By Kathy Montgomery | Photograph by John Burcham
With its giant neon saguaro and Santa Fe-style exterior, Apache Lodge stands as a colorful monument to the whimsical auto culture of the 1940s and ’50s.
Built in the mid-1940s at the “gateway to Prescott,” Apache Lodge may have been Prescott’s first motor court. And its bright-turquoise trim and vivid neon lights helped lasso passing travelers with the promise of the mythical Western experience. The rambling 26-room motel was built on an arrowhead-shaped parcel that originally included the triangular park across the road. Bill Aven, the motel’s first owner, donated the parkland to Yavapai County for use as a veterans memorial in exchange for building the road, which is still named Aven Drive.
Early ads boasted refrigeration, circulating-steam heat and a heated swimming pool. The interior courtyard and parking area once held a fountain, and at one point, the main building contained a bar. The penthouse office featured a patio view of Thumb Butte.
The pool was filled in during the 1980s, the bar was removed in the ’90s, and the original kitchenettes disappeared somewhere along the way. But unlike many of its contemporaries, Apache Lodge survived, narrowly escaping plans for a steel-framed office complex in 2003. A trio of partners that included the motel’s owner at the time considered the complex the “highest and best” use of a spot “far too valuable … for a hotel.” Fortunately, the project never materialized. Current owner Julie Conner acquired the lodge in a property swap in 2007. By then, the old motor court had lost its luster.
Conner began remodeling rooms, adding wood-laminate floors, modern fixtures and flat-screen TVs. Conner’s grandfather owned the Supai Motel in Seligman for a time, but Conner, a real estate broker, had no hotel experience.
“I knew nothing about it, but you know how you like to be treated,” she says. “We offer free parking, free Wi-Fi, complimentary bottles of water.”
Four years after Conner purchased the property, TripAdvisor rewarded her efforts with a certificate of excellence. Conner considers herself a caretaker and is trying to stay as true to the period as is practical, so this iconic landmark will see a glowing future.
Apache Lodge is located at 1130 E. Gurley Street in Prescott. For more information, call 928-445-1422 or visit www.apachelodge.com.