Travel off beaten path
Why Winslow? A mention of Winslow, Arizona immediately brings to mind the popular Eagles’ song, “Take It Easy.” You may not remember the lyrics to the entire song but you probably can sing, “Well I’m standing on the corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see. It’s a girl, my lord, in a flatbed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me … .”
Whether you’re in a flatbed Ford or some other mode of transportation, you can slow down and actually take a look at the famous spot immortalized in song at the Standing on the Corner Park, on 2nd Street. A gift shop across the street continuously plays Eagles music, including “Take It Easy,” to help you get in the mood.
After you’re done standing on the corner, you can “get your kicks on Route 66.” The Mother Road, as Route 66 is sometimes called, runs right through this part of northern Arizona. Established in November 1926, in its heyday, the famed road stretched 2,448 miles from Chicago to Santa Monica, Calif. Route 66 served as the route for those who migrated west, especially during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s.
And much like the famed corner, the Mother Road is immortalized in song. “Route 66,” which made the phrase, “get your kicks on Route 66,” famous, was first published in 1946 and has been recorded by a variety of artists. Download your favorite version and add it to your Winslow playlist to celebrate the romance and freedom of travel on the open road in a bygone era. This iconic American highway even had its own television show in the 1960s, “Route 66.”
Route 66 was officially no long part of the U.S. Highway system by June 1985. It had been replaced by the Interstate Highway System. Portions of the road have been designated a National Scenic Byway named “Historic Route 66.” It’s not unusual to see vintage cars or groups of motorcyclists enjoying the nostalgia of the Mother Road on these stretches.
Less than two blocks from the famous corner is another iconic landmark to American travel.
La Posada, the resting place, was one of the Fred Harvey’s famed hotels. Fred Harvey was an entrepreneur who developed the Harvey House lunch rooms, restaurants, souvenir shops and hotels. An innovative restaurateur and marketer, Fred Harvey is credited with creating the first restaurant chain in the U.S. and was a leader in promoting tourism in the American southwest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Built in 1929, La Posada was considered to be the finest hotel in the southwest. Construction costs alone exceeded $1 million in 1929 and the total budget with grounds and furnishings was rumored to be $2 million (about $40 million in today’s dollars). The hotel was designed by American architect Mary Elizabeth Jane Coulter, who considered La Posada her masterpiece. She designed the entire resort from the building to its gardens, furniture, china – even the maids’ uniforms. Coulter built 21 projects for Harvey, but this hotel was her favorite.
Winslow was chosen as the location for this grand hotel because it was the Arizona headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway, and popular destinations like the Painted Desert and the Grand Canyon were within a day’s drive.
Harvey popularized travel to the west by introducing linen, silverware, china, crystal and impeccable service to railroad travel. Harvey’s standard of hospitality and the waitresses he employed became so popular that it spawned the movie “Harvey Girls,” starring Judy Garland, in 1946.
The Fred Harvey legacy survived until the death of his grandson in 1965. Elements of the Fred Harvey Company have continued to operate since 1968 as part of a larger hospitality industry conglomerate.
The Santa Fe railroad closed La Posada hotel in 1957 and it was used as an office building. At some point, this former grande dame of railway hotels was abandoned and fell into disrepair. The hotel’s current owners have lovingly restored it to its former glory. Dine in the Turquoise Room on food grown in the hotels gardens and be served by waitresses wearing the traditional Harvey Girl aprons. Relax in the gardens and watch the trains go by. All guests receive a history of the hotel when they check in. You’re free to explore the hotel on your own, or sign up for one the historic tours given regularly by retired Harvey Girls. La Posada now regularly earns a spot on the list of top historic hotels in the U.S.
If overnighting in a historic railway motel isn’t quite your thing, have you ever slept in a wigwam? Cruise down Interstate 40 to Holbrook for another authentic experience on Route 66, and check into your very own teepee at the Wigwam Motel. Each of the 12 rooms is in a separate wigwam building. Built in the 1950s, the popular motel fell out of the spotlight when it was bypassed by the interstate in the 1970s. It has regained favor with a new generation of travelers seeking Route 66 nostalgia. The vintage cars throughout the property reinforce the motel’s connection with the Mother Road.
Whether you just want to stand on the corner or get your kicks, Winslow is an ideal destination to personally experience the heritage of travel in the American southwest.