When tourism was on the rise during mid 1920's local residents agreed that Flagstaff needed first-class accommodations. Existing hotels were old and outmoded. Fundraising began in April of 1926, and within one month investments of prominent citizens and funds donated by the novelist Zane Grey, totaled approximately $200,000. Ground was broken on June 8.
Construction plans for the 73 room hotel incorporated the local Post Office (1917-1927) and the structure housing the Coconino Sun. The new hotel opened for business on New Year's Day, 1927. Originally named the Community Hotel, in honor of the townspeople who contributed to its existence, the name 'Monte Vista,' meaning mountain view, was chosen by a 12-year-old contest winner.
The Monte Vista continued to be the longest publicly held commercial property in Arizona until it was sold to the private investor in the early 1960's. It continues to be the one of the oldest fully operational hotels in Flagstaff and is listed on the U.S. Registrar of Historic Places. The Hotel Monte Vista is truly one of Northern Arizona's treasures.
Historic Radio Station
Mary Costigan was the second woman in the world to be granted a radio broadcasting license in 1927. Hailing from Detroit, Costigan relocated to Flagstaff to help her brother, John, and his business partner, John Weatherford, run the Majestic Opera House. After years of assisting with the family business, Mary took over due to John's deteriorating health. She then became a licensed commercial radio broadcaster and set up a 25-watt station backstage at the Majestic Opera House, now the Orpheum. In 1929, Mary moved KFXY to the Monte Vista Hotel. More than four hundred residents showed up for her maiden broadcast kicking off the powerful 100-watt show airing three hours a day.
The Underground Tunnels
A system of underground tunnels, rumored to have been built by Chinese immigrants, snake their way from Northern Arizona University up through downtown Flagstaff. Businesses including the Weatherford Hotel, Babbitts Backcountry, and the Monte Vista have access to these basement tunnels. In the early 1900's a devastatingly large fire damaged Flagstaff. Chinese migrant workers were blamed for the fire because of their cooking and cleaning practices. After that, the Chinese began to use these systems to get around town without being harassed. Now used for storage and piping, it is said the larger alcoves of the tunnels have been home more suspicious activity. Opium dens, moonshine distilleries, gambling machines and other relics have been discovered in depths of Flagstaff's underworld.
Bootlegging and Prohibition
The Cocktail Lounge opened during the prohibition era during which was successfully running a major bootlegging operation. Local officers put it to an end in 1931. The popular speakeasy was forced to shut down only to reopen two years later when prohibition was ended in 1933.
A light atop the hotel served as an emergency signal for Flagstaff in the 30's. Flashing, it would alert local authorities and citizens of hazards and catastrophes in and around town. The hotel's current neon sign is still a beckoning light for locals and travelers alike.
In its heyday, the Monte Vista housed several employees who gained national popularity. Shoeshine attendant Gregory Martinez, and porter Isaac Henderson had amassed such a reputation for the friendliest service around; they were both offered parts in Hollywood films! Both men cheerfully declined and chose to remain on the hotel staff.
It is rumored that scenes from the classic film Casablanca were filmed at the Hotel Monte Vista during Bogart's stay in the hotel.
The only slot machines to ever exist in Flagstaff operated out of the Monte Vista during 1935-1940. The games were operated by locals Fred Nackard & Rex Gobel.
Monte Vista Barber in High Regards
Barber Samuel Canainas, who worked out of the hotel for over 12 years, was once flown to Phoenix upon special request to cut President Harry Truman's hair.
The Hotel Monte Vista housed one of the first self-service Otis Elevators in Arizona, no fears, it has been modernized since its installation.