By Joan Fudala
Scottsdale hoteliers rock! The men and women who run Scottsdale’s resorts and hotels have had to cope and adjust to the daily challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their employees and guests have had their lives upended as well. Despite the pandemic, today’s innkeepers carry on a tradition of welcoming visitors to Scottsdale and providing jobs for local residents started over 120 years ago.
From the 1890s through the 1950s, visitors came to Scottsdale’s inns and guest ranches as much for the personality and hospitality of the innkeepers as they did for the properties’ location and amenities.
Scottsdale’s earliest hoteliers had challenges that seem unreal today. For example, no electricity until 1918, no air conditioning until the 1940s and no city services (paved streets, sewer system, fire protection, etc.) until after Scottsdale was incorporated in 1951. Season guests usually came for extended stays, had most (if not all) of their meals on-site and depended on the innkeeper for entertainment and transportation to outings.
Get to know some of Scottsdale’s historic innkeepers:
ν New Yorkers Howard and Ida Underhill were the first to accept paying guests in their home on the northwest corner of what is now Scottsdale and Indian School roads. Oasis Villa, also known as Kenilworth Ranch, opened circa 1897, offering winter season accommodations in a boarding-house or tent-home (wood framed with canvas flaps for windows that could be raised for breeze or lowered to block sun or cool temperatures) setting. Most of their guests were either house seekers or health seekers, because tourism as we know it today was virtually nonexistent in the farm settlement of Scottsdale. Affectionately known as the “mayor of Scottsdale,” Howard was described by a former guest, Emma Paddock Telford of Brooklyn, who wrote a letter to the Arizona Republican following his death in February 1905. “When on the edge of a choking, whirling sandstorm or Arizona downpour, the dweller in tents, new to the life, homesick, frightened and without the requisite ‘faculty’ to make the most and best of their surroundings, could look out and seeing the ‘mayor’ coming with hammer or spade ready to tighten the guy ropes or lead into other channels the too-familiar water course, the sunshine came with him and courage rose. This world is better for all such kindly, gentle and cheery souls.”
ν Oasis Villa became the property of Ed and Mary Graves, recent arrivals from Kentucky, sometime around 1905. They eventually renamed it Graves (Guest) Ranch and added more tent cottages for their seasonal guests. Many health seekers stayed with the Graves family, easing their chronic symptoms with the ranch’s excellent meals of locally grown fresh produce, gentle outdoor exercise (croquet was popular) and exposure to the warm, dry winter climate. Ed, who came to Arizona for his own health, also operated one of the area’s first craft/gift shops, the Graves Curio Store. His shops (in Phoenix and at the Graves Guest Ranch) featured baskets, pottery, rugs and other items handmade by Native Americans and local artisans, as well as Western relics. Although he succumbed to tuberculosis in 1923, the Graves Guest Ranch operated well into the 1950s.
ν Canal builder W.J. Murphy and his son, Ralph, opened the Ingleside Club in 1909 near the Arizona Canal and Thomas Road. As the area’s first luxury resort, and not a sanatorium, it included a nine-hole golf course, only the second course in the Arizona Territory at the time. Ralph was the genial “proprietor” or “operator,” often hosting Phoenix-area civic organizations for luncheons or dinners to market the inn to locals as well as seasonal visitors. He also marketed lots in the Ingleside/Arcadia area for those looking to relocate to the Salt River Valley. Among his VIP guests, whom he wined and dined, was Vice President Thomas Marshall and his wife, Lois Kimsey Marshall, whose parents lived in Scottsdale. An Ingleside brochure from about 1921 said, “The club is operated by those who understand and love Arizona—not by imported managers unfamiliar with western conditions and picnics, camping and side trips are handled largely under the supervision of the club; with the catering, as far as possible, done by the club chef.” Ralph penned in the brochure, “One forgets at Ingleside that the world is a place of care, and believes that peace is the lot of man.”
