Hotel Beale: Hub of Kingman activity for close to a century

Like a grand, old dame who has seen better years, you have to look beyond the faded carpets and the boarded windows to appreciate the grandeur of the Hotel Beale.

The mahogany desk and stairway, the balcony overlooking the immense lobby and the atrium skylight overhead are reminders of why this historic hotel attracted visitors from every walk of life.

It also caught the attention of former owner and proprietor Tedi Ronchetti, who still gets emotional when she talks about the hotel that was so much a part of her life from 1984 to 1999.

"What a time I had," Ronchetti said.

"That building was the love of my life.

Although no longer the owner of the landmark Hotel Beale, Ronchetti recently took several local residents on a tour of the grand old hostelry from the 10,000-foot basement below, where patrons gambled in the Sump Room, past what was once "the biggest stock exchange company in the West," to the rooms above where Clark Gable, Greta Garbo and Louis L'Amour once stayed.

It was a nostalgic trip back in time for Rochetti, who held weddings and community events at the hotel; and "cooked and cleaned, and kept it from further destruction" while at the helm.

Her reverence for the past is also evident when she talks about the roots of the hotel.

"It was a smart-looking hotel, elegant and solid," she said.

… It captured people's imagination and hearts."

The hotel started from humble beginnings: Two sisters established an eating place in the 1880s for workers on the new railroad across the street.

Rooms were added and when one of the sisters married Harvey Hubbs, it became known as the Hubbs House.

In 1903 Hubbs built a two-story frame building with rest rooms in the rose garden, and a chamber pot in every room adjacent to the Hubbs House.

(The Hubbs House is also still standing.) It was named Hotel Beale in honor of Lt.

Edward F.

Beale, a larger-than-life hero who led a camel brigade through what is now Kingman in 1858.

Hubbs operated the hotel until 1906, when he sold it to Tom and Amy Devine, parents of the Andy Devine, who later enjoyed success in films, stage, radio and television, playing the character "Cookie Bullfincher" in nine movies.

He was also a successful TV star, most remembered for the role of "Jingles" in Wild Bill Hickok.

Born is 1906 young Andy was just a year old when his mother, Amy Devine, stepped from the train in Kingman with the year-old boy in her arms.

Tom Devine later became the Mohave County treasurer.

When Andy was a boy, he worked in the Hotel Beale along with his brother.

Among the clientele at the hotel were many salesmen, or "drummers," as they were called, who parked their satchels near the front door and played pool while waiting for the train, according Mae McMullen, a long-time Kingman resident who died last year.

"One time Andy took hammer and nails, nailed the satchels to the floor and then shouted, 'Train's a leavin.' The drummers made a mad dash for the door, grabbed their satchels, but left the bottoms plus contents on the floor when they hurriedly jerked up on the handles," McMullen was quoted in a 1999 Kingman Daily Miner story.

During the years the Devines owned the hotel the Beale flourished, becoming the center of Kingman activities.

In 1913 the hotel was remodeled.

Plumbing for indoor bathrooms and electricity were added, along with a new sporting goods store and soda fountain.

But it wasn't until 1926, when Lulu Hall became the new owner of the Beale, that three barbers and addition shops were added and the hotel became the hub of Kingman's commercial activity.

In 1929 Charles Lindbergh stayed at the hotel while establishing a new air service, Ronchetti said, and during the war the hotel catered to families visiting military personnel stationed at Kingman Army Airfield.

After World War II, the hotel was remodeled and plumbing was added, and the overnight rooms became small apartments until 1970, she said.

During that time the hotel was sold to Stanley and Jean Tracy, who operated it until 1964, when it was sold to Martin Lawrence, a retired naval officer.

But with the advent of the Interstate 40, old Route 66 fell into disrepair, as did the hotel.

After Ronchetti and her sons purchased the hotel, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 14, 1986, and Ronchetti went about the task of restoring the Beale to its former glory; adding eight shops upstairs above the expansive lobby, the front desk and the Nighthawk Saloon.

"This is going to be the heartbeat of downtown," Ronchetti was quoted as saying at the time, according to information at the Museum of History and Arts.

In October 1999 Rochetti received a grant from the Arizona Heritage Fund to restore the huge atrium window on the ceiling of the Hotel Beale.

But Ronchetti's dreams of restoring the Hotel Beale to its former splendor did not come to complete fruition, and in late 1999 she lost proprietorship of the hotel.

The grand old hotel is dark now, filled only with empty rooms, memories and old photos.

Ronchetti said her son, Damien Henderson, manages the hotel for Henderson Investment LLC, and she has no idea as to the fate of the hotel she once called the "heart of Kingman."