Chances are, you know about one of the most popular boutique hotels in town. But just under the hip veneer at the Clarendon Hotel -- past the street tacos at Gallo Blanco, the artwork of Jason Hill and Mike Little, the raucous pool parties -- there's a shrine of sorts you might not have noticed unless you took a few extra steps past the lobby restrooms.
And unless you're a journalist or a history buff, you might not care. But the next time you've had a sangria or two at the Clarendon, wander down the hall and learn a little bit about Don Bolles and his car-bomb death, which took place just outside the Clarendon in the summer of 1976.
Guests at the Clarendon have had mixed reactions to the memorial hallway.
Hotel owner Ben Bethel says some guests stumble upon the hallway without knowing what's there. "Sometimes, people react with a little shock, like it's kind of a morbid thing to have here," Bethel says. "But when I tell them the story of what happened and they go through and look at the photos and the story, they usually agree it's just our way of trying to pay respectful tribute to Don Bolles, as well as the history of this hotel."
ABC 15 did a story on Bolles for the 30th anniversary of the bombing in 2006. They used several large photo prints, including shots of the car after the bombing and crime scene photos swarming with police and fire personnel. There are about ten images total along the memorial hallway (which is directly west of the Gallo Blanco Café inside the hotel), accompanied by an eleven-page story by Michael Wendland, one of the reporters in the Arizona Project. (There's also a bust of Bolles in the hotel entrance, donated by Phoenix New Times.)
Bethel says he asked ABC 15 to give him the photos after their story ran so he could display them in the hallway. Bethel says every year around the anniversary of the bombing, people come to look at the images, remember Bolles, and grab a bite in the café. Last week was the 34th anniversary of the murder, and Bethel says Bolles' daughter came in to see the hallway.
"She hadn't been here in years," Bethel says. "It was very emotional for her...There were lots of hugs and tears."
It might seem like a morbid idea to some, but to Bethel, displaying the photos and story of Bolles' death is both a way to pay tribute to the man and to the history of Phoenix. "We have so little history here," Bethel says, "And we can't forget this happened."
The Don Bolles Memorial Hallway is located in The Clarendon Hotel, 401 W. Clarendon Avenue. Call 602-252-7363 for more information.