Publisher’s Note: “Postcards from the Past” is a three-part series of unique postcards I’ve collected over the years. See our June and July editions (arcadianewsarchives.com) for the first two parts.
The Camelback Inn was the concept of Jack Stewart, backed by an investment group that was led by industrialist John C. Lincoln. The desert oasis was built on 60 acres that Lincoln owned in between Camelback and Mummy Mountains. Located in the barren desert 12 miles north of Phoenix, Scottsdale’s first luxury resort opened in 1936. The place “Where Time Stands Still” accommodated 75 guests in its white stucco casitas that spread across the property.
Jack Stewart and his wife Louise helped the resort quickly become a coveted destination for wealthy travelers and celebrities from the Midwest. Louise was a social butterfly, putting on elaborate costume parties that brought visitors back time and time again. In 1937, the published rates at the resort ranged from $10 to $20 daily per person on the “American Plan,” which included three meals a day.
In 1948 the resort hosted some guests who would end up becoming the ultimate VIPs. The Marriott family spent a couple weeks at the resort and revisited a few times until they eventually purchased the property in 1968. This was the very first resort for the hotelier family, and it clearly has a special place in the heart of the organization, as it is still owned and operated by Marriott International, which has more than 6,500 other properties around the world.
The Arizona Biltmore
Charles McArthur and his brother Warren McArthur opened the Biltmore in 1929, with an investment from John McEntee Bowman, who owned the successful Biltmore Hotel chain. When the hotel opened, celebrities and socialites from around the country flocked to Phoenix to attend “the most brilliant and colorful social event in the history of the Valley.”
Chewing gum baron William Wrigley, Jr. was a partial investor in the hotel and bought out his partners in 1930, while also snatching up the surrounding 1,200 acres. On a nearby hill Wrigley built his iconic winter home that he gave to his wife, Ada, as a 50th wedding anniversary gift.
The Wrigley ownership brought an era of the rich and famous seeking unrivaled luxury. The hotel was a veritable hotspot in the Valley, hosting everything from car shows to huge social gatherings while accommodating elite guests from around the world. The Wrigley family sold the hotel to Talley Industries in 1970, and in 1973, there was a fire. Frank Lloyd Wright’s people at Taliesen West were brought in to supervise the reconstruction and provide interior design.
Like most Valley resorts, the Biltmore Hotel would change hands multiple times and undergo several renovations and expansions through the years. The Arizona Biltmore, aka the “Jewel of the Desert” was listed in the Phoenix Historic Property Register and declared a Phoenix Point of Pride in July 2009. Today the hotel is a Waldorf Astoria Resort property.
In the early 1900s, artist and cosmopolite Jessie Benton Evans purchased 40 acres on the south side of Camelback Mountain at a price of $40 per acre. She gave 12 of those acres to her son Robert T. Evans and his wife, Sylvia. Robert and Sylvia built a home on their land that had two distinct bell towers.
Sylvia and her friend Lucy came up with a business idea and converted some of the space for use as a tea room. A little Hopi boy working on the property helped the ladies come up with the name when Lucy asked the boy what he called an adobe house. “Ah, mud house — Jokake.” The name stuck and in 1927, the Jokake Inn was born.
The Inn kept its roots and continued the tradition of afternoon tea each day. Expanding through the 1930s, the Inn grew in stages and by 1943 it could handle 100 guests. The Jokake Inn operated successfully until the early 1970s, and in 1979 most of it was leveled to make way for The Phoenician. The iconic adobe bell towers still stand proudly near the entrance to the Phoenician property.
With all of the postcards here for the resorts on the outskirts of the city, downtown Phoenix was always the original tourist destination. Hotels have always had a place on Central Avenue—along with saloons and other vice-exploiting businesses—since Phoenix was just a dusty homestead.
In the early 1900s, Arizona was young, mysterious and still a little wild. Doctors were sending patients out to the desert in droves to treat all sorts of respiratory ailments. The Adams Hotel was a luxury destination, originally built in 1896 on the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Adams Street. Three more hotels of the same name would grace that spot over the next 100 years. Today it is a Marriott property—the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.