These 10 luxury hotels prove just how wild the west once was

Arizona properties with a rich past

By Lois Alter Mark,

Boutique hotels are known for having their own distinct personalities. They’re often quirky, upscale and filled with character (and sometimes characters). 

If you’re really lucky, they’re also filled with history. There’s something thrilling about lying in a hotel bed, knowing that celebrities, politicians or even royalty have also slept in that room. It’s even more exciting when some of those guests are said to still be haunting the premises.

Arizona has a wealth of historic hotels. Here are ten whose pasts prove just how wild the west really was.

Hermosa Inn

Hermosa Inn was once the home of famed cowboy artist Lon Megargee — Photo courtesy of David Moore

Hidden away in the exclusive enclave of Paradise Valley and watched over by breathtaking Camelback Mountain, this gem of a hotel was handcrafted in the 1930s by cowboy artist Lon Megargee as both his residence and art studio. Although the 43 guest casitas have been renovated to include every modern convenience, their adobe architecture, beehive fireplaces and old wooden beams maintain the Inn’s authentic Southwestern character.

Megargee’s artwork is featured throughout the hotel, and his reputation for good food, good drinks and good times (he built underground tunnels to escape the police during late night parties!) is celebrated at LON’s at the Hermosa. This AAA Four Diamond restaurant  also features a subterranean wine cellar and outdoor dining patio, where you can take in the Inn’s gorgeous garden setting.

Megargee called his retreat "Casa Hermosa," meaning "beautiful house," and the hotel continues to live up to that name all these decades later.

Tubac Golf Resort & Spa

Tubac Golf Resort and Spa is an oasis in the desert — Photo courtesy of Tubac Golf Resort and Spa

A Historic Hotel of America, Tubac Golf Resort & Spa is the stunning centerpiece of the 500-acre Otero Ranch, which was built in 1789 and eventually became the largest cattle empire in the state. Forty five minutes south of Tucson, in the heart of a tiny but surprisingly sophisticated artist colony, it is literally an oasis in the Arizona desert and the perfect place for a weekend getaway.

In 1959, Bing Crosby and a group of businessmen bought the ranch and built the resort, making sure to preserve the historic integrity of the original presidio. Much more history can be found in the bar, which is filled with photos and artifacts.

Stars of Hollywood Westerns, including the legendary John Wayne, have dined in Stables, the hotel’s acclaimed restaurant, and scenes from Tin Cup, starring Kevin Costner, were filmed on the golf course. In fact, you can try his famous shot on Rancho #4, which is marked by a plaque on the right side of the fairway. Avoid the water and you just may make history yourself! 

Arizona Inn

The library at Arizona Inn — Photo courtesy of Arizona Inn

Family owned and operated since 1930, when it was built in Tucson by Arizona’s first Congresswoman, Isabella Greenway, the Inn is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A lifelong friend of Eleanor Roosevelt, Greenway decided the Inn would be a good way to keep her furniture shop, The Arizona Hut, open after the stock market crash and preserve jobs for her employees, who were disabled World War I veterans.

You can still find that furniture throughout the hotel, thanks to an onsite cabinet-making shop where a master craftsman restores original Hut furniture and creates new custom pieces. With this deep connection to the past, it’s no wonder the Inn feels like a country estate where you’re treated like family and made to feel right at home.

Hassayampa Inn

Hassayampa Inn is a city landmark — Photo courtesy of Hassayampa Inn

Located in Prescott’s downtown historic district, Hassayampa Inn is a member of Historic Hotels of America, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and was considered "The Jewel of the County" when it opened in 1927. Named after the Hassayampa, an Apache word loosely translated as "the river that loses itself," the red brick Inn is still the place to go to hide away and emerge refreshed.

Financed by hundreds of residents who helped realize the dream of a first-class hotel near the Courthouse Square, Hassayampa Inn has been a city landmark for more than nine decades. It exudes character and charm, from the hand-painted lobby ceiling and quirky vintage elevator to the shoe shine attendant and Peacock Dining Room that’s been serving the same coffee cake recipe since the early 1900s.

Join the ranks of guests like D.H. Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Clark Gable and Steve McQueen – and Faith Essay, a young bride whose ghost is said to still haunt the hotel.

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

"Stronghearts" by local artist Dave McGary at JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa — Photo courtesy of JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

An Arizona landmark, Camelback Inn has been welcoming guests since 1936, when it became Scottsdale’s first resort. Although it’s now a JW Marriott, it’s still as intimate and personal as it was when it only had 80 rooms – maybe because it’s always been the favorite hotel of Bill Marriott Jr. who bought it as the first Marriott property in 1967.  

