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 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.
Keep Phoenix New Times Free... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Phoenix with no paywalls.