The Weatherford Hotel is a testament to downtown Flagstaff’s rise in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when the city emerged as a tourist destination powered by the railroad and dependent on its proximity to the Grand Canyon and the San Francisco Peaks. As one of Flagstaff’s leading hostelries for more than 30 years, the Weatherford Hotel hosted a number of prominent guests, notably newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst, artist Thomas Moran, and novelist Zane Gray, who depicted the hotel in The Call of the Canyon.
Situated on a corner in Flagstaff’s gridded business district, the hotel lies one block north of the historic railroad depot. The arrival of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad in 1882 fostered economic and urban development, and as a stop between Chicago and California, Flagstaff cultivated a tourist industry that necessitated hotels to meet the demands of an influx of travelers. In 1888, the Bank Hotel was erected opposite the depot, directly across Santa Fe Avenue (later U.S. 66); the Weatherford Hotel was built six doors down a decade later.
John W. Weatherford (1859–1934), a Texas-born cattleman, moved to Flagstaff in 1886 and became a dry-goods merchant and a justice of the peace. Expanding his business, he purchased lots 19-21 of block 6. Though these faced Aspen Avenue, Weatherford designed a two-story, rectangular edifice oriented towards North Leroux Street, which led directly to the train station. To best fit the narrow but deep parcel, the building measured 30 by 100 feet. The ground floor held the P.R. Weatherford and Company General Store, including a back storage room. The upper floor was divided between a front parlor and a double-loaded corridor accessing eight rooms and a bath in the rear. This was both a small hotel and the Weatherford family domicile. After building the hotel, Weatherford continued in real estate development, constructing the Mountain States Telephone building to the southwest of the hotel in 1903; laying the city’s first concrete sidewalk in 1915; and erecting the Opera House (later the Orpheum Theater) in 1917.
After a series of devastating fires in 1897, Flagstaff passed a municipal ordinance requiring masonry or iron for all new construction. The Weatherford Hotel is masonry: brick walls, faced with locally quarried, rough-hewn, and reddish-colored Coconino sandstone, rise above the buff-colored stone foundation. As one of many buildings constructed in the boom year following the fires, the hotel, in materials and details, mirrors the surrounding edifices, including the older Bank Hotel. The Weatherford’s simple form reflects its function as a commercial structure, while its exuberant wooden details evoke the Victorian era from which it dates. Herman Dietzman and G. B. Wilson, a local mason and carpenter, respectively, were contracted for the construction.
Ten unequal bays divided by pilasters march down Aspen Avenue, and the irregular fenestration speaks a difference in floor height and in function. The east corner of the top floor has a rounded bay topped by a steeply pitched cone-shaped cupola. Adorned with white-painted fish-scale shingles, the projecting bay features three one-over-one sash windows topped with oriels. The upper floor is adorned with a wraparound balcony with turned posts, spindled railings, and decorative modillions. The elongated turned posts that support the balcony from the ground level provide a covered arcade on the street. Originally, the flat roof was lined with a denticulated cornice and two pediments, but these, the cupola, and the balcony were removed in 1929 as a result of fire damage. The cupola and balcony were rebuilt circa 1975 and a plain cornice now serves as a parapet.
A three-story addition on the south elevation, constructed in 1899 at the cost of $10,000, widened the building by 50 feet and divided the facade into two storefronts. The new section held the hotel lobby, dining room, kitchen, and office, with eight guest rooms and two baths on the second floor and three additional rooms and a rear parlor on the third floor. The basement, which is exposed nine feet by the steeply sloping terrain, originally held the hotel bar; after 1907, it housed the kitchen and dining room. The original 1898 core had 19-foot-high ceilings on the ground level and 12-foot ceilings on the upper level, but the ground floor was remodeled into two stories (adding 17 rooms) in 1920. By then, the inn’s 50 commodious guest rooms featured steam heat and hot-and-cold running water, and were decorated by interior decorator George N. Baty in a Southwestern theme (exemplified by Navajo rugs). In 1925, the interior was redecorated and telephones were installed. The lobby’s black granite fireplace, added circa 1907, was removed in 1941 and the exterior stonework on the facade was modernized at the same time. Little intrusive remodeling was done to the interior in the postwar years, and the original stairs to the family quarters on the second and third floors remain, as does the redwood wainscoting on the third floor and the pressed-metal ceiling in the old store.
Besides operating as an inn, the Weatherford Hotel housed a number of businesses over the years. In 1903 the front store was sold to the Babbitts, who then leased the space to a furniture company in 1910. The Lyric Theatre moved in in 1912; and then a billiard hall with a barbershop circa 1915. After leasing the hotel to others from 1910, the Weatherfords lost the mortgage in 1925 and ownership passed through multiple hands thereafter. When the rise of automobiles in the postwar decades caused a decline in train travel, and new motels were built outside the city center, older hotels like the Bank and Weatherford watched their occupancy rates plummet. The Weatherford’s deterioration paralleled that of the downtown as a whole; during World War II, the hotel served as a dormitory. Various civic organizations and businesses used the basement through the 1950s and 1960s. In 1975, the historic inn was purchased by Lloyd and Henry Taylor and was subsequently rehabilitated as part of downtown Flagstaff’s sustained economic redevelopment. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Today, it remains one of Flagstaff’s notable historic hotels.
“A Building Boom Hits Flagstaff.” The Coconino Sun36, no. 28 (May 9, 1919): 5.
“Announcement.” The Coconino Sun30, no. 18 (March 14, 1913): 5.
“Dressing Up for Spring.” The Coconino Sun30, no. 18 (March 14, 1913): p. 1.
Edenhofer, Carl, Laucher, Cindy, Westling, Joe, and Gail Bonelli, “Weatherford Hotel,” Coconino County, Arizona. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1977. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
“Railroad Addition Historic District and Boundary Increase, Flagstaff, Arizona.” National Park Service. Accessed April 24, 2015. http://www.nps.gov/.