By Kathy Montgomery | Photo by Steven Meckler
Hospitality at the Avenue Hotel B&B has come a long way since the adobe building’s early days. In 1901, the hotel featured a street-level café, 11 second-floor rooms with no heat or running water, a shared bathroom and a barbershop. A bath in those days cost $1, though economy-minded guests could bathe in used water for 50 cents.
A brick extension added a faux-marble lobby (pictured) and more than doubled the number of guest rooms in 1915. The Bruno family purchased the hotel in the late 1920s or early ’30s and operated it for decades as a railroad hotel, catering primarily to railroad employees and ranchers. Having lost its primary clientele after the railroad pulled out of Douglas, the family closed the hotel in 1973 and used the building as a private residence.
Robin Brekhus, who managed the nearby Gadsden Hotel for 25 years, purchased the building in 2007 and reopened it as a B&B in 2013. She retained historical features such as push-button lights, skylights and an annunciator, which guests used to signal the front desk. “There never were phones here,” she says.
She also preserved the restaurant, with its card room overlooking the dining room and bar. Guests are served breakfast daily, and on Friday and Saturday nights, dinner is open to the public — reservations required. The house coffee is Café Justo (strongest flavors, maximum caffeine), roasted across the border at an Agua Prieta cooperative.
A barber pole still identifies the second-floor barbershop, which contains a barber chair and shelves stocked with straight razors, various tinctures and a pair of dental-extraction forceps — early barbers also performed dentistry.
Down the hall, one of the original guest rooms serves as a media room stocked with films shot in Douglas or Southern Arizona, including Arizona Dream, Terminal Velocity and The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean. The hallway is decorated with posters and movie memorabilia, including leggings and signed posters from Dances With Wolves, which also has a local connection. Book author Michael Blake reportedly had lost his job as a dishwasher in Bisbee when Kevin Costner asked him to work on the screenplay.
The rooms in the original hotel still share a bathroom, though rooms on the “modern” side offer private lavatories. Even so, two bathing rooms and a water closet remain. Fresh water flows freely. No extra charge.