While hunting for underground spaces and secrets for this year's Best of Phoenix issue, I landed at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix a few times; the historic building was rumored to have a tunnel to the City's Gold Spot Bowling Alley -- what's now a big, vacant hole beneath a parking lot on Central Avenue and Filmore -- and once housed a basement speakeasy visited by more than one of the then-hotel's celebrity guests.
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I was nervous about what I'd find there. After the Ho was converted to HUD housing in 1981, it languished for more than 20 years. I worried that the yearlong, $8 million remodel of 2003 would have erased the hotel's former grand charm.
For 50 years, the 16-story building -- a Renaissance Revival beauty with an ornate, scrolled façade of masonry and concrete -- had been the city's premier luxury hotel. Completed in 1928, the 208-foot building was then the tallest in Arizona. Today, I was certain, its interior splendor would be long gone, covered up with the dropped ceiling tiles and indoor-outdoor carpeting and wheelchair ramps of a nursing home.