An historic district in the midst of revival is an exciting thing to behold. Long empty store fronts refurbished, young entrepreneurs possessed of vision and passion, the glow of neon, and a vibrant nightlife lend themselves to a palpable sense of excitement.
Strolling the streets of downtown, Kingman Arizona it is difficult to fully grasp the dramatic transformation of this district within a few short years. There is still much work to do as evidenced by the decrepit Hotel Beale, the empty storefronts along Andy Devine Avenue (Route 66) and the long shuttered Brunswick Hotel. Still, on Beale Street one block north of Route 66, facades are being renovated, the historic State Theater is being given a new lease on life, new businesses are opening, and neon is glowing bright.
The renaissance started between Fourth and Fifth Street with the transformation of a former bank into Beale Street Brews coffee shop, the opening of Savon Bath Treats and Black Bridge Brewery, and the addition of neon signage from Legacy Signs. Now it is spreading west toward the stunning skylines of buttes and mesas the dominate the skyline, and spilling over on to the side streets.
Events held most every weekend attract visitors from the tri-state region and legions of international travelers making the western pilgrimage on Route 66. Guide books, knowledgeable tour guides, and journalists that extol the districts virtues fuel interest and as a result Kingman’ historic business district is becoming a destination in itself. The Kingman Center for The Arts is making an array of contributions; renovation of the old State Theater, murals and public art, live theater performances, and art gallery showings. The Route 66 Association of Kingman is partnering with business owners for facade renovation projects and refurbishment of historic places such as the American Legion that began life as two buildings the were relocated from the Kingman Army Airfield; the base theater and the officers club.
A few years ago this was just another blighted district, an eyesore that the city couldn’t ignore of fix. Overgrown trash strewn lots where motels, garages, service stations and stores once stood and empty storefronts were the dominate features. Growth and development along Stockton Hill Road, Airway Avenue and Hualapai Mountain Road enabled residents to forget the city’s historic heart. Travelers on historic Route 66 made a pit stop at the Visitor Center in the historic Powerhouse and scurried from town.
That was then. Today there are few storefronts for rent. At every turn historic buildings are being given a new coat of paint, new windows, and a new lease on life. Even more exiting is the fact that the renaissance is now bleeding into the surrounding historic residential districts where homes are being renovated, yards cleaned and landscaped, and new construction is filling empty lots. In Kingman, Arizona the historic heart is forgotten no more.
Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America