ν Sylvia Evans and her then-husband, Robert, moved to the base of Camelback Mountain in the 1920s on land gifted to them by his artist mother, Jessie Benton Evans. Sylvia and friend Lucy Cuthbert, gracious hostesses, decided to open a tearoom on the Evans’ property in 1926, calling it the Jokake Inn. Immediately a draw for locals and seasonal visitors, two years later they began adding guest rooms due to popular demand. In buildings designed and built by Robert, Sylvia gave guests a flavor of the Southwest, decorating Jokake with arts and crafts of the region. In a booklet she wrote about her Jokake Inn experiences, Sylvia Evans Byrnes wrote, “Soon the days were 16 hours long for each of us—what with meeting guests, planning, cooking and overseeing the increasing number of help. Rise at 5:30 a.m. and bed at midnight was the regime.” After the inn was sold, and eventually closed (the tower building still stands on the grounds of The Phoenician Resort), she reflected in the booklet, “Was there really a Jokake Inn with scores of happy people playing tennis, swimming, sun bathing, horseback riding, laughing and relaxed in glorious vacation fun? Many voices, action unceasing…It seems like a dream.”
ν Mildred Bartholow bought the former Blount/George family home built circa 1896 (where the Civic Center Library parking lot is today) and opened The Adobe House guest ranch in 1928 with her friend Inogene Ireland. A profile of Bartholow in the August 17, 1947, Arizona Republic said, “She has made good her intentions of conducting an English-type house party on the edge of the desert. She looks like somebody’s favorite grandmother with her white hair, her homey attitude and her interest in people. But Miss Mildred Bartholow has converted her motherly attributes into unusual channels and has become a successful businesswoman in the process.” The Adobe House brochure explained that it was not a sanitarium but was perfect for those “needing rest and comfortable quite living”; a hammock and rocking chairs on the inn’s porch were evidence of this leisurely environment. Fifteen guests could be accommodated, and meals and access to saddle horses were provided. With leisure travel restricted due to World War II rationing and wartime service, Bartholow ran the cafeteria/canteen at Thunderbird II Airfield, providing meals to the aviation cadets training at what is now Scottsdale Airport/Airpark between 1942 and 1944. The Adobe House closed in the early 1950s, was used as the town’s first library and community center, and was torn down after a fire in 1970. Bartholow died in 1966 in her native Maryland.
ν Financially supported by John C. Lincoln, Jack Stewart opened the Camelback Inn on Lincoln Drive in 1936. He and his wife, Louise, ran the inn for over 30 years. With a background as a publicist and a gregarious personality, Jack was a natural hotelier. The Stewarts had a loyal, seasonal clientele at the inn, visiting from throughout the nation and overseas. They organized numerous social events for their guests, ranging from gymkhanas (horse events) to cookouts, costume parties and children’s activities. They also hosted countless community and charity events and were particularly generous to military members and their families during World War II and the Vietnam War. His memoir, “We Met at Camelback,” is a fascinating read about the who’s who and the what happened during the Stewarts’ decades as owners/hosts. Jack was a leader in the Valley and state tourism industry, a key promoter of spring training in Scottsdale and a founder of the Fiesta Bowl in 1971. He sold the inn to Marriott in 1967 and died in February 1973.
ν After the Jokake Inn’s Robert and Sylvia divorced in the early 1940s, Robert designed, built and opened a sister property on the Evans’ land at the base of Camelback Mountain, the Paradise Inn. Debuting in 1944-45, the Paradise Inn under Robert’s leadership accommodated 140 guests. The inn’s brochure described its lifestyle: “The social director helps our guests to become acquainted and to enjoy the various activities, so that a person coming alone need feel no hesitancy about entertainment. However, the wishes of those desiring only rest and quiet will be respected.”
ν Famed cosmetics and beauty company owner Elizabeth Arden opened the women-only Maine Chance spa resort at the base of Camelback Mountain circa 1946. She designed a program of health and leisure that attracted female celebrities, wives of politicians and business leaders and local VIPs. Among her famous guests: First Lady Mamie Eisenhower, actresses Rosalind Russell and Ava Gardner and Mrs. John Foster Dulles, as well as local leading ladies Peggy Goldwater, Kax Herberger and former ambassador Clare Boothe Luce. The spa closed in the early 1990s to make way for expansion of The Phoenician Resort and its golf course.
