October 6, 2019

The Hassayampa Inn Was a Community Project

Particularly during big events, Prescott perennially has suffered a shortage of hotel space. Even today people attending the World’s Oldest Rodeo often have to stay in Cottonwood.

After the Congress Hotel burned down, the situation became especially acute. No one who was interested in building a hotel in Prescott could be found. As a result, the community decided to solve the problem, and finance it by the sale of stock. So in December, 1924, the Hassayampa Hotel Company was incorporated. “The Chamber of Commerce and business leaders had decided that a grand hotel would attract tourists and opportunities for enterprise into Prescott.”

The community was optimistic that a replacement for the Congress Hotel would be constructed quickly, but it would be nearly 3 years before the doors of the “modern, beautiful, and fireproof hotel” would be open.

To begin the fundraising, Mayor Morris Goldwater proclaimed “Hotel Day” on Friday, June 26, 1925. 10 am to 2 pm “would be spent in procuring subscriptions to build the hotel to the exclusion of all, save urgent and necessary business. 

“The Courthouse Plaza was a flurry of placards and ladies serving coffee and cookies,” it was recalled. “One booth had a big sign with a thermometer whose mercury climbed higher as each 100 shares was sold.” Over 15,000 shares of stock were sold that one day “to bankers, bootleggers, back-woodsmen and bystanders.”

The Kiwanis club, "quite newly formed," made it one of their first community projects to continue the sale of stock to Prescott citizens. Each share cost one dollar and it was hoped that $350,000 would be raised to cover the entire expense.

The initial concept for the building was optimistic. It was first planned to be a four-story building with “104 guest rooms, 58 baths, 7 shops, quarters for management and employees, lobbies, writing rooms, several dining rooms, and 9 suites for commercial travelers, consisting of well lighted sample rooms, bathrooms and baths,” the paper revealed.

A location needed to be chosen and an advertisement soliciting suggestions was placed in the Evening Courier July 11, 1925. Eventually the site of the old Congress Hotel was chosen on the corner of Marina and Gurley (although the Arizona Republican reported it as “Mariana and Curley!")

Two houses and two garages survived the Congress Hotel fire and it was up to the Monday Club to see that they were sold and removed from the lot.

Many architects from around the nation bid for the job. Trost & Trost of El Paso, TX were the ones chosen. Other buildings designed by them included the Luhrs building in Phoenix, the Gladsden Hotel in Douglas, the Santa Rita in Tucson and a number of buildings in El Paso.

Everything seemed in place for construction to start before the end of the year when disaster struck in the form of two local bank failures. The loss of money would delay the project for over a year. Additionally, the size of the building would have to be scaled down.

History of the Congress Hotel (originally the Williams House) and the disastrous fire that would change Prescott, AZ forever.

In July, 1926, the community and the stockholders dug a little deeper to make up for the lost finances. “A number of stockholders who subscribed to the hotel fund in the campaign ending a year ago increased their subscriptions...and several new subscriptions were received,” the paper reported. Additional capital was raised from the west coast.

It wasn’t until January 1927 when bids were finally taken to do the actual construction. "According to the number of calls received for copies of the plans, bids will be placed by a large number of contractors from Phoenix, Los Angeles, El Paso, Prescott and Jerome," the paper wrote. "Enough competition on bidding was expected to bring a price that will allow the board to economically erect the hotel."

Indeed, another company from El Paso, Ramey Brothers, was the lowest of 10 bids submitted and was $34,000 below the amount the architect projected it would cost.

Hassayampa under
“With much ado on February 28, 1927 the acting hotel president stuck a spade in the ground at the former site of the Congress Hotel. With an appreciative crowd happily cheering, a scoop of dirt was thrown symbolically aside and the foundation was begun,” one recalled.

“Prescott regards this step as one of the most significant in the modern history of the city,” the Arizona Republican observed, “for a magnificent hotel structure is now assured;” and the building we know today took shape in 8 months. 

The furniture order to complete the hotel filled six railcars. “Guest rooms in the hotel are furnished in a specially constructed Castilian walnut furniture, of Spanish design,” the paper explained. “This furniture with its tile marquetry, is the last word in attractiveness and utility. It has the appearance of being very old, with its worn edges and acquaint fixtures.”

The story of the historic downtown Federal Building and Post Office in Prescott, AZ. 

Hassayampa advertising will state that the hostelry opened November 5, 1927. In fact, different portions opened as soon as they were completed. “Guest rooms on the upper floors of the hotel will be open for the first time Tuesday, October 11,” the paper announced, “for those who are willing to occupy them even if the lobby and lower floors are not completed.”

Six days later, the coffee shop opened without any announcement. Despite this, 87 patrons were served breakfast its first day. 

Three weeks later, everything was in place and on November 5th, “a brilliant reception (was) held for the citizens of Prescott and vicinity.”

It was a proud moment for Prescott. “The Hassayampa Hotel at Prescott is one of the most beautiful and imposing the state,” the Republican stated.

“The hotel is a community owned affair, having been financed by residents under a system said to be unique in hotel financing,” it was reported. “No commissions of any kind were paid for the campaign.”

In retrospect, the Evening Courier observed: “It is, in reality, the harvest of 10 years sowing in the fruit of the labor and through half a dozen organizations and many individuals.” 

“Today, the Hassayampa Inn remains an anchor in the community. The building is included in the National Register of Historic Places and is a member of the Historic Hotels of America.”

Hassayampa Lobby: brand-new.
Even before it was built, a few referred to the hostelry as "The Hassayampa Inn" even though it was officially called the "Hassayampa Hotel" and its sign said so. Although this researcher has been unable to find out exactly when the new sign was installed, the old one was in use at least into the early 1950s.

Tourist Tip:
CLICK HERE for the Hassayampa Inn website


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Prescott Evening Courier; 12/10/1924 
“What Makes a Legend Legendary;” Sharlot Hall Museum Archives; VF-Buildings-Hassaympa Inn
Prescott Evening Courier; 7/11/1925, Pg. 3, Col. 6-7
Arizona Republican; 8/18/1925, Pg. 6, Col. 6
Arizona Republican; 10/25/1925, Pg. 25, Col. 3
Arizona Republican; 9/27/1925, Pg. 11, Col. 2-3
Arizona Republican; 1/11/1927, Pg. 4, Col. 2
Arizona Republican; 7/25/1926, Pg. 13, Col. 4
Arizona Republican; 1/24/1927, Pg. 11, Col. 2
Arizona Republican; 2/16/1927, Pg. 15, Col. 4
Arizona Republican; 2/19/1927, Pg. 9, Col. 2
Prescott Evening Courier; 10/5/1927, Pg. , Col. 1
Prescott Evening Courier; 10/8/1927, Pg. 1, Col. 7
Arizona Republican; 12/25/1927, Pg. 31, Col. 1

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