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Did You Know: San Carlos Hotel Was Hot Spot For Hollywood Stars

By Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez
Published: Friday, October 9, 2015 - 5:27pm
Updated: Tuesday, October 13, 2015 - 11:44am
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(Mark Brodie/ KJZZ News)
The historic Hotel San Carlos.

It lured top names in the entertainment industry. Grand, upscale and elegant, this famous Phoenix landmark was a true destination for the elite.

Today, the San Carlos Hotel is a little older, but still graces the downtown cityscape with charm and stature.

The San Carlos Hotel was among the few places to stay in downtown Phoenix. During the 1920s it was considered a luxury hotel. Did you know the San Carlos is one of the remaining historic buildings in the area?

“1927… it was constructed by Dwight Heard, and he wanted the most expensive hotel in the whole Valley, so he charged a dollar more. And he gave running ice water in every room and air cooled environment here. So he charged a dollar more, like $3.50 a night,” said Robert Melikian, a member of the family who owns the historical property.

“The most important thing to Mr. Heard was fireproof. He was across the street, his office was, when the Adams burned down in 1910. So, he knew the value of having a fireproof building. So he made this one. It’s a poured concrete, re-enforced concrete building," he said.

Where the San Carlos stands now was actually the site of the first school ever built in Phoenix in the 1870s. It was demolished in 1919. When the San Carlos opened about 10 years later it was a seven floor building with two elevators. Each of its 144 rooms had circulating cold air and steam heat. Each even had its own bathroom. The building was designed in the Italian Renaissance style with marble flooring in the lobby.

“He catered to movie stars right from the beginning. Because 1929 the Orpheum opens and Mae West comes here and tells Clark Gable who was an unknown actor at the time, that there was a pretty nice place around the corner that you could walk and be anonymous,” Melikian said.

Mae West, Humphry Bogart, Carole Lombard, Spencer Tracy and big band performer Les Brown were just a few of the celebrities who stayed here. Some of the rooms are marked by the stars' names.

“This is where Clark Gable would stay. And he’d watch right here. He’d have his food delivered to the room and he’d sit at the window on his bed and just watch people outside,” he said.

In the 1950s a small wing and a swimming pool were added to the San Carlos. And around that time Marilyn Monroe became a guest.

Her room on the third floor is the one closest to the swimming pool.

“She liked to swim at all hours of the night,” he said.

The pool is named after her.

The San Carlos still has most of its original decor and design. Even the 100-foot well that was dug for the school is still in the basement.

A full list of the Hollywood names who stayed here are displayed on gold stars on the sidewalk outside.

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