It is sometimes funny how a process that sets you off in one direction winds up sending you down a completely unanticipated path.
Here in Special Collections and Archives, Cline Library at Northern Arizona University, we are currently reappraising J. Lawrence Walkup’s Presidential Papers (circa 1957-1979). The collection is huge–over 100 boxes’ worth of textual material–and we’re plodding though it box by box to make better access points for researchers, as it is a heavily used record group within University Archives. As we progress in our project, we are learning new details about Walkup’s tenure as president! Below is a case in point.
There I was, in Series 4 (Files, 1959-1960), Box 5. I came across two fat folders titled “Stroud Hall.” I have been around NAU a day or two, and yet I really couldn’t place a building with that name anywhere on campus. A veritable yawning rabbit hole opened at my feet.
In these folders was correspondence between Dr. Walkup and one L.L. Stroud, the owner of Flagstaff’s Park Plaza Motel in 1959. The correspondence revealed an evolving plan for short-term housing of NAU students at a point when the Arizona State College (ASC) Flagstaff was growing like crazy. The college’s enrollment broke 1,000(!) for the first time in 1956. Dorm space was in critically short supply. What Stroud and Walkup discussed was a plan to use Stroud’s motel as a dormitory for female students. (Some male students were already bunking across the street in the Flamingo Motel for $1 per man per night.)
Stroud proposed a sort of a joint venture, wherein Stroud would build a dual-purpose dormitory and motel expansion for the motel that ASC could lease during the semesters and that could serve the motel’s business at other times. There were to be 50 rooms for 200 women, plus a space for a “House Mother,” or a more senior woman who would act as a sort of RA for the younger female students. Amongst the correspondence, I found building plans, negotiations about rental agreements (38 weeks for two years with future options), and more.
Looking at the architects’ rendering, the building looks familiar, although not quite exactly like the actual structure you see on campus today.
The Park Plaza Motel lay on the east side of Route 66, north of the intersection of West Route 66 and S. Milton Road (Highway 89). The motel was visible from the Gammage Building where Walkup maintained his office. The restaurant adjacent to the motel was the Golden Drumstick, the forerunner to the Gables, which in turn was the forerunner to the now-defunct Mandarin Buffet.
Fast forward to the 1960s, and the Park Plaza Motel was sold to a new owner. Ultimately, most of it was torn down to become parking for the expanding restaurant. But the dormitory/motel addition remained. We know it today as Roseberry Hall, named for former ASC faculty member Minnie Roseberry. The Park Plaza Motel further gains a little notoriety as it was listed in Victor H. Green’s Travelers’ Green Book: 1963-1964 International Edition, a serial publication formerly known as the Negro Traveler’s Green Book
This means that the Roseberry dormitory is a part of one of three known surviving “Green Book” locations in Flagstaff on different alignments of Route 66 that served Black travelers in Flagstaff (the other two remaining are the DuBeau, and the Downtowner Hostel.) Other now-defunct “Green Book” and other Black traveler directory motels in Flagstaff include the Flamingo Motel, the El Rancho Motel, the Vandevier Motel, and a former rooming house on South San Francisco Street.
Future boxes of the Walkup Presidential Papers may reveal more about how ASC dealt with its growing student body, the fate of the Park Plaza Motel, and the evolution of the Roseberry dorm. Watch this space…