February 7, 2021

Dudley House: First Real Hotel in Prescott

It is the Juniper House that is rightly designated as Prescott's first hotel. However, the Dudley House was the first hotel to offer something more substantial than a canvas roof!

Twelve years after the town’s founding, (1876,) the Miner wrote: “The absence of a hotel in Prescott is the first thing that attracts the attention of strangers on their arrival.” Indeed, for years the paper editorialized for a hotel that was “hard finished.”

One visitor remarked that a hotel "has long been needed, and we who are called to your town on business have felt the need of a public house more than you are aware.”

The lack of a proper hotel was hampering the economic growth of the entire county. All the mineral “easy-pickins” had been found and it would take both heavy equipment and heavy capital to harvest the rest. Before investing the money, entrepreneurs were keen to inspect the potential mines themselves and a proper hotel was desperately needed to house them.

It would be AJ Dudley and Fred Williams who would partner to bring it to fruition early in 1876. They bought the property on the northeast corner of Gurley and Montezuma. The building there originally housed the RH Bashford & Sons store and later, the Mechanics Exchange owned by AH Peeples of Peeples Valley fame. 

RH Bashford Building before becoming the
Dudley House (courtesy Ruffner Archive)

Judging from the picture in the newspaper ad shown at the top, Dudley and Williams added two floors and a copula to the building. “They intend to run it as a first class restaurant with rooms in the rear for private dinner parties, etc.” on the ground floor with 18 or 20 beds above. A saloon adjoined the restaurant.. Williams also owned a cottage at the corner of Gurley and Marina that would also be available “for families and others who arrive by stage…”

One “Sojourner” wrote the Miner expressing high praise for the Dudley House. “Heretofore, we had to pack our blankets and find food and lodging just where we could pick it up, but now [the stage stops] at the Dudley House… [It’s] an institution of which your citizens may justly feel proud.”

Indeed the citizens did. In June, Dudley was presented a fine gold chain by “his friends and patrons, who wished to testify to him their appreciation of his efforts in providing hotel accommodations in Prescott,” the paper reported.

There is evidence, however, that Dudley and Williams did not get along. Only seven months after the Dudley House doors opened, Williams “retired,” and the partnership was dissolved November 27, 1876. Williams gave his share to his brother AP, whose nickname literally was “Odd.”

Ten months later, it was Dudley who quit. The paper reported that he opened a rival “Dudley Hotel” with a partner named White. It had 10 rooms and an adjoining corral, but this situation did not work out either. In May, 1878, the Miner reported that Dudley had been in the restaurant business at Signal City “of late,” but was looking for another location in Mohave County.

After Dudley quit the first hostelry, Fred Williams took back his share from his brother Odd. In 1877 the paper revealed that the Dudley House was “thriving under Williams.” In 1878, it carried “a good name far and near.”

Yet Fred Williams had many entrepreneurial irons in the fire and late in 1878, he sold the hotel to the retiring Yavapai County Sheriff, Ed Bowers, who would take over January 1st, 1879—his first day as a private citizen.

Tragically, the day after Christmas, Bowers contracted pneumonia and died January 5th. Fred Williams bought back the Dudley House property from the Bowers’ estate and renamed it the “Williams House.” 

First ad for Williams House

Despite tough economic times in 1879, the Miner reported that the Williams House had “a rushing business and is making money;” Advertising itself as “The largest and most complete hotel in Arizona.”

At the end of 1881, Williams leased the building to interests in San Francisco who refurnished, renovated, and ran the hotel. 

By 1884, Levi Bashford owned the hostelry. After this, the Williams House had a parade of owners and proprietors.

In 1888 Mrs. Anna Curtis became the proprietress and the place was renovated once again. 

Early in 1890, Anna McGowan promised to “transform it into a first-class hotel.” It was then being advertised as the “Oldest Hotel in Prescott.”

McGowan held it for only a year when it was bought by Henry Spaulding. Spaulding renovated the hotel “with special accommodations for families.” Some of these family-friendly renovations included a “cabinet grand piano, a fine parlor, and a good office.”

Then in 1893, Anna McGowen took charge for a second time offering the usual renovations. In 1896, she renamed it “The Congress.”

The old Dudley / Williams House was beloved by both citizens and visitors alike, but like much of downtown Prescott, it was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1900.

Ruins of the old Dudley House after the fire.


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Weekly Arizona Miner, 2/11/1876; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/12/1876; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 6/2/1876; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 9/15/1876; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/18/1877; Pg. 2, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/10/1878; Pg. 3, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 10/12/1877; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/26/1877; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 11/23/1877; Pg. 4, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 5/10/1878; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 1/10/1879; Pg. 4, Col. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4_11_1879; Pg. 2, Col. 6.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 4/25/1879; Pg. 4, Col. 1.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 11/28/1879; Pg. 3, Col. 6.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 11/11/1881; Pg. 3.

Weekly Arizona Miner, 10/17/1884; Pg. 2, Col. 2.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 5/23/1888; Pg. 1, Col. 1.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/15/1890; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/27/1890; Pg. 4, Col. 6.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 2/25/1891; Pg. 4, Col. 3.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 4/29/1891; Pg. 3, Col. 1.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/19_/893; Pg. 3, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 1/8/1896; Pg. 3, Col. 2.

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