The Hassayampa Inn is located at 122 E. Gurley Street in Prescott. Information: 800-322-1927 or www.hassayampainn.com.
© David H. Smith
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Hassayampa InnWhen it comes to historic hotels in Arizona, this one, built two years before the famed Biltmore Resort in Phoenix, is one of the very best.
By Robert Stieve
"If Aladdin had lived in these modern days, he would not have thought of building a palace, but would have commanded the genie to transport him and his fair bride to the Hassayampa Inn."
That's what the Prescott Journal Miner had to say about the Hassayampa when it opened its doors in November 1927. High praise, to be sure, but relative to everything else in the mile-high city, it was a big deal — not unlike the opening of the Biltmore in Phoenix two years later. No doubt, Grace Sparkes was all smiles on the day of the Hassayampa's debut.
Sparkes, who had been a secretary at the chamber of commerce in Yavapai County, first pitched the idea of a first-class hotel in 1919. There was a practical reason, of course — automobiles were sweeping the nation, and tourists needed a place to spend the night — but more than that, she envisioned a palatial point of pride that could offset the seediness of nearby Whiskey Row. It took awhile, but the town's civic leaders eventually embraced the idea and issued the Hassayampa Hotel Company prospectus, paving the way for what would become a publicly owned hotel.
A few years later, in 1925, the Prescott Kiwanis Club appointed a committee to raise funds for the hotel, and Mayor Morris Goldwater — the uncle of Senator Barry Goldwater — urged local citizens to invest in the project. In the end, 400 different stockholders purchased thousands of stocks for $1 per share.
Today, the four-story Hassayampa is privately owned, and it's still impressive. Although the exterior looks more like something you'd see in one of the Dakotas, the interior is distinctly Southwest, particularly the lobby, which features an incredible hand-stenciled, wood-beamed ceiling. It's gorgeous. And then there's the antique furniture, the chandeliers and the polished Talavera tile. The tile and the chandeliers are original, and so is the Chinese-red, hand-operated elevator.
Along with the elegant porte cochere — the covered passageway into the hotel — the elevator is one of the things you'll remember most about the Hassayampa. It's a link to the past, and even though it's probably quicker to take the stairs to your room, a ride in the elevator is a must.
Either way, the rooms are cozy and furnished with the inn's original oak furniture. And thanks to a major renovation a few years ago, they're immaculate. Never mind that the floors are a little uneven, and the hallways tend to creak, that only adds to the character of the place — a place Sam Peckinpah used as the setting for Junior Bonner, his 1972 movie starring Steve McQueen. Like the Hassayampa, Junior Bonner is one of Prescott's claims to fame. It didn't make as much money as Aladdin, but where would you rather sleep, in a room named for a guy who carries a lamp, or the Steve McQueen Room? Enough said.