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UER Forum > Journal Index > Exploring Phoenix > Westward Ho Tunnels!!!! (Viewed 9221 times)
Westward Ho Tunnels!!!!
entry by benstern 
6/8/2007 4:47 AM

Arizona Republic, The (Phoenix, AZ)
November 12, 2003
Author: Bob Golfen and Yvonne Wingett, The Arizona Republic

Among the many legends of ghosts, gangsters and movie stars that swirl around the landmark Westward Ho, some of the most persistent involve mysterious tunnels.

These tunnels were reputed to be favored by bootleggers and fugitives, providing hideouts and passageways under Central Avenue.

The old tales sprang back to life recently when an abandoned tunnel was discovered by crews preparing for construction of Valley Metro's light-rail system. Sealed off for decades, the dank tunnel running under the sidewalk near the 80-year-old former hotel seems at first to confirm the old stories.

Although here the romance fades. Engineers believe the tunnel was actually an underground duct for cool air. Just 4 feet high and 5 feet wide, the concrete-walled tunnel is believed to be part of the hotel's original cooling system used before the days of air-conditioning.

When the hotel was completed in 1928, Westward Ho was advertised as the only "air-cooled" hotel in Arizona, and the tunnel apparently was part of the cooling system.

Terry Phemister, environmental manager for Valley Metro Rail, said no detailed plans for the air-cooling system have surfaced, but the engineers have extrapolated how the system worked from evidence found, which includes an underground pump room.

"We surmise that cool water from a well was pumped through a large radiator device," Phemister said. "Air was blown (by electric fans) through the radiator device and into the hotel.

"What role this little tunnel had is very unclear. It looks like it's part of the air return."

Still, the discovery of the tunnel confirms what many people have believed for years, and it adds to the rich flavor of one of Phoenix's most famous places. The building's tenants are "fascinated" with the tunnel, said James McKinney, the Westward Ho's maintenance supervisor of 18 years. In 1981, the hotel was converted to a federally subsidized housing project for the elderly.

"It's an old, dirty, dusty tunnel," McKinney said, although that has been enough to spark rumors. "Everybody's ... telling all kinds of crazy stories."

Before the Valley had the Phoenician, it had the Westward Ho, a magnificent hotel where rich and famous people stayed, including Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, and actors Clark Gable and Myrna Loy.

The 15-story Spanish Colonial Revival building was a skyscraper of its time, towering over the other buildings in downtown Phoenix. With the exception of one building in Long Beach, Calif., the Westward Ho was originally the tallest reinforced-concrete structure west of the Mississippi.

And eventually, it was the first multiple-story building in Phoenix to cool its guests with refrigeration rather than evaporative cooling, according to the Arizona State Historic Preservation Office.

"Obviously, it's kind of a Phoenix landmark," said James Garrison, a state historic preservation officer who wrote a nomination to get the hotel listed on the National Register of Historic Places. "This was the first large-scale building to use some type of air-conditioning and refrigeration system. That's pretty significant for the Valley."

After its years as Phoenix's premier hotel, the 400-room building declined and decayed, falling victim to a dying downtown.

The discovery of the tunnel was not surprising, Valley Metro spokeswoman Daina Mann said.

"It's not an unusual circumstance for light-rail projects in downtown areas," Mann said, noting that the railroad right-of-way crosses many utility conduits, old canals and other underground obstacles.

The initial rail project is a 20-mile route through Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa, with construction expected to start in spring 2004.

Phemister said only part of the tunnel, a section that courses out from alongside the hotel to go around the old pump room, will be affected by light-rail construction. That portion will be backfilled with gravel and concrete.

Valley Metro will file final plans with state and national historic offices before filling in the tunnel section, Phemister said.

The tunnel was explored by Valley Metro inspectors, he added, and they are still uncertain how long it is or where it ends. Armed with lights and safety gear, the inspectors "duck-walked" through the tunnel from where it begins near Central and Polk Street, along the full length of the east side of the building.

"They did not go further than that for safety reasons," he said.

After that, the tunnel gets smaller, and the explorers are unsure whether it continues north along Central or jogs west around the hotel, he said.

Cooling Arizona

1916: In the Adams Pharmacy inside the Adams Hotel in downtown Phoenix, Frank L. Toombs demonstrates a device that he claims would reduce a room's temperature by 20 to 40 degrees through evaporation of water in a forced draft.

1928: The luxury hotel Westward Ho opens on Central Avenue, advertising itself as the first "air-cooled" hotel in Arizona.

1929: Air-conditioners installed in commercial buildings in Phoenix.

1934: Oscar Palmer of Phoenix begins marketing his Sno-Breeze brand cooler, which appears to be the first factorymade evaporative cooler on the market in Phoenix.

1936: Moore & McLellan (later known as A.L. Moore & Son) is the first Phoenix mortuary to be air-conditioned.

1941: Nearly every Phoenix building has an evaporative cooler.

Early 1950s: Air-conditioners using refrigeration are mass-produced in Phoenix; the city becomes known as the "Air-Conditioned Capital of the World."

1970: Most structures and cars in the Valley are now air-conditioned.

2003: Valley Metro Rail planners explore air-duct tunnel at Westward Ho.

Sources: Phoenix Museum of History, Carrier, Goettl, U.S. census.

CAPTION: Underground discovery CAPTION: Steve Reznik, who runs the Jewel Box pawn shop on Central Avenue and whose father, Morris, owns the city block under which runs a tunnel from the Westward Ho, recently helped Valley Metro Rail engineers explore the subterranean area."

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Re: Westward Ho Tunnels!!!!
< Reply # 1 on 8/3/2010 6:14 AM >
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Posted on Forum: UER Forum
I've been in that tunnel. Not much to see. There is however another room under that hotel that used to be a bowling alley in the 30's 40's or something before they had ball returns and stuff. there are still some of the murals painted on the walls and the ledge for the pin setters to sit on while the bowlers threw their balls. Kinda cool.

Blah Blah Blah. Shut up and open the damn door.
"It's ok Officer, I watch a lot of cop shows on tv, so i am practically one of you guys." - sadly, that didn't work. All my photos suck.
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