Restoration work to add more structural support to the three-story, century-old Weatherford Hotel is scheduled to begin tomorrow. The latest phase to return the historic building to its original grandeur will include removing the second floor mezzanine and returning the 19-foot-high ceiling to the lobby; creating a first-floor hotel room and office; and adding five more hotel rooms on the second floor bringing the grand total to 17.
During the next two months, the hotel will continue to serve breakfast, lunch and dinner; however, the main room of Charly’s restaurant and the lobby will be closed. Patrons will be able to enter the building through the Exchange Pub on Leroux Street or The Gopher Hole Pub on Aspen Avenue, which will open at 11 a.m. While the restaurants will be open throughout the restoration project, hotel rooms will not be available during March and April.
The hotel – stressed from the weight of heavy building materials, guest rooms and bathrooms that were added through the years, plus inadequate foundational support – had been slowly collapsing in on itself. Owners Henry Taylor and Pamela “Sam” Green have been steadily restoring the Flagstaff landmark for more than four decades.
“We’re getting the hotel back to its structural integrity,” said Henry. “Starting with the basement and the creation of The Gopher Hole, we’ve been able to fortify the building with columns and huge beams that run the length of the hotel on both sides of its original sub-street level rock wall. Three years ago we took off 20-pounds-per-square-foot from the roof and replaced it with 3-pounds-per-square-foot material. Now we’re going floor by floor removing the heavy lath and plaster that was used to create walls. The plumbers were the building’s worst enemy. There was no plumbing originally and when bathrooms were installed, workers cut into the floor joists.”
In addition, a mezzanine had been added between the first and second floors, which took away the high ceilings in the lobby. When the project is completed, the Taylors plan to bring back the grand piano to Charly’s Pub & Grill played by local musician Charly Spining from the late1970s to the 1990s while patrons dined.
“We hope the public still feels good about the building,” said Sam. “We are using every bit of our being to bring it back, fortify and finish the building, so it will be here for prosperity. That’s our goal.”
“The hotel is an important part of Arizona history and we feel strongly that it be around for generations to enjoy and imagine what life was like in the early 1900s,” added Henry.
The new first floor hotel room will be able to accommodate those who are unable to use stairs. The décor in guest rooms will reflect the early 1900s; much of the furniture has been salvaged from the hotel and other historic hotels and refinished. The additional rooms are scheduled to be in operation by July.
City of Flagstaff Community Design and Redevelopment Manger Karl Eberhard is also the city’s historic preservation officer. “You can’t build an historic downtown, you can only preserve it,” he said. “I like to say, by far, the most green building of all is an existing building. Kudos to Sam and Henry for the decades of work they’ve put into the hotel. It was in sorry shape when they got it and every year it gets better and better. Where would the downtown be without that building sitting there?”
Henry and his brother, Lloyd, bought the hotel in 1975 when it was slated for demolition. Restoration work has included returning the signature cupola or “witch’s cap” to the top of the building and the wrap-around balconies that were destroyed by fire in the 1920s.
“We thank those who continue to visit Charly’s and the Weatherford for supporting the preservation of our historic downtown,” said Sam.
The Weatherford Hotel is Arizona’s oldest, continuously operating hotel. John W. Weatherford constructed the grand Victorian building for his mercantile store in 1897. However, with the popularity of the railroad and the draw of the Grand Canyon, he soon realized the bigger demand was in lodging. He opened the doors to guests on Jan. 1, 1900.
Since then, the hotel has served as a home away from home for travelers, writers, gunslingers, dam builders, bus drivers, actors, athletes, therapy patients and politicians. Legendary guests included President Theodore Roosevelt, lawman Wyatt Earp and cowboy author Zane Grey.
For more information visit weatherfordhotel.com.