- Things to Do
- Where to Stay
- Dining & Nightlife
- Plan Your Trip
Four historic reasons to add Flagstaff to your next road trip.
If you’re a lover of road trips, there is likely one quintessential trip on your list - Route 66. Regardless of where you’ve come from, you've likely heard stories of this iconic highway. What you may not know is that while the Mother Road often evokes feelings of freedom and exploration for some, it hasn’t always provided freedom for all. While many were searching for a fresh start and “getting their kicks”, black travelers often were not welcomed. In Flagstaff Arizona, they would find refuge in a handful of businesses. Flagstaff, often called the “The City of Seven Wonders”, holds an invaluable piece of history and great reasons to travel Route 66.
In 1936, Victor H. Green a black postal worker from Harlem, created “The Negro Motorist Green Book” to highlight businesses that were willing to defy the status quo and provide shelter, food and service to all Americans. The Green Book, which continued publication through the 60’s, quickly became known as the “Bible of Black Travel”. Its goal was to “provide assured protection for the Negro traveler”.
In Flagstaff, the Green Book noted a multitude of sites where black travelers could find safe haven. Flagstaff made its first appearance in the Green Book publication in 1949. The Yucca Greyhound Café would be the first location, followed by Nackard Inn, the Park Plaza Motel, DuBeau’s Motel Inn, Pearl Polk’s Rooming House and more. Many landmarks along this once thriving highway have since been demolished, but in Flagstaff, you will find remnants and thriving local business.
As you seek out the iconic signage, diners, and motels, be sure to add these historic landmarks to your list!
Motel Du Beau
Motel Du Beau (19 W. Phoenix Ave.), established in 1929, offered overnight accommodations for auto-tourists. Prior to the establishment of a motor court motel, travelers would sleep overnight at campsites. Travelers looked forward to accommodations that included double beds, a mini-fridge and maybe even a television or microwave. The best part – prices started at just $2.50 per night. This motel has been noted as the first motel in Flagstaff and one of America’s first motor courts. Its signage is one of very few iconic signs remaining in the Flagstaff area.
Beginning in 1957, the Nackard Inn (15 S. San Francisco St.), provided comfortable lodging for travelers utilizing the Green Book. The auto-inn, which later became known as the Downtowner motel, competed with the Motel Du Beau. As part of their competition, the Nackard Inn also raised a 60’ sign above its roof for all to see. Today, while the property has been converted to the Grand Canyon International Youth Hostel and private apartments, you can still snap a photo of this iconic signage.
Pearl Polk’s Rooming House
At 211 S. San Francisco St, you will find a quaint building on a 7100 square foot lot that was once inhabited by Pearl Polk. According to a 1940’s census, Pearl was an African American female from Texas. The Green Book lists her home as a rooming house where visitors could rent a room amongst other guests for a comfortable stay in Flagstaff. Pearl also operated a Fountain Shop and offered refreshing sodas and ice cream.
Park Plaza Motel
From 1958-1964, travelers enjoyed accommodations at the Park Plaza Motel (West Route 66 and S. Milton Rd.). This motel, which was adjacent to the defunct Mandarin Buffet, was part of a larger complex that included motel accommodations and eateries. The owner Milton Stroud, Sr. relocated from Texas to add this plaza to a string of locations along Route 66 spanning from St. Louis all the way to Flagstaff. While the original building no longer stands, remnants of its shell remain.
Photos by Stacey Wittig
Jessica Malone is a clutter coach, blogger, and conference creator. When she’s not helping people build a life they love, she’s focused on building the life she loves. Right now, she is traveling full-time in a van with her fiancé as they pursue their dreams. To see how she’s putting it all together, follow her on Instagram.