In October, 1857, Lieutenant Edward Fitzgerald Beale first explored the present site of Kingman when he and his team surveyed the 35th parallel in anticipation of building a wagon road. In the heat of the desert, they used camels for transportation, an idea they were sure would catch on. Alas, it never did. When the wagon road, stretching from Fort Defiance, New Mexico to the Colorado River was complete, it was named for the Lieutenant. Soon Beale Road saw all manner of travelers trekking through the desert. In the beginning these were primarily miners and prospectors seeking their fortunes.
When the railroad began to reach this part of the west, a man named Lewis Kingman surveyed the route between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Needles, California in 1880. The new railroad, when it arrived, would closely parallel Beale’s old wagon road. Later when Route 66 came barreling through; it too, would closely follow this historic path.
In 1882, a settlement cropped up along the railroad tracks that soon had a rooming house and a couple of stores. The fledgling town was named after Lewis Kingman, the railroad surveyor. A year later the railroad tracks were complete and more new businesses began to pop up, including a hotel and several tent buildings housing a restaurant, a saloon, and a mining operations office. Soon a post office was also established.
Kingman built its first school. The next year would see the organization of the town’s first church and the opening of the Kingman Hotel. But the biggest event of 1887 was when Kingman won the election of county seat for Mohave County from nearby Mineral Park. Despite the conclusiveness of the polls, officials refused to give up the county records. Outraged, Kingman citizens subsequently raided the Mineral Park town hall and made off with the county documents, literally “taking” the county seat.
The Mohave County Miner, once the biggest critic of moving the county seat to Kingman, gave in to economic reality and made the move from to the new county seat of Kingman. Though once the most important town in Mohave County, Mineral Park is a ghost town.
By the turn of the century, Kingman had grown to some 500 people and continued to develop as gold was discovered in the hills surrounding the town. 1906 saw the arrival of the Devine family from Flagstaff, who purchased the Beale Hotel. It was here that Andy Devine, a popular character actor in films from the 1920s to the 1950s, grew up.
The premier hotel in Kingman, the Beale first catered to the many passengers of the railroad and later to travelers of Route 66, when it came through. Successful for decades, the historic Hotel Beale now sits lonely and abandoned.
By the end of World War I, mining had dropped off and Kingman began to suffer. However, the next few years saw a revival of the mines and traffic began to filter through the city on Route 66. Soon, cafes, motels and service stations began to crop up along the Mother Road. Today, several of these early icons can still be seen in Kingman . A visit to the old powerhouse, which has been converted to a Route 66 Museum and visitor’s center, is a must. The Powerhouse Building is also home to Arizona’s Route 66 Association.
The historic Hotel Brunswick, which was originally built in 1909, served customers for almost a century and is closed, but currently under renovation. Also, check out the White Rock Auto Court, one of the last auto court motels on Route 66.
If you’ve got an appetite, have a go at Mr. D’s Route 66 Diner, with their great sign and even better burger.
Today, the Kingman area is home to some 40,000 people with numerous recreational opportunities nearby, including the Colorado River, Lake Mead, Lake Havasu and Lake Mohave. It is also the closest city to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, the transparent horseshoe shaped cantilever bridge on the edge of the Canyon that is a popular tourist stop.
If you are a ghost town enthusiast, a side trip, some 20 miles northwest, will take you to Chloride, a well preserved ghost town.