Western Trips

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Route 66 Flagstaff

flagstaff arizona and san francisco peak
An Arizona vacation offers many great photo opportunities and the area around Flagstaff is no exception. Flagstaff is easy to reach being directly on Interstate-40, just west of Winslow and a few hours drive north of Phoenix, the town and surrounding area is a tourist destination for many. 

The picture left is of the beautiful San Francisco Peak as viewed from Flagstaff Arizona. Northern Arizona is home to many scenic locales not to mention the spectacular Grand Canyon National Park located about 80 miles northwest of Flagstaff. To the northeast is the vast Navajo Indian Reservation. Being at at elevation of 5,000 feet, the Flagstaff Arizona climate is mild during the summer months and terrific for skiers during the winter. 

Flagstaff and Route 66

At one time in the past travelers visited Flagstaff via the famed Route 66. The old Highway 66 map shows the route traveling straight through the northern section of the state from the New Mexico border to Kingman Arizona. Santa Fe Avenue which runs directly through Flagstaff was part of the old Route 66. 

The highway from Chicago to Los Angeles which opened the southwest to motorists from the east and midwest. The Flagstaff area and it's higher elevation has always been a popular destination for Phoenix residents wishing to escape the summer heat. Travelers on an Arizona road trip have enjoyed the forested scenery and nearby attractions since the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad built it's line through the town.

Historic Hotel Monte Vista, Flagstaff
Ever since Rt 66 was constructed commercial interests wanted to have stores directly on the highway where an ever increasing amount of tourist dollars passed by. 

Jack Fuss

Jack Fuss was a man who helped make it possible for Route 66 tourists to find their way to all the sites northern Arizona had to offer. Originally from Philadelphia, Fuss was schooled at the Academy of Fine Arts before deciding to relocate to Arizona. Jack worked at a variety of jobs from being a cowboy to a taxi cab driver. 

Fuss earned money with his taxi service by taking tourists on trips to the Grand Canyon. With his art talent Fuss eventually became the artist for the highway, that highway being the Mother Road, Route 66. Fuss designed and built large highway signs. Some of these were sized as much as 10 feet by forty feet. His signs were seen all the way from Winslow Arizona westward to Seligman.

 Fuss also did signs for local businesses. Anyone who wanted one he would create and rent to them. Jack would rent land to place his signs and then charge a business on a monthly basis for the advertisement. Today when on a western road trip we see billboards everywhere. It seems that Jack Fuss may have been ahead of his time being one of the first in what would become a billion dollar industry in later years. Fuss was eighty years of age when he finally quit. His concern that at that age he might fall from one of his scaffolds. 

Eventually Fuss' signs adorned Route 66 all across northern Arizona as well as several buildings in the city of Flagstaff. He created as many as six signs alone for Meteor Crater, still a popular stop for tourists along Interstate-40.
route 66 sign
Another very popular Flagstaff attraction credited to Jack Fuss was the annual Powwow held at Flagstaff. Fuss was well acquainted with the Navajo Indians on the nearby reservation. He was able to convince them to come to Flagstaff and perform Native American dances, rodeos and other Indian competitions as well as display their Native American jewelry and pottery, etc for sale to the traveling public. 

Fuss did the same with other surrounding tribes including the Hopi's and the name Powwow took hold. Jack Fuss personally ran the Powwow for five years. During that time it was an Indian only performance. No white men were part of the acts. Fuss let the Indians handle the show itself. His involvement was to pay the top people each evening. After five years he took himself out of the Powwow business and devoted his time to his ever growing sign business. There is also an interesting earleir story from Jack Fuss which was printed in the Coconino Sun newspaper on December 19, 1924 regarding the fact that "deer just can't be driven".You may find it quite interesting. Today there are Powwows scheduled all across the country. Flagstaff celebrates a People's Powwow held each year.

Tour Flagstaff Arizona

courthouse in flagstaff arizona
A great way to see and learn about Flagstaff up close is to put their "Route 66 Walking Tour" on your Arizona vacation trip planner. This is an excellent self guided tour which begins at the Flagstaff Visitors Center at One East Route 66. You'll stroll past Santa Fe Plaza, the 1897 railroad depot and many other historic sites. All maps, etc can be obtained at the visitors center. 

The picture at left is of the old Coconino County Courthouse. 

The Flagstaff Route 66 Walking Tour
offers a fun low cost addition to your Arizona vacation. Another good feature about Flagstaff is it's proximity to the Grand Canyon, beautiful Sedona Arizona, the western attractions at Williams Arizona and the Glen Canyon Dam just outside Page Arizona. 

An Arizona map will show that the Flagstaff area itself offers enough fun activities for a one week Arizona vacation. All the sites in and around Flagstaff makes a great family trip. When you travel to Arizona make sure this area is on your trip planner. The weather in Flagstaff Arizona changes dramatically depending on the season so be certain to pack appropriately. There's plenty of excellent hotels in Flagstaff to fit any travel budget.

A good companion trip with Flagstaff is the historic Hubbell Trading Post which is still in operation well over 125 years on the Navajo Reservation in northeast Arizona. The old trading posts were usually the first settlements in the west, before many of the settlers arrived from the east. trading with the Native Americans during the old frontier days was both lucrative and necessary. Both parties had products the other desired.

route 66 in arizona
Photo courtesy Georgia D. Griffiths
The photo at right is of old Route 66 through a part of western Arizona.

The southwest U.S. is filled with interesting stories about Route 66. You may want to explore the story of how Route 66 was rerouted out of Santa Fe. Also how Gallup New Mexico became a second Hollywood during the heyday of western film making. 

(Article copyright Western Trips. Photo of Hotel Monte Vista from author's collection. Remaining photos and images from public domain)