Tales from the Morgue: Playground of the nation

2014-03-19T00:00:00Z 2014-04-28T06:13:04Z Tales from the Morgue: Playground of the nationJohanna Eubank Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
March 19, 2014 12:00 am  • 

Once upon a time, when half a million dollars bought more than it does today, some capitalists outside of Tucson decided such a sum could make Tucson the country's playground. These backers intended a resort-style hotel and golf course.

From the Arizona Daily Star, Thursday March 12, 1914:

 

HALF MILLION DOLLAR HOTEL WILL ESTABLISH TUCSON AS PLAY GROUND OF THE NATION
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Outside Capitalists Back Big Project, and Local Representative, General L. H. Manning, Seeks Suitable Site; Will Be Equal of Any Tourist Hotel of Country and Plans Specify Grounds Embracing 200 Acres for Golf Course and Other Amusement Facilities for Guests; Will Fill Tucson's Greatest Need

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A tourist hotel to cost not less than $500,000 that will be the equal in appointments of any which have made coast and South Atlantic resorts famous and put them on the pastime map, will be erected in Tucson by outside capital provided a suitable site can be secured.

General Manning, president of the chamber of commerce, let it be known yesterday that the capitalists who plan this big hotel have enlisted his efforts and that the matter had already reached the state where a site was being sought.

Assurance was also given that the capitalists are in earnest and that when a site is secured the project will immediately take form. While the details of the business preliminaries were not made public there was no attempt to hide the fact that the chamber of commerce regards the proposition as about the most important thing that has ever promised to come Tucson's way and that if the hotel is secured it will without question establish this city as the prime winter resort of the country.

Holding this view it may be believed that no stone will be left unturned—and none that should be left unturned will be so much as jarred—by General Manning, who is acting as agent of the capitalists in the preliminary stages of the matter. It is hoped that the course of these preliminaries will be such that a definite announcement may be made within a few days, or in a few weeks at the outside.

It was also stated that the plans of the capitalists who have at last appreciated the value of Tucson's winter climate, embraces project a hotel that will be second to none in accommodations, appointments and facilities for the amusement of its guests. The latter will include a golf course, parks, tennis courts, boulevards, garages, etc. When it is stated that the capitalists desire about 200 acres for the hotel grounds the immensity of the project may be imagined. For a site for the half million dollar hotel the promoters will expend at least a hundred thousand dollars. The improvement of the 200-acre grounds surrounding the hotel and other incidentals will probably bring the final cost up near the million mark.

Should the plans of the hotel promoters go through without a hitch—and none has developed so far, it is assured—it will be the first fruit of years of advertising of "Tucson's climate" but it will be fruit of such a kind that not even the most optimistic booster had hoped for.

It is fitting, too, that General Manning should be instrumental in pulling this plum for Tucson, for years ago e saw the possibilities of this city as a winter resort and he was most active in the bringing of the Santa Rita hotel here, which was the pioneer modern hotel of Tucson. For years General Manning has preached in season and out of season—if there were such a calendarical division in Tucson's climate—the need for more and better hotel facilities.

The coming of the Espee railroad marked one era for Tucson and the establishment of a half million dollar tourist hotel here will definitely establish Tucson as the winter playground of the wealthy folk of the United States, marking the beginning of another era.

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Although the Morgue Lady isn't yet certain, it is quite likely that the El Conquistador Hotel was the result of this project. The El Conquistador opened its doors in 1928. Money had run out before the hotel was completed and another backer completed the hotel with a $325,000 bond issue.

The hotel went bankrupt during the great depression and went through several owners after that. It was demolished in 1968 to make way for the El Con Mall.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

About this blog

"Tales from the Morgue" is a way for the Star to share stories from the treasure trove of information held in its old files.

Johanna Eubank, aka the Morgue Lady, was a research assistant in the Star Library — also known as News and Research Services — for 18 years before becoming an online content producer. She has had her share of sneezing fits after digging into dusty old files, so she's sure to find a few old stories to re-examine.

If you have suggestions, comments or questions about this blog, e-mail jeubank@tucson.com

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