Hotel Gadsden, Douglas, Arizona

Hotel Gadsden, Douglas, Arizona

I first saw a photograph of The Hotel Gadsden at night in one of my favorite publications, “The Journal of the Society for Commercial Archeology”! Definitely not a household name, but if you’re a vintage Americana freak like me, you have most likely heard of the beloved “SCA”. It’s a group of other like-minded roadside geeks and scholars who have studied the history of our American roadside culture. Here’s a brief summation:

In the Dictionary of Building Preservation (1996), commercial archaeology is defined as “The study of artifacts, structures, signs, and symbols of the American commercial process; includes both mass-produced and vernacular forms of the machine age: transportation facilities, such as highways and bus stations; roadside development, such as diners, strip retail, and neon signs; business district buildings, such as movie theaters and department stores; and recreation facilities, such as amusement parks.”

This beautiful photograph was taken by Doug Towne, who had also written the article in which the photo was featured called “U.S. 666: The Mother Road’s Devil Child”. I fell in love with the mood of it and wrote Doug to see if I could use it as the basis for a painting. He said “yes”! I couldn’t find out too much information on the hotel except it was initially built in 1907, later destroyed by a fire, and rebuilt in 1929. It has hosted travelers on the renamed US 666 since then. Douglas is a city along the Mexican border that was created around copper smelters that were moved from the nearby copper mining town of Bisbee. Douglas was quite opulent at one point, but the city has struggled after the last smelter closed in the mid-1980s.

So to backtrack a bit, Doug wrote a longer article which put the original location of the hotel on a branch of Route 66. However, “for all of the goodwill bestowed upon Route 66, one of its branches has not been so fortunate. Many believe US Highway 666 is a haunted road, cursed by its biblical connotation as the “number of the beast”. Despite the highways’ origins as a tourist trail connecting a national park, Indian lands, and scenic drive, it acquired a reputation as an accident-plagued roadway. Nicknamed the “Devil’s Highway”, this stretch of blacktop was decommissioned in 2003.”
If you’re interested in reading the entire article, it can be found in the Fall 2020 issue of the Society for Commercial Archeology Journal.


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