Monday, June 13, 2011

A Piece of History

I am in the beautiful city of Phoenix, Arizona for the 2011 annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention. This is the second time I have been to Phoenix. The convention was held here seven years ago. My son, Jay, and I stayed together here at the historic Hotel San Carlos when we were in town for that convention. We liked it so much, that when we learned that this year’s convention would be held in Phoenix, we decided to stay again at the old hotel.

It’s a far cry from the gleaming towers that house the nearby Sheraton and Hyatt Regency hotels, where many of the Convention people are staying. This is a classic old hotel with a rich history, and a throwback to days gone by. Don’t get me wrong. It has all the amenities one would expect from a downtown hotel in a large American city. It is just a classic in architecture and style from the early 20th Century.

I checked in late last night and Jay will arrive here in town in an hour or so. Our room is easily identifiable from the street. It’s on the 5th floor and it’s the room you can see in the photo with the little false balcony and awning (left side of the photo).

There is lots of history here and there are plaques, photographs, newspaper articles and other information posted around the hotel, which point out historic events and famous people who have stayed here over the years. One interesting thing I have noticed is the bistro off the lobby which is known as “The Ghost Lounge”. It draws it’s name from the legend associated with the hotel’s history.

I did some research on the hotel and found this interesting article:

“The site where the hotel sits was the location of the first school in Phoenix. The four room adobe school was inaugurated in 1874. It was replaced with a larger structure in 1879. The school was enlarged several times but was condemned in 1916, with construction of a luxury hotel in mind. In addition, many area children died during the 1918 flu epidemic that attacked the United States.

In 1919, the land was bought by the Babbitt family (relatives of Bruce Babbitt, former Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Governor, who intended to build a hotel. The San Carlos Hotel project was finally begun by Charles Harris and Dwight D. Heard who purchased the property from the Babbitts. Construction began in 1927. The hotel was designed by Nationally known architects in the Italian Renaissance style. The hotel was state of the art with air conditioning (the first in Phoenix), elevators, circulating chilled water in the rooms and steam heat. The hotel grand opening was on March 19, 1928. The hotel was built at a cost of nearly $850,000.

The hotel competed with the posh, nearby Westward Ho hotel, completed the following year, which was located on what once was Phoenix's first radio transmitter and whose list of clientele include such celebrities as Jack Dempsey and John F. Kennedy. The San Carlos had its share of celebrities such as Mae West, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Marilyn Monroe and Gene Autry.

On May 7, 1928, “The Arizona Republic” reported the death of Leone Jensen. The article's headline read "Pretty blonde jumps from (the) San Carlos (hotel) early today". Based on what she wrote on her death note, it could be assumed that the 22 year old woman was physically abused by her boyfriend, a bellboy at the Westward Ho. Speculations have been made as to whether Jensen was pregnant and/or her boyfriend was having an affair with another hotel worker. Because of these theories, the way she died is also debated. While most evidence pointed to suicide, many have said that she could have been pushed off by her boyfriend or her boyfriend's other girlfriend.

Another ghost frequently mentioned by hotel employees is that of a little girl, possibly around six to nine years old, who is rumored to visit hotel rooms at night and sit crying. Ghost believers think she was probably one of the area children affected either by the school's closing or the flu epidemic.

On December 9, 2004, yet another death happened at this hotel, when an unidentified man jumped to his death from the hotel's roof.”

Quite a history, huh? So far we havent seen any ghosts here, but it is a nice break from the modern cookie cutter convention hotel, (and much more reasonably priced!).

1 comment:

Bob Cleveland said...

When we were still planning on attending this year, we made reservations at the San Carlos. We just like old classy hotels. But that was before a dose of reality set in .. about us and about the SBC.

Our favorite in New Orleans was always Le Pavillon. Been there numerous times.