As one of the predominant buildings in Flagstaff, the Weatherford Hotel on Arizona’s very first statehood day, Feb. 14, 1912, likely hosted a gathering of well-dressed townspeople and travelers in woolen overcoats and formal hats maneuvering among the few automobiles and horse-drawn buggies. Historian and former judge Richard Mangum says the move from territory to statehood meant getting ahead in the world, being recognized as an equal among the rest of the country and having a self-elected, rather than appointed, government.
On this centennial statehood day, the historic Weatherford Hotel again will serve as an important Flagstaff centerpiece and gathering place as the community and visitors mark our state’s 100thbirthday with the lowering of the Great Pine Cone at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14. The event promises a dazzling LED light show of the copper state’s colors, alternating with the reds of Valentine’s Day. To coincide with downtown centennial statehood activities, the Pine Cone will be lowered at half-mast throughout the day.
Opened on New Year’s Day 1900, the elegant Weatherford Hotel served as a bridge between the rugged frontier and civilized living. It was a time when some were still hunting grizzlies, Arizona Rangers were running down outlaws and astronomers were stargazing for discovery.
Just as northern Arizona’s early scientists were peering into the dark skies, John W. Weatherford was envisioning a Flagstaff that would welcome visitors in style, treat them to first-class entertainment in his opera house, The Majestic, and guide them through the cool ponderosa pine forest to the top of Arizona’s highest mountain on the San Francisco Mountain Boulevard. The Coconino Sun said Weatherford would be bringing “a vast empire to view by road.”
The scenic road opened in 1926 and began operating as a summertime tourist attraction. Unfortunately, the road for Weatherford, the man, was anything but smooth after that. In 1927, fire destroyed the grand wrap-around balconies that graced his three-story building. The Great Depression of 1929, which started with the stock market crash in October, hit tourism very hard and the road was barely able to survive. Weatherford himself died a poor man in 1934.
What has survived is the Weatherford spirit of beauty and enjoyment. Among those who have passed through the Weatherford Hotel doors to warm their hands by the fireplace and delight in fine dining have included newspaper tycoon William Randolph Hearst, western landscape artist Thomas Moran and notorious wild-West lawman Wyatt Earp.
In fact, oral history has it that Earp was gambling in the hotel when the local sheriff broke up the illegal game. Suddenly realizing with whom he was dealing, the sheriff suggested the men wrap up the game, donate the winnings to the Women’s Club and forget about the whole incident.
Meantime, New York dentist and cowboy author Zane Grey was romancing the West from a comfortable chair in the Weatherford Hotel’s parlor.
Since the ‘30s, the hotel has experienced a series of owners, remodels including stucco and aluminum siding, and uses such as a bowling alley, restaurants and radio station.
Throughout the years, the downtown fell into a state of disrepair. Many buildings were being torn down and it seemed this too would be the fate of the Weatherford Hotel. That’s when Henry Taylor stepped in. The 29-year-old Holbrook man purchased the sandstone building to save it from demolition in 1975. He was able to use it as a rehabilitation facility for two years and then started a small coffee shop in 1978 called Charly’s.
Eventually, the building transformed into a hostel offering European travelers an affordable and accessible taste of the West.
The Taylors (now Henry and his wife, Sam) remodeled the first floor and opened Charly’s Pub on Saint Patrick’s Day 1981. It has been a major entertainment venue in Flagstaff’s historic downtown ever since.
The 1990s marked a period of even greater change. Sam and Henry moved into fine dining. They began upgrading the rooms and transitioning the hostel into a hotel. State grants helped restore the balconies and the Zane Grey Ballroom became the crowning jewel of elegant simplicity and casual ambience reminiscent of Flagstaff at its turn-of-the century heyday.
Just as John W. Weatherford, astronomers and Flagstaff’s early leaders had a dream for Flagstaff, Henry and Sam have carried and implemented the vision for the grand Weatherford Hotel as a legacy and connection to Flagstaff’s past. Their tireless efforts have been underway for more than 30 years to restore the structure and charm, return its signature features including the balconies and cupola, and offer a respite in casual elegance for weary travelers and festive revelers.
“In many ways the story of the Weatherford Hotel represents a love story about people who embrace life, share a vision for improving the future and work for meaningful results that honor our heritage,” said Judge Mangum. “It is most fitting that this landmark hotel will bring our community together again on Valentine’s Day and on this important moment in Arizona history.”
Thus, the Weatherford Hotel invites Flagstaff residents and visitors to share in the celebration honoring Flagstaff’s early beginnings and Arizona’s 100th birthday as the six-foot-tall, 120-pound, lighted aluminum Pine Cone is lowered to cheers in the historic downtown at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 14. The Weatherford Hotel will be offering Valentine’s Day dining specials along with statehood 100-cent Arizona beer specials and the music of Jimmy DeBlois in Charly’s Pub & Grill.