Morphing from Victorian to Spanish Revival architecture, the Casa Loma Building is arguably the most changed building on Mill Avenue.

An early hotel was constructed on the site in 1888 but was involved in a devastating fire in 1894. The building was rebuilt in 1894. Its architecture is reminiscent of the Victorian style. However, it sported uncharacteristic porches and balconies, presumably to take advantage of Arizona’s spring and fall weather. Originally owned by C.E. Atwood, the building was first named the Atwood Hotel. In 1901, Atwood was convicted of writing bogus checks and the name was changed to the Casa Loma Hotel. Ownership changed over to W. J. Kingsbury, a prominent banker in Tempe.

The hotel has had its fair share of celebrities stay within its rooms. Just before his assassination, President William McKinley stayed at the hotel in 1901. Buffalo Bill Cody created Wild West shows that toured the eastern United States. He also invested in gold mines in southern Arizona, near Tucson. During one of his visits in 1911, he had a short stay in Tempe at the Casa Loma.

Also in 1911, the Casa Loma launched a brand new marketing campaign. Capitalizing on Arizona’s beautiful weather, the hotel guaranteed guests that they would not have to pay for their rooms on days that the sun did not shine. Since their target audience was snowbird tourists escaping the frigid temperatures of other parts of the United States, their guarantee of sunshine was extremely successful.

The Casa Loma underwent an extensive remodel in the mid-1920s. The entire facade was transformed into the Spanish Revival-style architecture seen today. As seen in other western cities in the U.S., Tempe also capitalized on “Southwestern” themed tourism, where one could visit Mexico without setting foot in that country.

Even though much of the structure was changed in the remodel, one can still see the original doors and casements of the pre-1920s building. After its use as a hotel, the building was repurposed as apartments. Today it is the location of the Café Boa Bistro and Wine Bar as well as office space.

"The Casa Loma was the early-day focal point of Tempe's business district. Originally designed in a Victorian style, the exterior underwent a 1920s renovation to the then-popular Spanish Colonial Revival style. It features the original three-story, classically detailed staircase, and a restored cupola." (Tempe Preservation, Mill Ave Tour)

Images

Postcard of Casa Loma Hotel
Postcard of Casa Loma Hotel The original structure for the newly dubbed Casa Loma Hotel was reminiscent of Old West saloons. It featured two-story structures with boarding rooms with balconies where cowboys fell off after a gunfight. Source: Photo courtesy of Joe Nucci Personal Collection
Casa Loma Hotel Postcard, ca. 1949
Casa Loma Hotel Postcard, ca. 1949 A 1940s postcard depicting the Casa Loma Hotel, drawing Eastern tourists as a calm, relaxing place to take a vacation. Source: Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum..
Postcard of the Casa Loma Hotel, ca. 1962
Postcard of the Casa Loma Hotel, ca. 1962 Although nestled in an industrial downtown area, the Casa Loma, with its Spanish-Colonial Revival architecture and palm trees, still seems to evoke an atmosphere reminiscent of white sand beaches. Source: Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum.
Postcard of Casa Loma Highway Hotel, ca. 1972
Postcard of Casa Loma Highway Hotel, ca. 1972 A 1950s Vegas-style sign beckons drivers on the newly designated Mill Ave Highway. The large screens on the side of the building were constructed to protect the roadway from debris that could be thrown from windows. Source: Photo courtesy of Tempe History Museum. Creator: City of Tempe Community Development Department
Tempe Postcard, ca. 1913
Tempe Postcard, ca. 1913 This humorous postcard shows the push for Tempe tourism, proclaiming that if you're a billionaire, what better place to spend your money? Reverse-Side Text: "I couldn't believe the difference in temperature when I stepped off the plane here. Having a fine time. Hope to go to Grand Canyon tomorrow." Source: Photo courtesy of Joe Nucci Personal Collection
Postcard of Wigwam Lodge
Postcard of Wigwam Lodge Built in 1945, the Wigwam Lodge was another hotel in Tempe located off of Apache Boulevard, where ASU's Student Recreation Center is today. Once again, the hybrid Mexican-Native American idea of the "Southwest" is prevalent, just like in the Casa Loma Hotel. Source: Photo courtesy of Joe Nucci Personal Collection

Location

Metadata

Holly Solis, Jacquelyn George, and Salt River Stories Team, “Casa Loma Building,” Salt River Stories, accessed April 12, 2024, https://saltriverstories.org/items/show/59.