March 01, 2018

Photo Essay: Coronado Motor Hotel, Arizona's First Motel

I was already regretting my choice of overnight accommodations in Yuma after spending one night at the Yuma Cabaña, an outpost of the Econo Lodge chain.

And I was coveting some of the other similarly retro motels along the same stretch of 4th Avenue.

The one that caught my eye in particular was the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel.

It wasn't just because it looked nicer than where I was staying, with its Spanish colonial style architecture and red terra-cotta tile roofs.

But it also reportedly housed a museum in a tiny structure called the "Casa de Coronado." And any motel with its own museum is one I've got to visit.

Although the Coronado (not to be confused with the Hotel del Coronado in San Diego) is currently owned and operated independently—and was founded by the Peach family that way in 1938 as well—it spent decades as part of the Best Western chain.

And if you were to ask Yvonne Peach, the museum's director (who married into the founding family), she'd tell you the Coronado helped build the Best Western brand.

Located in a tiny cottage where the Peach family used to live (which also served as the "front desk" for the motel)...

...the museum displays various ephemera associated with the motor hotel's tenure with Best Western...

...despite the fact that they split ties in 2014...

...and Best Western doesn't want (and has never really wanted) to have anything to do with preserving history.

In fact, reportedly Best Western tried to make a few too many changes at the Coronado, ultimately overstepping its way out of the partnership. (I wish Econo Lodge would step in a bit more with the Yuma Cabaña!)

But plenty of swag has been collected and saved over the years, as have some antique furniture and lighting fixtures...

...all of which were finally put on display when the museum opened in 1996.

Apparently there are still a couple of rooms that haven't been modernized and redecorated and are available for booking. The girls at the front desk should know which is which.

But regardless of which room you stay in, or if you just make an appointment to visit the tiny museum in the Peach family cottage, you're still surrounded by history—particularly since the entire motor hotel was built out of lumber reclaimed from the old Southern Pacific Railroad Hotel.

Not to mention the fact that it was Arizona's first motel—the first of many, of course, but given the amount of love and care the family has put into it, it may very well be one of the best, too (even if it is no longer a "Best Western").

Related Posts:
Photo Essay: Glimpses of Yuma Territory
Photo Essay: How Billions of Burgers Got Their Start in Southern California
Photo Essay: The Museum That's Gone Bananas

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