The historic business district in Kingman, Arizona,
and the Route 66 corridor through town, is experiencing a rather dramatic renaissance. At every turn there are signs of renewal; refurbished and new neon signage created by Legacy Signs shines bright at Rickety Cricket, Beale Celebrations, and Floyd & Company. On Andy Devine Avenue, Route 66, the long shuttered historic Beale Hotel and other store fronts are tangible links to a time when this district was forlorn and forgotten. Even among the weathered facades and vacant lots, the glow of neon again shines bright.
At Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, the former Frontier Cafe sign has been repurposed. Next door at Dunton Motors Dream Machines, a family owned business that opened in 1946, an early 1960’s OK Used Car signs cast a colorful glow over vintage cars giving the dealership a time capsule feel. The 1930’s Desert Drug sign, a piece of custom neon artistry for the downtown branch of the post office, and the towering Packard sign that dates to about 1930 on the front of the Old Trails Garage are popular photo ops during the Promote Kingman neon night walking tours guided by author and historian Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America.
The historic business district in Kingman is filled with gems, hidden wonders, and surprises. It’s compact size makes it ideal to explore on foot; from the Powerhouse Visitor Center and Locomotive Park to the Garlic Clove restaurant is a stroll of just five blocks.
An aggressive community beautification initiative developed by Kingman Main Street, the Route 66 Association of Kingman, and community partnerships are adding color and vibrancy to the district. This includes an array of murals on the rear wall of the 1948 State Theater, currently under renovation as a theater and performing arts center, at the Garlic Clove restaurant, Savon Bath Treats and other businesses. The graffiti clean up program funded by the Route 66 Association of Kingman is another manifestation of an historic district reborn.
A diverse array of interesting and eclectic shops have opened in recent years; Gracie’s Vintage and Southwest Trading Company, and Beale Street Brews to name but a few. There are also a surprising array of restaurants, microbreweries, and even a wine bar including Rickety Cricket, Black Bridge Brewery, The Cellar Door, Floyd & Company, El Palacio, Calico’s, Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner, and Siren’s. There is even a frontier era saloon that has changed little in the last 110 years.
Museums? The district has an array of these as well. At the historic Bonelli House, just across the street from the former Methodist-Episcopal church where Clark Gable and Carol Lombard married in 1939, the visitor can step back to the life a wealthy Arizona family circa 1915. The Mohave Museum of History & Arts presents the areas history with an array of fascinating exhibits. The Powerhouse Visitor Center houses a critically acclaimed Route 66 museum, and the embryonic Route 66 electric vehicle museum, the only facility in the world dedicated to preserving the history of the electric car (and truck).
And after a day of exploration, and dining, and sampling craft brews, there is another surprise; Brunswick Suites studio apartments, ideally suited for a base camp during your explorations of Kingman and the surrounding area. The renovated garage with private garage is just one of the many surprises awaiting discovery in historic downtown Kingman.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America