|An original section of Route 66 is preserved in Flagstaff Route 66 Park.|
Historic Downtown Walking Tour
|Downtown Flagstaff courthouse and . . . a pay phone?|
The Weatherford Hotel first opened its doors on January 1, 1900. The hotel was built by John W. Weatherford, who arrived in Flagstaff in 1897. The hotel has been visited by pioneers and presidents. The Weatherford was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. It’s fitting that a hotel that opened its doors on January 1 now hosts Flagstaff’s annual New Year’s Eve celebration with a pine cone drop.
Just down the street from the Weatherford Hotel is the Orpheum Theater, which used to be the Weatherford Opera House. In 1915, a snow storm dropped five feet of snow on Flagstaff, which flattened a number of downtown buildings, including the opera house. Weatherford rebuilt the theater and named it the Orpheum. Be sure to walk into the alley next to theater to see the colorful mural painted on the side.
On the corner of Beaver Street and Cherry Avenue stands the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The church is built with local volcanic rock. It was a little surprising to see that the church is rather pink in color. Walking along this part of downtown also features views of snowcapped mountains providing the backdrop to historic Flagstaff.
Central to historic downtown Flagstaff is Heritage Square. Heritage Square is an open-air amphitheater and a new part of Flagstaff’s history. This gathering place was created as part of the revitalization of downtown Flagstaff.
On the corner of San Francisco Street and Aspen Avenue are two historic buildings, the Hotel Monte Vista and the Babbitt Brothers Building. The Hotel Monte Vista was built in 1926 using funds donated by the novelist Zane Grey. The hotel filled a need for new, first-class accommodations and is another of Flagstaff’s historic and still operating hotels. It is also on the National Registrar of Historic Places. Across the street is the Babbitt Brothers Building, which started as a building-supply store in 1888 and eventually became Arizona’s largest department store. The building is in the process of being restored.
In addition to historic buildings, historic downtown Flagstaff has shopping and dining. The shops of historic downtown Flagstaff are unique, providing one-of-a-kind shopping opportunities in art galleries, antique stores, and gift shops. Be sure to visit my new friend George Averbeck, who is one of the owners and artists of the Arizona HandMade Gallery. He makes hand-blown glass art under the name Fire on the Mountain. He is an illustration of how friendly the people of Flagstaff are. We struck up a conversation on the street when he rounded the corner and was surprised by me crouching on the sidewalk taking a picture. That chance meeting turned into me learning more about Flagstaff from the view of a local and bringing home a beautiful glass Pluto ornament, a perfect Flagstaff souvenir as the dwarf planet Pluto was discovered in Flagstaff at the Lowell Observatory.
While exploring historic downtown Flagstaff on foot, turn down some of the alleys and enjoy the murals and street art that can be found.
Historic Walking Tour
In case a walking tour of historic downtown Flagstaff isn’t enough, across Route 66 from historic downtown is another section of historic Flagstaff for your walking pleasure. While the downtown tour weaves through tall stone and brick buildings from the late 1800s, this side of the street feels more like what you would expect from a Route 66 town with old hotels, neon signs, and, of course, a train station.
Flagstaff grew up around its train station. Santa Fe Plaza and the 1897 depot are a good place to start a walking tour of this side of Flagstaff. In front of the depot is a sculpture commemorating the Candy Dancers, railroad laborers who started building the railroads. Candy Dancers got their name because they were able to move heavy sections of railroad by working in unison by using a song to keep a beat.
Further down the tracks on Phoenix Avenue are two hotels that hosted Route 66 road trippers. The Downtowner Motel was first opened in 1919 and continued to provide lodging through the Route 66 era. The neon sign still advertises $5 rooms. The hotel is now a hostel and private apartments. On the next block is the old Motel DuBeau Travelers Inn, which was built in 1929 and is also run as a hostel today.
Across the street from these old hotels is a long, colorful mural depicting scenes from Route 66. The historic walking tour continues along Mike’s Pike, the original Route 66, and Milton, passing Route 66 relics like B&M Auto Camp and Granny’s Closet. The Flagstaff Visitor Center has created a guide to this historic walking tour, which includes lots of history.
Riordan Mansion State Historic Park
An important part of Flagstaff’s history involves the Riordan family. Travelers can learn more about this history by visiting and taking a guided tour of the Riordan Mansion, the home of brothers Timothy and Michael Riordan. Timothy and Michael Riordan moved out to Flagstaff to run the family logging industry. They met and married sisters Caroline and Elizabeth Metz, who were cousins to another famous Flagstaff family, the Babbitt brothers.
The home was built in the Arts and Crafts style with lots of built-ins, like a built-in refrigerator, and designed to blend into nature. There are beautiful decorative features like stained-glass windows, sepia photos transferred onto the windows of the common room, and a chandelier made of logs.
Lumberjack Muffler Man
Muffler Men were huge fiberglass sculptures that were used as roadside advertisements. There were men holding mufflers, men holding axes, and even men holding hot dogs. Muffler Men became icons of Route 66. The very first one created was a Paul Bunyan lumberjack holding an axe. This first Muffler Man was outside of the Paul Bunyan Café, now Granny’s Closet. The lumberjack has since been moved and can now be found in front of the Skydome at Northern Arizona University and is the mascot for the NAU Lumberjacks.
Preserved Section of Original Route 66
Route 66 Eats in Flagstaff
While not an original Route 66 diner, Galaxy Diner is located on Route 66 and brings back the 1950s with its menu and décor. Galaxy Diner is the home of 100 shakes and malts, which threatened to explode my brain, so I went for an oldie but goody, the chocolate malt, along with a patty melt. When’s the last time you had a malt?
Where to Stay in Flagstaff Arizona
While in Flagstaff, we stayed at the Best Western Pony Soldier Inn & Suites along Route 66. Best Western Motels was founded in 1946, the same year Highway 66 got its nickname Route 66. By 1963, Best Western was the largest motel chain with 699 properties, including some along Route 66. Best Western offered “Call Ahead” service for road trippers. Guests could check the Best Western mileage guide for route suggestions to their next destination, and the desk clerk could call ahead and make advance reservations at any other Best Western property on the guest’s route.
Today, the Best Western Pony Soldier Inn & Suites is a great place to stay on a Route 66 road trip. Rooms are big with tile floors, which is great for guests taking advantage of the hotel’s pet-friendly policy. A complimentary buffet breakfast is served every morning in the large detached breakfast room. The lobby has a southwestern flair with woven baskets and tomahawks on the wall.
|Flagstaff got its name from a flagpole made from a stripped pine tree erected July 4, 1876, to celebrate the nation’s centennial.|