I left Blythe, CA on March 14, 2016, and headed for Kingman, AZ. It was such a great week spending time with my old high school friends Konny, and Carl.
I pulled into Kingman just before dark and settled in for the night at Cracker Barrel, they are another company that lets RVers stay overnight in their parking lots.
Kingman is in the “heart” of the longest (remaining) stretch of the 2,400 mile-long US Route 66. I started my day in downtown Historic Kingman where there is so much history and so many original buildings are still standing and in use. My first stop was at the Powerhouse which today houses the Kingman Chamber of Commerce, The Route 66 Museum, Route 66 Gift Shop and the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum.
In 29 short years, the Kingman Powerhouse was a primary influence in bringing the town of Kingman and Mohave County into the 20th century with its power. Kingman was flourishing as a mining town with the faster and more efficient methods of ore extraction. In 1906 a man named, Mr. Monteverde had a plan to bring power and water to Kingman, he felt Kingman was an appropriate site and that the surrounding mining camps were literally a “goldmine” of customers.
Groundbreaking for the new power plant started June 10, 1907, and on July 31, 1909, the first power generation was documented. By mid-August lines were being strung throughout Kingman and by October 1909, almost all Kingman businesses were electrically lighted and many of the residences soon followed. Through the next several years the plant grew and more engines and horsepower were added. In 1927, the plant was sold and managed by the Public Utilities Consolidated Corporation of Arizona. In 1935, the Citizens Utilities Company of Delaware purchased the plant and added the final 500 horsepower turbo-generator. The plant was put on standby in 1938 to serve as a backup to power received from the newly completed Boulder (Hoover) Dam. For many years, the powerhouse sat idle while neglect took its toll on the plant. After a structural report in 1987, the city of Kingman and a citizens group called the “Powerhouse Gang” received a grant from the State Historic Preservation Office for a historic building analysis. Between 1990 to 1995 after more grants and fundraising projects the Powerhouse was totally renovated and re-opened in 1997.
Operated by the Mohave Pioneers Historical Society, the Arizona Route 66 Museum opened in May 2001 in Kingman’s Historic Powerhouse. In the museum, you can view displays from photos to life-sized dioramas depicting travel and travelers along this road which was so important in its day. You can follow the early trade routes and the Beale Wagon Road which enabled pioneers to cross the land. An old Chevrolet truck and Grapes of Wrath help one understand the tough times along Route 66 during the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Storefronts, murals, and a 1950 Studebaker Champion car reflect the good times of the post-war era.
In 2014, the Route 66 Electric Vehicle Museum, the first of its kind anywhere, opened their doors and is accessible only through the Arizona Route 66 Museum. The 3,600 square foot Museum includes vehicles on loan from the Historic Electric Vehicle Foundation. The Foundation’s purpose is to preserve the history and examples of electric vehicles from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century for all to enjoy.
I toured the Historic Bonelli House which was very interesting. I really enjoy learning about early settlers and families in the early 1800 and 1900’s who established themselves in their communities and invested their time and money to build up many of the towns and cities that we are able to live and visit in this country. The Bonelli’s were a wealthy, well-established family in Kingman. As you tour their home you learn much about the family as well as their home. Mrs. Bonelli played the piano for the Methodist Church across the street, the family operated a few stores in town as well. Their home was built with safety in mind because in 1915, their home of nearly 20 years burned to the ground. The home was insured and George Bonelli quickly began to make plans to rebuild the home on the same site. They later found that faulty wiring in the house caught fire and since the home was built of wood it burned quickly. The family was fortunate to have escaped unharmed. Their new home and the one that still stands today was constructed of Tufa (Limestone). Every room has an exit door. The second-floor rooms all exit to the veranda and have ladders in the closets so that the children could escape if needed. By the end of 1915, the family moved into their new home. A Bonelli member occupied the house through the 1970’s. It was eventually sold to the City of Kingman and placed on the National Register of Historic places in 1975, with the house opening to tours in 1978.
The Little Red Schoolhouse was built in 1896 and replaced Kingman’s first schoolhouse. The red brick structure was built in the late Victorian Style and is the only pre-1900 public building. It is currently used as the City Court.
The Hotel Brunswick opened its doors in 1909. It was Kingman’s first three-story building constructed of local Tufa stone. It is currently under renovation, with plans to open a restaurant, hotel, ice cream parlor, and bakery.