A travel writer in 1960 described the interstate highway
system as a necessary evil. It did alleviate the often deadly problems that resulted from an ever increasing number of vehicles using antiquated highways, such as Route 66, with its narrow bridges, blind curves, steep grades, and constrictions that resulted from funneling the traffic through the center of towns and cities. The price, however, was the homogenizing of America.
The Route 66 renaissance is the dawn of a new era, a rediscovery of communities with character. Fortunately, even though the decline of the historic business core of the city suffered greatly resultant of the I-40 bypass, downtown Kingman is filled with delightful gems, surprises, and absolute treasures.
When it opened in 1907, the Desert Power & Water Company was a start of the art complex. Before construction of Hoover Dam in the 1930’s the power plant provided electricity for Kingman, Chloride, Oatman, Hackberry, Goldroad, and other area communities. Today the oldest reinforced building houses the Kingman area visitor center, the offices and gift shop for the Arizona Route 66 Association, the Grand Canyon West gift shop specializing in Native American crafts, an award winning Route 66 museum, a Bob Boze Bell display, and the world’s only electric vehicle museum.
Mr. D’z Route 66 Diner is, perhaps, the most famous restaurant in Kingman. Tens of thousands of photos have been take of the restaurant and shared throughout the world. Oprah Winfrey once stopped by and added to the restaurants fame. It is a near perfect caricature of what people expect to see in a 1950’s diner. The surprise, however, is that it IS a classic roadside diner. It opened in 1939 as the Kimo Cafe (KI for Kingman and MO for Mohave Country) and Shell station.
Now a private residence, the White Rock Court just to the west of the Arcadia Lodge on Andy Devine Avenue dates to 1935. Historic motels are counted among the rarest and most endangered properties along Route 66. Of this the rarest of all are the prewar auto courts with garages. As a result this little gem built by Conrad Minka, a Russian hard rock miner, is a very special treasure.
The Arcadia Motel, originally Arcadia Court, is another roadside treasure. Now serving as a low rent apartment complex the motel dates to 1939. In the 1940 edition of the AAA Directory of Motor Courts & Cottages the motel was billed as having the “finest appointments for the fastidious guest.” It even offered air conditioning!
The El Trovatore Motel with its stunning sixty-foot neon tower is another survivor from the prewar era. Also built in 1939, the motel was a resort in the unincorporated community of El Travatore that offered stunning views of the Hualapai Mountains as well as a restaurant and laundry facilities, and after 1950, a swimming pool. Expansion of Route 66 from a two lane to four lane highway in the 1960’s resulted in demolition of the north wing of the motel complex. The developer of the property was John F. Miller, a pioneering Las Vegas entrepreneur that built the Nevada Hotel on the corner of Front and 1st Street in 1906.
Almost directly across the street at 1901 East Andy Devine Avenue is the Hilltop Motel, another roadside time capsule. The twenty-eight unit complex opened in 1954, and appears almost unchanged today. Then and now, the claim that the motel provided guests with the “Best View in Kingman” was more than mere advertising hype as the view from poolside is nothing short of stunning.
These are just a few of the most noticeable of the historic treasures and architectural gems awaiting discovery in Kingman. At every turn the back streets and historic neighborhoods are filled with surprising discoveries. All you need to discover them is a bit of time, and an adventuresome spirit.