Filed Under Tourism

Hotel Westward Ho

A Phoenix legend for 100 years

The Westward Ho Hotel was one of Phoenix's largest and most impressive building projects, including an iconic radio tower that once broadcasted programs from Arizona's first television station. Today, it has been reclaimed by Arizona State University to serve the community.

One of the most legendary hotels in Phoenix, the Westward Ho Hotel has been a defining landmark for nearly a century. As with many other hotels in the Phoenix area, the Westward Ho was constructed in response to the tourism boom of the 1920s. The automobile had made its way into the hands of the average American, and Phoenix beckoned as an ideal tourist destination. However, even in the multitude of blossoming hotels, it was plain to see that the Westward Ho would be something special. The building permit of $1,200,000 was the largest for any project in Phoenix history up to that time. At one point in 1926, the construction job was equal to about half the building activity in Phoenix.

Though the initial work was completed in 1928, the building wasn’t truly finished quite yet. In the fall of 1940, the Westward Ho received its iconic radio tower and antenna, used to broadcast programs from Arizona’s very first television station. Even when the station relocated, the hotel held onto the antenna, as it had already achieved landmark status.

Though it may be surrounded by skyscrapers today, the antenna brought the Westward Ho to a staggering five-hundred-foot height, making it the tallest building in Phoenix for a time. Over the decades, several different owners set up shops in the retail storefronts of the Westward Ho along Central Avenue and Fillmore Street.

The hotel sheltered guests for over 50 years until it was officially closed to the public in the 1980s. The new owners then converted the hotel into low-income apartment homes for the elderly and the disabled.

In 2016, Arizona State University leased and renovated office space on the first floor, encompassing much of the original retail space and the Concho Room ballroom. Housing two ASU research centers focused on behavioral health, staff and students of ASU are embedded in the Westward Ho community providing services to the residents.

Audio

President Kennedy Remarks at Dinner in Honor of Senator Carl Hayden Opening remarks by President John F. Kennedy’s at a dinner honoring Senator Carl Hayden’s 50th anniversary, which was held at the Westward Ho Hotel. President Kennedy made an 8-minute statement; the project team edited the remarks to include only the first short (approximately 90 seconds) statement. Source: John F. Kennedy Presidential Library, White House Audio Collection, White House Audio Recordings, 1961-1963, WH-057-002. Digital: JFKWHA-057-002. Creator: John F. Kennedy; Archival Creator: Department of Defense. Department of the Army. Office of the Chief Signal Officer. White House Army Signal Agency. (05/01/1954 - 1962) Date: 1961

