By Sonu Munshi Cronkite News Service
SELIGMAN – Angel Delgadillo remembers when train passengers in suits and silk promenaded into the Havasu Hotel to relax and dine in luxury.
With the finest crystal and china, immaculately polished silverware and a menu featuring delicacies such as chestnut spaghetti and marsala scallopini, the Fred Harvey hotel was a magnet for travelers and the pride of this community on historic Route 66.
“It was our crowning jewel,” says Delgadillo, who often joined other Seligman residents witnessing who was dropping by the hotel.
The hotel’s owner, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, has said it plans to tear down the two-story building, though it hasn’t set a date. That’s left some members of the community scrambling to save the hotel.
The railroad is willing to donate the building to the community, but it intends to keep the land for an as-yet undetermined use, says Lena Kent, a company spokeswoman.
Individuals are studying the possibility of moving and restoring the hotel, also known here as the Havasu Harvey. Others are waging online campaigns to call attention to the hotel’s plight (see www.harveyhouses.net).
“People drive by our town and many don’t even notice this rich piece of history,” says Mary Clurman, who blogs about the hotel (seligmanharveyhouse.blogspot.com) and is trying to find grant money to save it. “It’d be tragic to see it fall by the wayside.”
The Havasu Hotel is one of four surviving Arizona hotels built by entrepreneur Fred Harvey, who built more than 80 hotels, restaurants, lunch rooms and newsstands along the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad between Chicago and Los Angeles.
Spread mainly across Arizona, New Mexico, California and Kansas, many of the Harvey properties are now abandoned. The El Tovar on the Grand Canyon’s South Rim and the restored La Posada Hotel in Winslow are examples of Harvey hotels that have been preserved. A Harvey Hotel in Williams now houses offices and a gift shop for the Grand Canyon Railway.
“If you really wanted to be something and know more about the West, you’d take the train and stay at the Harvey Hotel,” says Harvey historian Kathleen L. Howard.
The Havasu Hotel had about 60 rooms and a restaurant, a lunch counter, a bar and a reading room. The railroad stopped using the building in 1989.
Delgadillo fondly recalls the Havasu Hotel’s “Harvey Girls,” waitresses known for their starched black-and-white uniforms and elegant manner.
Josie Lopez, who now works as a cashier at a Seligman restaurant, was a Harvey Girl in the mid-1940s, serving troops on trains that stopped here.
“It would be a shame if it disappeared altogether,” she says.
The hotel is an important piece of railroad and tourism history, says Vince Murray, former president of the Arizona Preservation Foundation, which this year placed the Havasu Hotel on its list of endangered sites.
“It can be a driving force in bringing back tourists to Seligman in a big way,” Murray says.
FOUR SURVIVING HARVEY HOTELS IN ARIZONA
Cronkite News Service
Havasu Hotel, Seligman: Opened around 1905, it has been closed for decades. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway says it plans to tear down the hotel. The Seligman Historical Society and individuals are studying the possibility of moving and restoring it.
El Tovar, Grand Canyon: Built in 1905, it continues to function as a hotel perched on the South Rim in Grand Canyon National Park.
La Posada Hotel, Winslow: Built in 1929, it has been restored to its former glory and is billed as “the last great railroad hotel.”
Fray Marcos Hotel, Williams: Opened in the early 1900s, it is part of the historic Williams Depot, which serves as the departure point for the Grand Canyon Railway. A new hotel has been built next to it. Part of the original hotel is used for the railway’s gift shop, ticket counter and offices.