned to connect the area to Prescott in 1886, the settlement was called Prescott Junction. Completing the tracks, the train had to run backwards to Prescott Junction because there wasn't a turntable in Prescott.
Before long, the Railroad went out of business, shutting down the junction. However, the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad took over the abandoned rail line, and the town changed its name to Seligman, in honor of the Seligman brothers, who helped finance the rail line south.
When Route 66 came through, Seligman accommodated the many travelers with numerous motor courts and services, bringing a substantial boost to the town’s economy.
In the late 1970's Seligman was bypassed by I-40, and then, in the mid 1980's, the Santa Fe Railroad closed its operations in the city.
Both were tremendous blows upon the small town and it soon came to a slow crawl. However, with the enthusiasm of Seligman's residents, the town has been well preserved and the town has again become a popular destination for Route 66'ers.
Today, a visit to this small city is a step back in time, where you will see an odd mixture of cattle ranching, truck drivers and Mother Road icons.
Be sure to stop by the Delgadillo's Route 66 Gift Shop and Visitor's Center and pick up a Walking Tour Guide to Historic Seligman, which will give you a glimpse the colorful history of the once thriving railroad town.
Just east of the Visitor's Center, is the "must see" Delgadillo’s Snow Cap Drive-In at 217 E. Route 66. A Mother Road landmark through the ages, you'll enjoy not only great road food, but also a little humor that is always "served" up at the Snow Cap.
Another favorite stop among Route 66 enthusiasts is the Hackberry General Store in Hackberry. The oldest town along this old stretch of the road, Hackberry's origin dates back to 1874 when prospectors set up a mining camp on the east side of the Peacock Mountains. After having discovered rich deposits of silver, the Hackberry Silver Mine was soon established and named for a large Hackberry tree growing near a spring adjacent to the mine.
When the railroad came through in 1882, the small settlement moved some four miles from the original site. The "new" town of Hackberry became an important loading point for large cattle shipments, soon ranking third in the state in volume shipped.
Though not entirely played out, the Hackberry Silver Mine closed in 1919, due to litigation among the owners, but not before it earned almost 3 million dollars in silver production. After the mine closed down, Hackberry came to a slow crawl, but was revived by Route 66, when it came through. Becoming a bit of a tourist town, it hung tight until I-40 bypassed the entire northern loop from the Crookston exit to Kingman.
Today, Hackberry sits mostly silent with the exception of the revived Hackberry General Store and Visitors Center. Though the old town of Hackberry lies across the tracks from Route 66, the General Store sits right next to the highway.
Though there’s no gas to be purchased here, vintage gas pumps adorn the front, as well as a plethora of classic signs and hundreds of pieces of memorabilia. Inside, the store is a virtual museum, where visitors can walk through a vintage diner and see a lifetime collection of Route 66 history, as well as purchasing all kinds of Mother Road souvenirs.
These were just a few of our stops along Route 66 in western Arizona. You can see more, including Peach Springs, Truxton and other towns along the route in our Arizona Route 66 Gallery.
Next stop, we stay in Golden Valley, just outside of Kingman for more exploration including Oatman, Needles and More.
About the RV Parks we stayed in during this portion of our Journey:
We stayed at the Canyon Motel and RV Park in Williams for a night. Very level spots, great RV park, friendly staff, professional outfit. Wifi had issues, and while we had good signal and could connect, we could never get anywhere.
Keywords: Arizona, Flagstaff, Hackberry, Seligman, Williams, canyon diablo, historic, icons, route 66
love reading about Route 66 always wanted to travel the whole thing but sense I can not , you do it for me . Love it , Keep up the good work
Enjoy your blog.
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