After a glorious New Years celebration in Sedona, Arizona, we decided to take the long way back to Tucson. Although it was sixty miles out of our way, Flagstaff was too close not to pass through. As we approached the mountaintop city, whiteout conditions descended from the hills, a big black mass of winter fury.
Naturally, once we passed through the maelstrom, it was necessary to stop and get our boots wet. Virgin snow is beautiful, but even more-so to the desert-rat. It’s a rare sight for Arizonans – and even though I’m from Kansas, I have to admit an affinity for a landscape draped in fresh snow.
Automobile culture reached Arizona in the early 1900s and brought major roadway projects (see yesterday’s post about Miracle Mile Road) and an increase in tourism, which delivered new money to Flagstaff in the 1920s. Fundraising began in 1926 by local community leaders to establish first-class accommodation to replace some of the outmoded and run-down hotels.
Ground broke for the 73 room Community Hotel (named in honor of the prominent citizens who funded its construction) on June 8 of that year. It was finished in six months, opening its doors on New Years Day, 1927.
My first visit was back in 2005 or 2006, when I had the chance to tag along with a friend of mine. We worked together at a local Tucson photo lab and he happened to be a drummer in a band called “The Deludes.” I was able to hop aboard for a show they’d booked at the hotel’s “Cocktail Lounge.” It was a prohibition-era bootlegging operation, but the secret wasn’t kept long – local officers disrupted the illegal business in 1931. Ironically, the speakeasy reopened only two years later when prohibition was lifted.
It is one of the oldest operating hotels in Flagstaff and is a registered historic landmark, and its sign is one of the most recognizable landmarks in Flagstaff.