Monday, April 14, 2008

Historic Seligman hotel will be demolished

[Source: Nathan Ryder, Channel 2 News] -- Efforts to save an historic railroad hotel in northwestern Arizona have come the end of the line. The 100 year old Havasu Harvey House was built alongside the old Santa Fe Railroad mainline in Seligman. Many living in the tiny town of less than 1,000 people are upset they weren’t able to preserve this piece of history. The Havasu Harvey House was built by Fred Harvey around 1905, a glorious stopping point for tourists looking to enjoy the rough and tumble of the old west. During the golden age of railroads, passengers would stop at the Havasu Harvey House for a bite to eat and a place to sleep for the night. It was also called Prescott Junction because another rail line met up with the Santa Fe line and ran south into Prescott. Cattle and mail were often picked up in Seligman to be transported to points in the Midwest and east. During World War II, trains carrying soldiers to the west coast for trips overseas would stop at the Havasu Harvey House. Soldiers were allowed off the train to stretch their legs and grab a boxed lunch from the Harvey lunch counter.

That history will soon turn to nothing but memories when the building is demolished beginning next week. “The town was created around the building and that’s part of our heritage here,” said Frank Kocevar. He has lived in Seligman for the last 7 years and restored his early 1900’s home and historic Route-66 storefront. Kocevar was also working hard to try and preserve the historic hotel and move it around the corner to an empty lot he owns right on Route-66. “My proposal was to save at least part of it, something that would fit into the town. We weren’t asking for a handout. We went in with a business proposal that we thought would work for both parties.” The Havasu Harvey House now sits behind a chain link fence topped with barbed wire. Officials with BNSF say they had to fence off the historic building after years of vandalism and theft. Last used as an office for the railroad in the late 1980’s, thieves quickly moved in stealing the original woodwork and fixtures and even tore up walls to take electrical wiring and the building’s plumbing. Spokeswoman Lena Kent says teens would also use the building as a place to party.

Between the two different groups she says the building has been destroyed inside. Kent says BNSF has been working with community members in Seligman for the last 10 years on trying to find a way to save the hotel. She says they’ve agreed to delay demolition in the past but now they need to take action. “We’ve decided to move forward because we do feel that it’s a safety issue and that building needs to come down,” said Kent. She added that local fire officials have indicated they wouldn’t enter the building to fight a fire if it ever broke out because of the dangerous conditions. Standing in his historic shop complete with the original soda fountain, Frank Kocevar says there is one good thing that is coming out of this situation. He thinks more attention has been brought to the need to preserve pieces of our past. Kocevar hopes more people will stand up in their own communities and keep things original in the modern world. As demolition crews move in on Monday, he says it will be hard to watch but feels he tried to do everything he could to save a part of Arizona’s history. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]