The historic business district in Kingman, Arizona has changed rather
dramatically since a row of territorial era homes was cleared from the Fourth and Beale Street corner in the early 1950’s, and a modern J.C. Penny was built. Kingman in those years was a modern, bustling community that was firmly rooted in its frontier era origins.
Route 66 funneled an endless stream of cars and trucks through town on Front Street. A few years latter the towns favorite son would be honored with the renaming of the Route 66 corridor to Andy Devine Avenue. With more than 2,000 vehicles per day passing through Kingman, it was a boom time for motels, service stations, garages, and restaurants. The former Kingman Army Airfield east of town had been dismantled. Many of the buildings had been razed with the materials used for new construction, and others were relocated to town where they would serve as the offices for the Arizona Highway Department, the chamber of commerce, and other businesses.
Central Commercial Company had opened a huge, modern store in 1917 on the southeast corner of Fourth and Beale Street. In the early 1950’s it remained the main shopping center for Kingman. It was truly a one stop shop with a hardware department in the cellar, and a lumber yard on the south side of the railroad tracks, an expansive auto parts department as well as groceries, furniture, clothes, farm, ranch, and mining supplies (including dynamite) and guns.
With the completion of the I-40 loop around Kingman in 1978, everything changed in an instant. Following the rush toward urban sprawl, J.C. Penny’s opened a new store in a strip mall on the hill. Central Commercial closed. The once posh Beale Hotel became a flop house, and then closed. Motels all along the Route 66 corridor followed a similar course, and many were eventually demolished. Store fronts were shuttered. Service stations closed. Soon, the historic business district was little more than a ghost town surrounded by a thriving community.
In 2014 the city hosted the International Route 66 Festival that centered on the historic heart of the city. A renaissance was born.
Fast forward four years. The old Central Commercial building now houses the Art Hub, Diana’s Cellar Door, a wine bar, and Floyd & Company (barbecue as well as wood fired pizza). Two award winning microbreweries are hot spots for locals as well as visitors. The Kingman Center for the Arts has a gallery and is working to renovate the State Theater built in 1948 as a performing arts center. The Route 66 Association of Kingman is spearheading an initiative to restore vintage neon signage, and is contributing to the creation of public art including murals.
At the heart of the renaissance is the former J.C. Penny’s, now the stylish Beale Celebrations event center. The central location for organization dinners, presentations, wedding receptions, conferences, and even events. For your next party holiday party, retirement party, seminar or conference, consider Beale Celebrations located in the historic heart of Kingman, Arizona.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America