I've lived in Arizona for 68 years (Tucson, Glendale, and Sedona). I love writing about Arizona history, antiques, books, and travel.
It All Began With the Burke Hotel
The colorful history of the Hotel St. Michael began in 1891, when Prescott was a wild town in the Arizona Territory populated by miners, cowboys, and shady ladies. The Burke was a fine hotel built on the corner of Gurley Street at the end of Whiskey Row. It was advertised as fireproof, but burned along with the saloons on Whiskey Row in July of 1900. The property was purchased by John Duke who had a new hotel constructed, in 1901, of brick which he named the Hotel St. Michael. The hotel had 55,000 sq. feet, 110 rooms, and a stone basement. The abundance and quality of the wood used inside the hotel was, and still is, a lovely feature.
Because the city of Prescott is located in central Arizona, the city became the Arizona Territorial capitol, and the Hotel St. Michael became a popular place for politicians. It's difficult to see in the photos, but just below the roof line and in between the top floor windows are gargoyles. There are several interesting theories about why they were included in the design of the building. One story is that the faces, in ugly characterizations, represented the politicians. Some say that the gargoyles were placed there to protect the guests who stayed there.
Another feature of the Hotel St. Michael was the Otis Traction Elevator that was installed in 1925. It was the first elevator installed in Prescott.
Hotel St. Michael Circa 1965 Bob Petley Postcard
Famous Guests and the Haunted Hotel St. Michael
During the early days, the Palace Bar located next door to Hotel St. Michael and the other bars on "The Courthouse Square" became known as Whiskey Row. Guests at the hotel included Wyatt Earp, and Doc Holiday, (Probably Big Nose Kate, Doc's girlfriend, who is buried in Prescott stayed there too) and Tom Mix, an early Western film star, Zane Grey, and Teddy Roosevelt. Barry Goldwater doesn't appear to have stayed at the hotel, but his family connections to Prescott where the Goldwaters opened their first Goldwater's department store and maintained a fine home, were strong. It is known that he once gave a speech in the hotel's ballroom.
Former guests have reported that Hotel St. Michael is haunted. In room 315, a ghostly lady continues to make her presence known in a variety of ways and a strong smell of perfume has been noted. A number of guests have reported strange happenings in and around the elevator. The hotel is listed as one of Arizona's haunted sites. A number of videos made by hotel guests can be found on YouTube.
The Hotel St. Michael Today
The hotel underwent an update in 2017. The retail shops on the ground floor include a great mix of art and jewelry the Old Sage Bookshop,(charming old fashioned book shop) Putting on the Hats, (A fantastic selection of all types of hats), La La's Aveda Styling Studio, Grama's Bakery, and more.
The rooms include Queen beds or 2 Queens or a King size bed and include free parking and a full breakfast in the Hotel St. Michael Bistro. *It needs to be said that most rooms in historic hotels are smaller than in modern motels and hotels. In fact, when I first became interested in staying in and writing about historic hotels, I visited the historic Brunswick Hotel in Kingman, Arizona and the owner graciously showed me one of her "cowboy" rooms, I was shocked to learn that the room was barely big enough for a twin bed. Keep in mind that most travelers traveled with little more than the clothing they were wearing, and that hotel bathrooms were down the hall. A deluxe room would have included a wash stand and pitcher of water. When historic hotels are renovated, often two or more rooms are combined to include a bath and closet. Even so, guests need to overlook the fact that most rooms are smaller, and they need to concentrate on the "plus" items like location, usually a restaurant and bar is right down stairs, and the fact that historic hotels have charm and distinctive character. It humbles me that each time I have stayed in a historic hotel, because I have become part of the hotel's history. Check their rates which are moderate on the Hotel St. Michael website.
Since Prescott is a historic town, parking in the immediate blocks surrounding the Hotel is limited to two hours if you park on the street. This law is enforced. So when the hotel guest has free parking is a definite plus.
The ballroom has been modernized and is available for events, banquets and meetings.
The tables in the front area of the Bistro offer an excellent view of the Courthouse Square. The interior is charming and the casual food is good.
Great Things to Do in Prescott While Staying at the Hotel St. Michael
Downtown Prescott is a great place for small business shopping. Expect to find unique clothing, Native American jewelry, art, a pet emporium, decorative home goods and a number of antique stores.
The Sharlot Hall Museum is located two blocks behind the hotel and offers many items from Prescott's early days of mining. Expect to see items from the near by Fort Whipple, and artifacts from the Yavapai Apache. The first Arizona Territorial governor's home is also located on the property. The George Phippen Museum of cowboy art and the Smoki Museum is located a short car ride away.
The first Saturday of December every year is the annual Christmas Parade and the Courthouse lighting is that night. Prescott has earned the name, "Arizona's Christmas City. The Fourth of July parade takes place during the annual rodeo which features lots of horses but also a number of patriotic entries. During the summer months, the Courthouse square hosts a number of art shows, antique fairs and concerts.
The Palace bar next to the hotel is a trip back in time. The bar offers food in addition to spirits. There are a variety of restaurants within walking distance from the hotel.
The restored Elk's Theater offers entertainment most weekends.
Or, best of all in our busy world, just pick a place to people watch and relax.
Questions & Answers
Question: You wrote that Doc Holiday, Wyatt Earp, and Big Nose Kate stayed in the St.Michael but Doc Holiday died in 1887. Did he stay in the Burke Hotel prior to it's burning?
Answer: Yes, it would have had to have been named the Burke at the time. According to the biography Doc Holliday by Gary L Roberts, Doc and Kate traveled from Las Vegas to Prescott and moved into a hotel in 1879, pages 115 and 116, Roberts does not say it was the Burke. It would have been the logical hotel because Doc was known to gamble on Whiskey Row. The owners of the St Michael make the claim. For more information on the Burke now the St Michael, I'd check the records at Sharlot Hall Museum in Prescott.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on December 21, 2017:
I love staying in hotels that have history behind it. It is much more interesting.
mactavers (author) on November 28, 2017:
Yep Eric and Sharon. We were so lucky to grow up in Arizona!
Nadine Murphy on November 27, 2017:
Isn't that the hotel with the fabulous backbar and pictures of some of the happenings there?
Sharon Valentine on November 27, 2017:
You always make historic places come alive. Thanks for reminding me how much Prescott has to offer.
Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 27, 2017:
Dirty dogs. Human waste. No good SOBs. At least so we spoke of the Badgers. Prescott High got our Flag High wrath. We would blow into town with the sole purpose of crushing their town heroes. Mayhem on the field and fights off the field.
I loved those days.
The inns in later years were a great getaway. By 1970 they still held sway as canteens and saloons. A place where a bad man could blow off steam. You could fight in those days and only have to pay for damage.
Thanks for the reminder of how great it was to grow up Arizonan.