Images

Westward Ho Hotel
Westward Ho Hotel An early photograph of the Westward Ho shows that there is no antenna on the roof of the building. The 240 foot tower was added in 1949, to broadcast the city first television station, KPHO. Source: Arizona State Library, Archives & Public Records; RG 99, SG 12 Historical Photographs; Print: FH2-1Q19; Negative: R2-3E28; PhD035; Digital: 97-2144.jpg. Date: 1925
President Kennedy and Senator Carl Hayden at the Westward Ho Hotel
President Kennedy and Senator Carl Hayden at the Westward Ho Hotel President John F. Kennedy attends Senator Carl Hayden’s 50th anniversary dinner in the Thunderbird Room at the Westward Ho. From left to right are Governor of Arizona Paul Fannin, Senator Hayden, and President Kennedy. Source: Cecil Stoughton. White House Photographs. John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston, White House Photographs, Series 02, Accession Number: ST-M2-1-61 (Container Digital Identifier: JFKWHP-1961-11-17-A.) Creator: Cecil Stoughton, White House Photographs Date: 1961
Marilyn Monroe filming outside the Westward Ho Hotel.
Marilyn Monroe filming outside the Westward Ho Hotel. Marilyn Monroe in the parade scene outside Westward Ho Hotel . This parade was not set up for the film, but was the annual Jaycee Rodeo Parade heading south on Central Avenue. The grandstand was set up on both sides of the road outside the main Central Avenue entrance to the Westward Ho Hotel. Source: Screen capture from film "Bus Stop."
Emily Lierle "Phoenix Then and Now in Film History"
Date: 1956
President John F. Kennedy arriving at the Westward Ho
President John F. Kennedy arriving at the Westward Ho On November 17, 1961 President Kennedy, Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson and a room full of dignitaries gathered to honor U.S. Senator Carl T. Hayden in a golden anniversary dinner held in the Thunderbird Room at the Westward Ho Hotel. Source: AZCentral.com Creator: Republic file photo Date: 1961
Commemorative program "Dinner with Ike" held at the Westward Ho Hotel
Commemorative program "Dinner with Ike" held at the Westward Ho Hotel To kick off the 1960 Republican GOP campaign, dinners were held simultaneously in 80 cities across the country. During the $100 per plate dinner, all venues were linked by close circuit television and sound. The dinner in Phoenix raised $67,000, and was held in the Thunderbird Room of the Westward Ho Hotel. Source: Westward Ho collection, Suzanne Collett archives. Creator: Republic National Party Date: 1961
View of Hotel Westward Ho from the front
View of Hotel Westward Ho from the front Hotel Westward Ho was purchased by the Rhode Island Investment Group around 1980 and was converted to Section 8 housing. Creator: Suzanne Collett Date: 2018
South entrance to Westward Ho Hotel
South entrance to Westward Ho Hotel One of two main entrances t the lobby of the Westward Ho Hotel, this entrance if from Fillmore Street. Creator: Suzanne Collett Date: 2018
Concho Room ballroom in the Westward Ho
Concho Room ballroom in the Westward Ho This photo shows the renovations made for Arizona State University retaining the original turquoise and sand colored "concho necklace" design dance floor. Creator: Arizona State University Date: 2016
The operations executive staff employed at the Westward Ho on opening day in 1928
The operations executive staff employed at the Westward Ho on opening day in 1928 Pictured are six executive staff who made the opening of the Westward Ho Hotel in December of 1928 possible. The Arizona Republican read "Westward Ho Executive Staff Represents Selection of Best Men in Nation." Of course, one of the six staff pictured is a woman, Mrs. Henry Miller, assistant to the manager and social director. The same editions of the newspaper state that the "furnishings for the hotel guest rooms cost $350,000," and "complete motor service planned for hotel guests" which featured a garage for auto repair and a sightseeing limousine service. Source: Arizona Republican Creator: Photos by Bate Date: December 15, 1928
Harry S. Truman Letter written from Westward Ho Hotel
Harry S. Truman Letter written from Westward Ho Hotel Letter written on Westward Ho stationary to his wife Bess Truman. Truman writes "Wat [sic] a life." Sen. Hayden, Vic Householder and the National Committeeman met me along with the usual newsmen. But Hayden was kind to me. Brought me to the Hotel and let me rest. Got here about 3 o'clock took a bath and a sunbath! They gave me the Pent House way up above the town, with a sun porch and a cot for the sunning." Source: Truman Library Creator: Harry S. Truman Date: 1944
Harry S. Truman letter
Harry S. Truman letter Envelope featuring the Westward Ho Hotel logo. Letter written to his wife Bess Truman. Source: Truman Library Creator: Harry S. Truman Date: 1944
Westward Ho lobby floor tile detail
Westward Ho lobby floor tile detail A close up of the brightly colored floor tile still present in the lobby of the Westward Ho Hotel. A design with Native American and southwest design adds bright color and local flare that appealed to guests visiting Phoenix. Creator: Suzanne Collett Date: 2018
Concho Room set for dining and dancing
Concho Room set for dining and dancing A circa 1950 postcard showing the Concho Room set for guests to enjoy fine dining and dancing. The Concho Room was originally called the Pompeian Room. Following an addition to the room it was re-branded as the Concho Room. Source: eBay Creator: W. A. Krueger Company Date: c. 1950
Roadside billboard Westward Ho
Roadside billboard Westward Ho A roadside billboard advertising the Westward Ho Hotel in the 1960's, featuring the radio tower extending above the top og the sin as well as the AAA logo off to the left. Source: Arizona Memory Project Creator: Unknown Date: c. 1965

Location

618 North Central Ave., Phoenix, Arizona

Metadata

SRS Team
and Mark Simonitis, “Hotel Westward Ho,” Salt River Stories, accessed May 24, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/278.