|Seligman History - Havasu Harvey House
|Fred Harvey is known as the man who civilized the west. From the opening of his first lunch room in
Topeka, Kansas to his contract with Santa Fe giving him first choice of all hotel and restaurant sites on their
railroad lines to decades after his death in 1901, Fred Harvey’s name has been synonymous with quality and
When Fred Harvey started his hospitality endeavors the conditions for travelers were increasingly grim the
farther west they explored. Through Harvey’s efforts travel to the west became an option for many people
as he created more and more of his “Harvey Houses” along the railroad lines. These houses consisted of
dining rooms or lunch rooms, and architecturally grand hotels with elegant surroundings. People could
travel to unknown and very rural locations with the security of knowing that there was a standard of food,
service, and lodgings. After Fred Harvey’s death in 1901 his son, Ford, took over the business and
continued to build Harvey Houses throughout the west keeping with his father’s traditions of excellence.
In total, the collection of Fred Harvey houses consisted of 54 dining and/or lunch rooms and 23 hotels. Of
the 23 Fred Harvey Hotels built, six of them were in Arizona.
The Arizona Fred Harvey Hotel names and locations (east to west):
“La Posada” Winslow, AZ
“Fray Marcos” Williams, AZ
“El Tovar” Grand Canyon, AZ
“Bright Angel Lodge” Grand Canyon, AZ
“Escalante” Ash Fork, AZ
“Havasu” Seligman, AZ
Established in 1895, and opened around 1905, the Seligman hotel was named “Havasu” after the native
Havasupai tribe of the area. “Havasu” means blue-green water.
The large elegant Havasu and its neatly uniformed staff stood out in the small town inhabited by ranchers
and railroad laborers. Katheryne Krause Ferguson, the wife of a Harvey manager, remembered how very
small and remote Seligman was:
…Some of the places we were sent to! Seligman, Arizona, was one of the hardest. We were sent
there in the mid-1930s and were there for six weeks. The day we arrived, Alice and I went for a
walk down the main street. There was a grocery store, a post office, and a lot of sand. It was the
middle of the Arizona desert. Mr. Krause had to take inventory as soon as he arrived at a new
house, so he wasn’t with us. When he was done, he found us and said, “Let’s see the town.” Alice
and I just looked at each other. We walked with him to the corner, where you could look down Main
Street and out to the desert. He said, “That’s it?!” That was it. It was a long six weeks, more like
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|THE FRED HARVEY "HAVASU" HOTEL
The Havasu was without a doubt the nicest place to eat and lodge in town. Because Harvey Houses had
the resources of the railroad they were able to bring in fresh meat and produce that no other restaurants
were able to do. The Havasu was no exception. Diners at the Havasu had exquisite meals as they had at
any other Harvey House location.
During World War II trains carried troops not travelers. The Havasu became one of many official mess hall
stops for the constant transportation of the military. The restaurant could not provide the quality that it
once did but made up for it in quantity. All available Seligman residents were needed to work at the Harvey
House to feed the troops during this busy time.
After the war, train travel declined as automobile travel increased. People could still patronize the Havasu
on their way through town driving on Route 66 but the once grand hotel and dining room were underused.
The Havasu, like most other Harvey Houses was forced to close its doors. After closing in 1954, the
Seligman Fred Harvey House was used as offices for Santa Fe Railroad. All of the beautiful furniture and
art that had adorned the house were sold. After the railroad ceased using the house as offices the Havasu
stood vacant for many years. During this time the original Santa Fe Reading Room that accompanied the
Havasu was saved and moved to the Seligman School and is currently in use as a science building. There
was hope that something similar could be done to save the town Harvey House. Although many people
tried to make arrangements with the railroad to save the Havasu, too many obstacles presented themselves
and it was demolished in spring of 2008.
( If you are interested in seeing a Harvey House back up and running then visit La Posada in Winslow, AZ.
It is a must see for anyone who loves history, architecture, trains, art, or fine dining. For more information
go to www.laposada.org )
*from The Harvey Girls, Women Who Opened the West by Leslie Poling-Kempes, New York: Paragon House, 1989.
Miss Lillian Baker, (Seligman), Gov. Geo. W.P. Hunt, Mr. J.A. Pitts
(Seligman), Miss Buena Kilty, (Seligman), Prof. C.O. Case
Photo taken in front of the Seligman
Havasu Harvey House on Oct. 7, 1916
The arrival of a Fred Harvey House in
Seligman presented many positive changes.
For travelers the Havasu offered a haven
of sophistication in the Wild West, for
locals, including women, it offered new
types of jobs. Most significantly, the
Havasu Hotel put Seligman on the map of
the civilized west. Train travelers stopping
for the night or just for lunch could buy
postcards of the western states that had
each Harvey Hotel labeled on it, mark an
X next to “HAVASU, Seligman, Arizona”
and send it back home. Seligman may not
have been a big town but it was a Harvey
Hotel location and that made it somewhere
|Image Courtesy of Cline Library, Northern Arizona University