Phoenix's first luxury hotel catered to the rich and famous. Today it continues to operate as both a historic site and a luxury hotel experience.
The Hotel San Carlos was built in 1928 in the Renaissance Revival style. Renaissance Revival is also known as Neo-Renaissance and was popularized during the 19th century in Europe. During the early 20th century the style leaped across the pond to North America where it spread across the country. However, Neo-Renaissance style is seldom found in the desert.
Phoenix's economy boomed in the early 20th century. The growing agriculture industry that resulted from the Roosevelt Dam (built in 1911) gave rise to cotton, lettuce, and citrus farms that sold produce and goods all over the country. The popularity of the automobile allowed for easy travel and it expanded the tourism industry. San Carlos Hotel was financed by both the Dwight B. heard Company and Charles Harris. Dwight Heard played a major role in the development of Phoenix as a city through development programs and recruitment programs centered in Chicago.
San Carlos Hotel offered air conditioning before any other hotel in Phoenix. It also had steam heat in all rooms, ice water taps in every room, and a hand-operated elevator. The luxury hotel had many famous guests stay in its rooms. Some of the superstars included Mae West, Clark Gable, Carole Lombard, Marilyn Monroe and Gene Autry.
The hotel offered dining, dancing, and card rooms; all which added to the social draw of downtown Phoenix. Rumor has it that ghosts roam the halls of the hotel that offer a more chilling history of past guests.
Continuously operated as a hotel since its opening in 1928, the San Carlos has undergone periods of restoration and new management. Added as an Arizona State Historic Landmark in 1977 and listed in the National Register for Historic places in 1983, the San Carlos continues to pamper visitors to downtown Phoenix.