Architecture and Design

Robrt Pela's Tour of the Westward Ho

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. 

I was turned away by building security, denied by realtors listed on a sign posted in one of the building windows, and almost herded away by a few alley cats who occupy a few tight spaces around the Ho's exterior. 

This week, New Times' contributor Robrt Pela got the golden ticket -- a resident and Westward Ho historian who welcomed him through the doors and gave him a tour. Pela writes:

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.

  Read the full story here, and our photos and findings from the underground bowling alley here.

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Claire Lawton
Contact: Claire Lawton