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Spirit of the Biltmore

In 1903, Theodore Roosevelt stood on the rim of the Grand Canyon and
spoke these words: “Here is your country. Do not let anyone take its
glory from you! Cherish these natural wonders, cherish its history and
romance as a sacred trust. The world and the future shall judge you
accordingly as you deal with this heritage.” Whether Arizonans have
followed Roosevelt’s advice will be determined by future generations

But Roosevelt’s words inspired three brothers to dream of the Arizona

Charles McArthur, Warren McArthur, Jr. and Albert McArthur dreamed
about and ultimately built a resort “where the great men and women of
the earth would come and rest and play, where these visitors could
live in luxury while they surveyed the unexcelled advantages of the
Salt River Valley, and where investors in a hotel could realize
satisfactory profits from their investments.

Charles and Warren McArthur came to Phoenix from the Midwest as
tourists, but stayed to develop. By 1909, they were dreaming about
building a luxury hotel at the base of what was then called Squaw
Peak. In 1917, they took an option on 160 acres of land at Seventh
Street and Thomas Road in Phoenix for a hotel. The business community
thought this was a ridiculous idea since it was so far outside of

Financing for the hotel fell through because of World War I. The
Phoenix Country Club had been promised 110 acres. The club, a part of
the development plan of the McArthurs, would build a golf course and a
clubhouse that could be used by guests of the hotel

Even though this hotel was never built, the brothers created the
Arizona Hotel Company to develop luxury hotels across Arizona. In a
few years they convinced their brother, Albert Chance McArthur, to
come to Phoenix. Albert was an architect who studied under Frank Lloyd
Wright for a short time

Charles McArthur was the financial guru of the family. In 1924, he
finally got someone interested in their vision for what was called
‘Uncle Sam’s Sun Parlor” or “The Gold Spot of America.” Executives of
the Biltmore Hotel system became interested in the McArthur, project
for Phoenix. The Biltmore Hotel Company already ran 17 luxury hotels
throughout the United States and Cuba. They decided the vision of the
McArthur brothers could become number 18

The brothers acquired 621 acres near 24th Street and Camelback Road

At the time, this location was very remote to Phoenix. It was more
than eight miles from downtown Phoenix. A report stated: “Motorists
driving to the new Arizona Biltmore can drive north on Central Avenue
or Seventh Street to Camelback Road; east on Camelback Road to the end
of the pavement at which point a new surfaced highway has been
constructed leading directly to the Biltmore grounds.

The hotel was built in six months of hectic construction. The
construction went 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Decorative
Textile-Blocks were used because they were the cheapest to manufacture
and could be made quickly with aluminum dies. More than 250,000 blocks
were used in the construction

The McArthurs mistakenly believed that Frank Lloyd Wright had a patent
on the Textile-Block that he had invented. So, they paid him $10,000
for the idea and Wright came to Phoenix to give the builder
instruction on the manufacturing technique. It was reported Wright
also gave architect Albert Chase McArthur “the benefit of his
criticism.” From the news reports of time, it did not appear the
McArthurs implemented these “criticisms.

At the opening of the Arizona Biltmore in early 1929, Albert Chase
McArthur commented that “a new organism has grown out of the desert.a
building amid the cactus, palo verde, mesquite and other highly
conventionalized plant forms. No man could have accomplished this

Truly, the Arizona Biltmore hotel is an offspring of the desert. It
belongs there, as much as the plant cactus. If I have played the mid-
wife in bringing this child into the world, I am content.

A three-day gala was held to celebrate the opening of the Biltmore

The $2.5 million ($30 million when adjusted for inflation) resort was
supposed to be open on a yearly basis between Oct. 15 and May 1. Until
the 1970s, the Arizona Biltmore was closed during the summer

The McArthurs’ triumph was short lived. The stock market crash in
October 1929 resulted in the founding family losing the Arizona
Biltmore. William Wrigley of Wrigley gum assumed the ownership of the
hotel. The McArthurs left the state and their dream behind

- Mike Miller. Photo courtesy of Arizona State Library,
Archives and Public Records, History and Archives Division, Phoenix, #

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