Over the past several years, I’ve traveled to the Town of Gila Bend on numerous occasions to meet with town officials, promote the Great Bend of Gila National Monument, tour Gatlin National Historic Landmark, rendezvous with others on the way to the Sentinel Plain and lower Gila River valley, or simply grab a bite at Sophia’s.
As I cruise down the town’s main street, Stout’s Hotel always catches my eye. No longer a hotel, it is one of the few historic landmarks in the town. This past week, after returning from a visit to the Gatlin site with Gila Bend Parks and Rec Director Colby Turner, I mentioned my fascination with the old hotel. To my good fortune, Colby responded by simply asking if I would like to learn more and maybe even get a tour.
We stopped and Colby called Eddie and Rhonda Stout, who live there now, and five minutes later, I was shaking hands with Eddie, grandson of the man who built the hotel with the assistance of Trost & Trost, Architects Engineers. I was floored. Stout’s Hotel is a Henry Trost building! (To learn more about this prolific architect, click here and here.)
Eddie noted that the massive concrete structure has been in the Stout family since the beginning. When it first opened in 1927, people described it as the “Jewel of the Desert” because of the use of abalone shell and coral in the flooring, lobby desk, and a portion of the lobby walls. Most of this treatment is still intact, but ceramic tiles replaced the flooring in the 1950s. The building served as a hotel until the mid-1980s, when the railroad pulled out and the need to accommodate railroad workers ended.
Recently, the Town of Gila Bend performed a structural assessment of the building. The Town is considering acquiring the hotel and restoring it for use as the Town Offices and Council Chambers. Although the structure did not necessarily pass with flying colors, it is sound. Impressively, much of the building remains as it was in 1927, with little remodeling to mar the historic character.
On our quick nickel tour, Eddie pointed out the extant abalone shell and coral veneer. We also saw the corner store, which had been an ice cream parlor until the milk shortages of WWII, and the part of the hotel that had served as the town post office from 1927 until sometime in the 1950s. Upstairs, many of the original room doors are in place, complete with transoms. An art group from Texas visited regularly in the 1930s, and their paintings of the Arizona desert decorate the walls. My favorite, a landscape depicting the Great Bend of the Gila, sits high on the lobby wall.