KINGMAN - Color is blooming at El Trovatore Motel as its owners continue to add new murals to the Route 66 fixture.
Sam and Monica Frisher, who reopened the business at 1440 E. Andy Devine Ave. in early 2012, recently hired a local artist to touch up several murals painted last year by another artist and to continue adding new artwork on the motel, a wall behind it and on the bottom and sides of the pool. The Frishers have invested about $7,000 so far in the murals.
Kingman artist David Stem completed a large mural last week on a neighboring block wall behind the motel of two American flags waving in the breeze and a golden eagle with outstretched wings. The mural measures about 40 feet wide and five feet tall and took about a month to complete. Also, Stem is repairing previous murals and painting Looney Tunes characters on a front section of the hotel.
"The murals are cool and they get attention, which is what a business wants," said Stem. "I thought the eagle and flag mural was a good idea because it can be seen from both directions on Andy Devine. I'm going to paint more murals on the wall and other places, so I'll probably work here a couple more months. I'm pleased with how it's going so far."
The motel, one of a handful of pre-World War II properties still standing along the historic highway, opened in 1937 as a gas station. It recently was closed for about a year after unpaid electricity bills nearly dropped the property into foreclosure. The Frishers worked to negotiate a lower interest rate and secured an additional loan to remodel the motel, creating 20 Hollywood-themed rooms.
Now, the neon sign behind the motel that was dark for half a century beckons to tourists at night. A 206-foot-long map of Route 66 decorates one side of the motel, announcing the states, cities, towns and attractions along the 2,000-mile highway, which runs from Grant Park in Chicago to the Santa Monica Pier in California. The Frishers believe their motel sports the world's longest Route 66 map and plan to enter it in the Guinness Book of World Records.
Other murals include a B-17 bomber and Kingman airfield in 1942, signifying the World War II training facility east of the city; a Kingman postcard-type mural for tourist photos; a celebrity mural including James Dean, Marilyn Monroe and Elvis; and a large red locomotive on the front of a building.
"It's all about having fun and encouraging tourism," said Sam Frisher. "And it's keeping nostalgia alive. Murals fit in with all of what we're doing here at the motel. When you look at all the other places along Route 66 that have murals, it's obvious they bring them to life. I'm hoping Kingman catches the mural fever and does what I'm doing here."
Ted Owyang, a motel guest traveling from Alameda, Calif., to Emerald Island, N.C., handed the Frishers his room key after spending the night and thanked them for the thrill of experiencing a Route 66 motel as it was years ago. Owyang, who was there with his wife, Janice, and son, Quinn, said it was the first time they stayed at El Trovatore Motel and they plan to come back again. The family stayed in the Bugs Bunny room.
"It's a gorgeous motel and there's a lot of atmosphere here," he said. "You can tell the owners are into restoring the building to what it used to be during its heyday. I love what they're doing here, especially the murals, because it provides color that you don't find in a lot of America anymore. These days, everything looks the same, but this motel has a lot of history and personality. We love it."
Sam Frisher said his next murals on the block wall will contain a dove holding an olive branch and an Arizona flag. He also plans to decorate the back section of the hotel with celebrities on vehicles, such as Steve McQueen on a motorcycle or James Bond with an Aston Martin car. And he's hoping for dolphins in the pool, which has been empty for years.
"Just think what would happen here if Kingman became the No. 1 mural place along Route 66," said Sam Frisher. "We're hoping to spur that along."
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