“Standin on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, such a fine site to see – It’s a girl my Lord in a flat bed Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me …”
— The Eagles, 1972
Two miles west of the Little Colorado River, Winslow became a division point for the Santa Fe Railway in 1880. In 1881, it became a regular railroad terminal. The settlement reportedly got its start when a settler named “Doc” F.C. Demerest operated a business from a tent. Later another settler by the name of J.H. Breed built the first stone building, and a post office was established on January 10, 1882. The new town was named for General Edward F. Winslow, President of the railroad.
It was in the late 1800s, that a man named John Lorenzo Hubbell began building Navajo trading posts all over Arizona and New Mexico. These were just part of a trading empire that included freight and mail lines, as well as curio shops in California, bean farms near Gallup, New Mexico, and apple farms near Farmington, New Mexico. Hubbell was instrumental in bridging the gap between the white settlers and the Navajo people. In Winslow, the building still stands that once housed the Hubbell Wholesale Store, which operated from 1924 to 1948.
On May 15, 1930 the famous La Posada Harvey House Hotel opened its doors for business. The last one built in the famous Harvey Hotel and restaurant chain, Winslow was chosen for the site, as it was the headquarters for the Santa Fe Railway. During those days, Winslow was growing so fast that the railroad anticipated the town would soon become another Santa Fe New Mexico. Designed by Mary Colter, the famed Grand Canyon architect, she paid careful detail to blending the aspects of both the Native American and Spanish cultures of the area into the hotel.
The La Posada opened just after the Stock Market crash of 1929 but still managed to hang on. When the nation recovered from the depression, the hotel catered to both railroad passengers and the many travelers of the Mother Road. At this time, dozens of other businesses sprouted up in the city, initially catering to the many Dust Bowl escapees, and later, to leisure travelers after World War II.
However, by 1957, railroad travel had all but stopped and the beautiful La Pasada Hotel was closed. Two years later, all of its museum-quality furnishings were auctioned off. In the early 1960s much of the building was gutted and transformed into offices for the Santa Fe Railroad. The La Posada wasn’t the only business that suffered during these years. Until the 1960s, Winslow was the largest town in northern Arizona. But life began to slow down in Winslow and when the town was bypassed by I-40 in the 1970s, tourism died and businesses began to close their doors.
At the time the Eagles came out with their first hit single “Take it Easy” in 1972, the verse “standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona,” put the town on the national map of consciousness, but Winslow’s downtown was frozen in time.
However, when the railroad announced plans to move out of Winslow for good in 1994, and the La Pasada was scheduled for demolition, the town gathered up and went to work. First on the list of items was to save the old hotel, which they did. Second was the restoration of Winslow’s downtown historic district, which continues to this day.
Today, the La Pasada has been fully restored and stands as an oasis in the desert, catering to a new generation of Route 66 adventurers. The Old Trails Museum provides a collection of artifacts and memorabilia documenting the history of Winslow and northern Arizona. Make sure to capture a photograph or two at the “Standin’ on the Corner” Park. Throughout your cruise in Winslow you’ll catch glimpses of vintage Route 66.
At Clear Creek Reservoir, just five miles southeast of Winslow, you can enjoy fishing and water sports. Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, some 30 miles south of the city, will also satisfy the water sports enthusiast, as well as providing camping opportunities. North of Winslow, on the vast Navajo Reservation, are many prehistoric ruins and cliff dwellings, and on the Hopi Reservation, are ancient pueblo villages. The Homolovi Ruins State Park is only five miles northeast of Winslow.
Between Winslow and Winona, original Route 66 is extremely patchy, sometimes following the frontage road and suddenly dead-ending. Most of this stretch has either been buried by I-40 or has been reverted to private property. While you can exit to see pieces of the old road, your only choice in getting to Winona is the interstate. However, along the way be sure to exit the super highway to see the sights of Meteor City, Twin Arrows, and the ghost towns of Two Guns and Canyon Diablo.