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Save the Harvey House Havasu in Seligman, Arizona
By Virginia Tolles   

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Two weeks from now, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway will tear down the historic Harvey House Havasu unless drastic measures are taken. Read about the efforts that are being made to save this historic hotel, then call to cast your vote in favor of preserving a piece of Americana.

In the days before dining and sleeping cars on long-distance trains, Fred Harvey of Atchison, Kansas, built railway hotels and dining rooms along the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad, between Barstow, California, and Chicago, Illinois. These were grand structures, built to reflect the culture of the area where they were sited.

Cultured women were brought from "Back East" to serve as waitresses in the dining rooms of these Harvey Houses. Trained to provide quick service to travelers, these women were celebrated in the movie "Harvey Girls" (MGM, 1946). Today, these old railway hotels are being restored by their communities and used for museums, welcome centers, and even hotels and restaurants.

Last week, Mr. Richard Friedman, an avid supporter and historian of the Harvey Houses, notified me of the current plight of the Harvey House Havasu in Seligman, Arizona. Like Mr. Friedman, I would like to see as much of this nation’s history preserved as possible. The inns established by Mr. Fred Harvey certainly fall into that category.

The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF) has scheduled the grand 19th century hotel and depot for demolition to start in two weeks, at the very moment that a credible investment group has offered to buy and redevelop it.

Seligman is a depressed rural town of fewer than 1000 residents, many retired or on disability. Tourism is its lifeblood. As La Posada - another of the original Harvey Houses, which were built between Chicago and the West Coast - revived the town of Winslow, the Harvey House Havasu is potentially the hub of a booming economy for Seligman.

The investor group is composed largely of newcomers to Seligman, people with the know-how and motivation to provide seed money, secure grants and matching funds, and develop a solid utilization plan. That plan will make the most of Rte 66, on which the Havasu is located; Seligman's designated Historic Downtown, of which the Havasu is a prominent part; and the town's historic connection to the Santa Fe Railroad, for which Jesse Seligman was a financier.

The investor group and interested parties already have completed a preliminary property survey and have designated funds for the final survey that BNSF has previously stipulated as a prerequisite to purchase.

We ask only that you support our request to BNSF for a moratorium that will allow us to develop, with full community input, a practical plan for the Havasu. You can do this by contacting Mr. Matthew K. Rose, Chairman, President and CEO, at 817-867-6100.

Please do this small favor for Seligman; its impact could be invaluable to the town, the county, and the state, as well as for all Americans.

For more information about the Harvey House Havasu, see

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