ν Dorothy and Burke Patterson opened Patterson’s Ride ‘n’ Rock Ranch on Indian Bend Road in 1949. From a handful of cottages, which they called “rancheros,” the rustic ranch grew to 55 by the time Dorothy sold it in 1967 (Burke died in 1955). After the guest ranch closed in the 1980s, Dorothy told the Scottsdale Progress, “Overall, the ranch had a homey, Western feel. It was a place for families to come and relax and get away from their worries. People loved to rough it as long as they had wall-to-wall carpeting, electric blankets, good plumbing and excellent food.” Actor Fred MacMurray was a regular guest; guests referred family and friends to Ride ‘n’ Rock, which was usually full from September to June. Dorothy was known for her desert cookouts, taking guests on shopping excursions to Downtown Scottsdale craft shops or to Nogales, and for her tourist season opening party, to which locals and visitors were invited. A street east of McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park honors the ranch.
ν During the late 1940s/early 1950s, numerous guest ranches opened throughout Scottsdale and Paradise Valley, locally owned and operated and whose proprietors were well known to guests and the tourism industry. Among those was the Ray Silverman family, who opened the Paradise Valley Guest Ranch in 1953. Steadily growing a loyal following of guests, the Silvermans rebuilt the guest ranch into a hotel resort, branded as a Granada Royale, Embassy Suites and Chaparral Suites. The entire family was involved in operating the hotel and became leaders in the Scottsdale tourism and business community. Another well-known hotelier of the 1950s era was Royal Treadway, who managed then owned the Casa Blanca Inn on Chaparral Road. He and his wife, Patty, organized social events for their guests and developed a following among guests, who returned year after year to enjoy the inn’s pool, stables and cuisine.
ν Former manager of the Jokake Inn Robert “Bobby” Foehl became the inaugural and longtime manager of the Hotel Valley Ho, one of the two year-round resort hotels opened in 1956. (The other was the Safari Hotel.) Well known as an outgoing host-hotelier, he and his wife, Evelyn, helped guests enjoy a full menu of on-site and off-site activities and meals (including their own Lulu Belle restaurant on Main Street). With his connections in the business, sports and tourism communities, Bobby ensured that the Valley Ho was the home base for Scottsdale’s first spring training teams, accommodated relocating employees of the new Scottsdale Motorola plant in 1957 while they looked for permanent housing, and entertained guests and locals with regular pool-side style shows featuring fashions designed and created at nearby Fifth Avenue shops. Celebrities welcomed by the Foehls to the Valley Ho included Bing Crosby, Natalie Wood/Robert Wagner (celebrating their wedding), Jimmy Durante and Tony Curtis/Janet Leigh (while she filmed “Psycho” in Phoenix).
ν Others whose names were synonymous with their hotels/resorts included John Gardiner, who renovated the Paradise Valley Racquet Club into John Gardiner’s Tennis Ranch (1970 to 1992) and hosted an annual Congressional Tennis Tournament; the Fred Kirchoffs and the Paul Reeves, who each operated the Kiami Lodge on Scottsdale Road from the late 1930s to the late 1950s; Ernie Uhlmann and Bill Ritter, who opened the Safari Hotel in 1956 (and Paul Shank who was the long-time nightclub/restaurateur); Judson Bunnell of Scottsdale Country Club (when it offered guest accommodations); Mark and Janet Gruber, who operated El Chorro Lodge as a guest ranch in the 1930s; Lottie Sidell, who had a few guest cottages on the north side of Main Street just west of Brown Avenue in the 1930s; Bob Karatz, who built the Scottsdale Hilton in 1973 (a property later owned by Merv Griffin); Bill Arthur, who opened the first hotel in the Scottsdale Airpark area, the Thunderbird Inn, in the 1970s; and Fred Unger, who renovated the Royal Palms and the Hermosa Inn as luxury boutique hotels—just to name a few of so many historic hoteliers.
Whether profiled here, or known best to their guests, staff and tourism industry, Scottsdale innkeepers have created significant impact on the community. Their hospitality is legend, their community service has been generous and their branding of Scottsdale as a great place to visit endures. ν