By Kathy Montgomery | Photograph by John Burcham
The term “iron horse” conjures images of early rail travel, but the Iron Horse Inn takes its name from a street-side equine sculpture, not a steam locomotive. However, the hotel was built to accommodate a different kind of horsepower altogether.
The Eden family built the Iron Horse Inn as a motor court in the 1930s. But by the 1970s, cars had outgrown the street-level garages, so the owners converted them into guest rooms. The building’s stone-and-concrete construction made expansion difficult, so the rooms remained small, and the central patio became the inn’s natural gathering spot. And an inviting one it is: a tree-shaded oasis, decorated with a cascading fountain, vines and potted succulents.
In the mornings, guests cluster around tables shaded by colorful umbrellas, recline on comfortable padded chairs and sip complimentary fresh-ground coffee from the machine in the vending room. Strolling back from dinner in the evening, they linger under the soft lights that make the spot feel enchanted, the walls still radiating the sun’s warmth.
It’s no surprise the Edens chose river rock to build the inn. An archway marking the “Gateway to the Verde River” lies just across the street. The Jail Trail, named for the stone building at the trailhead, begins here. That building is now a fiber and clothing gallery, surrounded by myrtle trees and facing a drinking establishment called the State Bar.
The easy Jail Trail meanders north across Arizona’s first federally designated Wild and Scenic River to Dead Horse Ranch State Park, and it echoes with the chatter of birds, especially in spring. Tanagers and other colorful songbirds share the river’s tall cottonwood canopy with black hawks and kestrels. Hummingbirds sip from desert willow blossoms. Phainopeplas feast on clouds of tiny flies over tranquil, cattail-lined coves, serenaded by red-winged blackbirds singing their flute-like songs.
Some of them even find their way to the leafy canopy over the patio at the Iron Horse Inn, where they delight guests who’ve come to roost there at the end of a day spent enjoying the river or in the shops, restaurants and tasting rooms within easy walking distance. Eventually, the birds will have the patio to themselves as guests wander into clean, recently renovated rooms, where thick, textured walls and comfortable beds with soft microfiber sheets ensure a sound night’s sleep in quiet unimaginable since the days of the horse and the steam engine.
The Iron Horse Inn is located at 1034 N. Main Street in Cottonwood. For more information, call 928-634-8031 or visit www.ironhorseoldtown.com.