Continued expansions have included a world-class spa, championship golf course and the Lincoln restaurant (where you must try the lobster escargot). Yet every year, generations of families return to be greeted by the hotel’s beloved "Where Time Stands Still" sign.

The area in which that sentiment really rings true is in service: Camelback Inn has hosted top names from Jimmy Stewart and Bette Davis to Oprah and the Bushes, but their attentive staff makes everyone feel like an A-lister.

Hotel Monte Vista

Check out the mountain view from the aptly-named Hotel Monte Vista — Photo courtesy of Norman Mead

Originally named the Community Hotel in honor of the townspeople who helped fund it, the Monte Vista was renamed by a 12-year-old contest winner enthralled with its mountain view. This first-class Flagstaff hotel has been featured in Casablanca and Forrest Gump and has hosted rock stars like Jon Bon Jovi, Freddie Mercury and Air Supply.

Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the Monte Vista opened in 1927 and has quite a storied past. Its Cocktail Lounge ran a successful bootlegging operation during Prohibition, and underground tunnels were the site of gambling and opium dens.

Mary Costigan, the second woman in the world to receive her radio broadcasting license, ran her show out of the Monte Vista, and longtime hotel barber Samuel Canainas was once flown to Phoenix to cut President Truman’s hair. Ask the housekeeping staff to share their stories about the ghosts of guests who – understandably – never wanted to leave.

Jerome Grand Hotel

The Jerome Grand Hotel was once a hospital — Photo courtesy of Jerome Grand Hotel

Built as a hospital in 1926, it’s no wonder guests consider a stay at the Jerome Grand Hotel healing. An old mining town about 100 miles north of Phoenix, Jerome has been called the "largest ghost town in America" – and many of those ghosts are rumored to still haunt the Jerome Grand Hotel.

A number of psychics have visited the hotel and felt the presence of the head nurse who was supposedly unhappy about the removal of the Dispensary desks. No worries, though – the desks have been put back near their original places and all is quiet. Of course, they can’t make the same claims about the hotel’s Asylum Restaurant where guests seem to go crazy over their famous butternut squash soup.

Hotel San Carlos

The lobby of the Hotel San Carlos still has some of the original architectural features — Photo courtesy of Hotel San Carlos

A member of The Historic Hotels of America and The National Trust for Historic Preservation, the Hotel San Carlos opened in 1928 as the most modern hotel in the Southwest. Built on the site of the first Phoenix schoolhouse in 1874, the San Carlos was the first air-conditioned, high-rise hotel in Phoenix, and the first high-rise hotel with elevators (which were hand-operated) in the state.

If the paparazzi had been around back then, they would have captured Marilyn Monroe, who preferred a room close to the pool so she could run back and forth unobtrusively, or Mae West, who requested she "not be awakened until 3 pm with a bottle of champagne and two glasses." You can check out more big names on the hotel’s Star Walk, which acts like a golden guest book.

Hotel Valley Ho

The Tower Suite Living Room at Hotel Valley Ho — Photo courtesy of Hotel Valley Ho

Billed as "historically hip," Hotel Valley Ho has a cool factor rooted in its old-school, mid-century modern style. One of the Historic Hotels of America, it opened in 1956 as a Hollywood hideaway for celebrities like Tony Curtis and Janet Leigh. It’s considered one of the best-preserved hotels of its time period, with many of its original architectural features still intact.

Vibrant and kitschy, the hotel’s decor is as colorful as its past. It’s got a vintage vibe that belies its high-tech capabilities and a dynamic design straight out of Mad Men. Don’t be surprised when you find yourself lounging by the pool suddenly ordering a cocktail or two.

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

The Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel is moving downtown Phoenix into the future — Photo courtesy of Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

Yes, this is a Renaissance but if "boutique" hotel means "having a unique character," it absolutely fits the definition. And, boy, does it have history. The Renaissance Phoenix Downtown may have only been standing on Adams Street since 1975, but, amazingly, there’s been a hotel on that exact spot since 1896.

At the time, the Adams Hotel was the largest and most expensive building in Phoenix. When it was rebuilt after a massive fire in 1910, the new Adams guaranteed that it was "absolutely fireproof." The hotel was eventually torn down, and in 1975 the Renaissance rebuilt.

The hotel is still considered an architectural achievement, with its curved windows blocking out most of the hot Arizona sun. The Dust Cutter restaurant, with its Cabinet of Cocktail Curiosities, a 25-foot long urban fireplace and an insanely original menu, is a perfect mix of the city’s past, present and future.