By Jim Hinckley
As the home of Giganticus Headicus created by sculpture Gregg Arnold, the old Lake Mead Rancheros complex east of Kingman has become quite famous, especially in the international community of Route 66 enthusiasts. Recently John McEnulty, owner and general manager at Grand Canyon Caverns began transforming the historic property into the Antares Point Route 66 Visitor Center that by this spring will include a picnic area with million dollar views of the Hualapai Valley, gift shop, cafe, convenience store, and toy store.
In a recent meeting with John he asked if I could research and then write a small booklet about the history of the property. Thanks to Justin Chambers, my investigation struck research gold. On his office wall was a copy of a 1965 special edition of the Lake Mead Rancheros News that noted an opening date of October 29 for the complex that consisted of a restaurant, cocktail lounge, Shell station, gift shop, and motel below. The front page was filled with rich detail.
“Entering the two-and-one half story tall building, the traveler is treated to a riot of colorful paneling, bead work, booths, and bric-a-brac. Sky blue decking, pierced with the orange arrows of the open “A” beams, is a breath taking effect. Bars of deep walnut, booths of salmon and sun-yellow, beaded partitions, and the magnificent view of the Music Mountains through 60-feet of picture windows, have thrilled hundreds of tourists since opening.”
Historic research is something that I have enjoyed since youth. The fascination began with a quest to learn about my grandfather, an intriguing fellow who was 63-years of age when my dad was born in 1928, and who was the namesake for Hinckley Boulevard in Vandercook Lake, Michigan. Most recently my research has centered on Route 66 and the evolution of transportation in western Arizona.
Perhaps the greatest pitfall associated with this type of research is distraction. As an example, on behalf of the Route 66 Association of Kingman, an organization that is working with Legacy Signs to restore or recreate historic signage in the historic business district and along the Route 66 corridor, I have been searching for photos of Andy Devine Avenue and Beale Street taken over the last century.
Recently, while searching through the massive archives of the Mohave Museum of History & Arts, I stumbled on a file labeled “transportation.” Before I realized it several hours had passed. The detail of photos showing long vanished automotive dealerships and train wrecks, automotive tours that stopped in Kingman and pioneering bus lines, and of long vanished businesses and even communities had led me astray from my original quest.
However, often these detours can be productive. As an example, several years ago postcard collector Steve Rider contacted in the hope that I could provide a location for a place simply signed as Roy’s that had a notation of Kingman, Arizona. Judging by the type of post card, and the vintage of vehicles, I placed the date as 1920 plus or minus two years. Well, during my recent exploration of historic photographs, portals into another time, I found three images of Roy’s and discovered that it was located on Beale Street between First and Second Streets.
I will be sharing more photos and stories in forthcoming posts, and on the Promote Kingman Facebook page, but other examples of fascinating discoveries include a picture of the pre 1921 National Old Trails Highway in Kingman on South Front Street, now Topeka Street. I knew that there must have been array of businesses along this then busy highway corridor, but until seeing this photo, all I could do was imagine.
Chadwick Drive carried both National Old Trails Highway and Route 66 traffic around El Trovatore Hill. Until my recent foray into the museum archives, I was unaware of any images that showed this road when it was the highway. Then I discovered an amazing image that not only showed the road before it was paved, but it also showed the lead runners in the 1928 “Bunion Derby,” a transcontinental footrace that was an international media sensation.
Historical research is not a financially lucrative endeavor, but it is most always filled with surprising gems and treasures. Follow Promote Kingman on Facebook for updates on new discoveries.
Antares photo courtesy Jim Hinckley’s America
Historic images courtesy Mohave Museum of History & Arts
Program courtesy Steve Rider collection