It has cast a long shadow over Front Street, now Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) for more than 110-years. It was the first three story building in Kingman, Arizona. Even though it wasn’t quite as classy as its neighbor the Hotel Beale the Brunswick Hotel was the pride of the city in the years that bracketed statehood in 1912, and more than a few celebrities have signed the guest register or dined in the restaurant. Edsel Ford was a guest on July 16, 1915 during his trip to the Panama Pacific Exposition in California. Louis L’Amour was a regular patron of the bar on his trips into Kingman from the Katherine Mine where he worked in the 1920’s. A brief reception for Clark Gable and Carol Lombard was held in the restaurant after they married at the Kingman Methodist-Episcopal church in March 1939. In the Hotel, Garage, Service Station & AAA Club Directory for 1927 the hotel is listed as recommended lodging, for $1.00 per night.
The hotel had lost its AAA recommendation by 1940 but it still provided guests with comfortable, clean lodging. Now, however, it was competing with motels that were sprouting up all along the Route 66 corridor. It was during this period that the hotel lost its recently restored covered portico. Removal of the two story feature left the hotel with a an incomplete appearance. This was the beginning of a precipitous slide. In the mid 1950’s the hotel closed, but the bar and restaurant remained quite popular, first as Rickey’s Cafe and later as Joe Otero’s El Mohave Cafe. Senator Barry Goldwater was a regular guest during his whirlwind tours through Mohave County.
Even though the old hotel was a faded relic, downtown Kingman was a thriving center of commerce in the years between 1939 and 1978 when the interstate highway rerouted traffic around instead of through town. Just one glimpse of the dramatic impact is found in a newspaper article from 1939 that noted for the first time more than one million vehicles rolled into Arizona on Route 66. This was also the year that the hotel was sold to an investor from New York. Mom and pop stores, restaurants, and motels still dominated well into the early 1960’s. Kingman was a small town but it also offered a few stores from National chains such as Safeway and J C Penny’s, now the Beale Celebrations building.
In Kingman, as in many small towns throughout America, the bypass of the historic heart of the city was a death knell. In retrospect the decline was rapid and precipitous. The Penny’s store closed and relocated to a new strip mall. The theater closed. The El Mohave closed. The Hotel Beale and Nighthawk Saloon closed. The Central Commercial Company store that had opened in 1917 closed, was given a face-lift and then reopened under the Babbitt Brothers name before closing for good.
Fast forward to 2014, the year that the city hosted the Route 66 International Festival. This historic event sparked a reawakening within the community and a renaissance that has restored vibrancy and the glow of neon to the historic district. It is truly the dawn of a new era in Kingman, and the Brunswick Hotel slumbers in the shadows awaiting the day when it will again be a show piece in the city.
*historic photos Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America