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 fall, 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. The hotel was due to be demolished at that time; however, through our efforts, we managed to buy some time.
Yesterday, Mr. Jim McPherson, who is Arizona's representative to the National Trust for Historical Preservation, contacted me with an update. Since last fall, a local merchant has tried to purchase and move a portion of the hotel. His negotiations with the railroad have failed. Now, the railroad has renewed its plans to proceed with demolition.
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.
Saving the Havasu 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.
Like Mr. McPherson and 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. 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