We visited Yuma for the second time, this time to attend Yuma Lettuce Days. We had already crossed a lot of the things to do in Yuma off our list when we explored Yuma’s historic districts, but one thing we hadn’t done on our first visit to Yuma was visit the Sanguinetti House Museum, so we decided to add that to our itinerary. Through our visit to the museum, a historic walking tour offered by the museum, and our stay at the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel, we learned more about the great job the city of Yuma has done in preserving many of its historic sites.
E. F. Sanguinetti was called the “merchant prince of Yuma.” He was of Italian descent and born in California. He was the consummate gentleman, always wearing three-piece suits and top hats even though he lived in the middle of the desert. When Sanguinetti came to Yuma, he immediately saw the needs of Yuma and created businesses to fill those needs. He quickly gained wealth and influence. He brought stores to Yuma and invented the “cash and carry” system of walking through a store, picking the things you want off the shelves, purchasing them at the cash register, and carrying them home. Previously Yuma residents would go to a store, order from a catalog, and wait for their purchases to be delivered, possibly months later.
The original adobe home was built on Madison Avenue in the 1870s. Sanguinetti purchased the two-room house with lean-to kitchen in 1890. The original house had dirt floors and a reed and mud room with muslin draped under the ceiling to catch any pieces or parts that fell from the roof. Sanguinetti married and added on to the home, one room at a time, as his family grew.
A tour of the Sanguinetti home has two parts. One visits the original portion of the adobe home which is where the Sanguinetti’s dined. Sanguinetti held many dinner parties in his home and dined with businessmen, serving nice meals on fancy china. Each dinner ended with Manhattans. The other part of the tour visits the newer portions of the home and features the history and stories of Yuma.
We joined one of the Sanguinetti House Museum’s Historic Downtown Yuma Walking Tours led by Steve Cook. Tours start and end at the museum. The museum is located in Yuma’s Brinley Historic District, so named because Madison Avenue used to be Brinley Street. This area of town used to be filled with adobe homes. Just two doors up from the museum is the oldest adobe home in Yuma, which was built in 1899. Only a few of Yuma’s adobe homes still exist because all the adobes near Main Street washed away when the Colorado River flooded the town. Adobes like the Sanguinetti house survived because they are on slightly higher ground.
We learned on our walking tour that Yuma has 54 properties and places that are on the National Register of Historic Places, like the San Carlos Hotel. The San Carlos Hotel used to be popular with the Hollywood type and it was also a honeymoon hotel as weddings were big business in Yuma. Military troops were trained in Yuma for World War II. After fighting they returned to Yuma. Yuma was very conservative and a couple couldn’t register in a hotel unless they were married. Luckily for anxious couples, Yuma didn’t require a blood test or a waiting time period, and there were a number of wedding chapels. On the corner of Madison and 1st Street is one of these remaining chapels, the Golden Wedding Bell Marriage Chapel, which operated 1940 to 1946. The building was originally Yuma’s first pharmacy from 1891 to 1914 and then in the 1920s was a Chinese laundry and opium den.
We learned about how goods came to Yuma in the past. They were first brought by steamboat to the Quartermaster’s Depot. Then the train came to town. The original trains that came to Yuma were steam trains which used 100 gallons to travel one mile. The Colorado River provided a lot of water, but that water had a lot of silt in it. Settling tanks were built to clean the water for the steam trains and for drinking water. Before the settling tanks was the Blaisdell Slow Sand Filter Washing Machine, which did the same thing and is now on the National Register of Historic Places. The water washing machine was invented by Hiram Blaisdell to filter sand from the river to deliver drinking water to homes.
Another of Yuma’s landmarks on the National Register of Historic Places is the Ocean-to Ocean Bridge. The bridge was completed in 1915 and was the first vehicular bridge over the Colorado River for over a thousand miles. It also made it easier for people to travel to San Diego for the Panama-California Exposition. During the Dust Bowl armed guards made migrators prove they had enough money before crossing the bridge. Some who couldn’t cross took up residence at the Yuma Territorial Prison.
During our walking tour we saw the St. Thomas Indian Mission across the river. We decided to walk across the Ocean-to-Ocean Bridge to get a closer view of the mission. Technically, this mission is not in Yuma, or even Arizona. It is in Winterhaven, California. However, this border did not exist when the original La Purisima Concepcion Mission was built in 1780. The mission was destroyed only one year later during an Indian massacre which killed both Fathers. The present church was built in 1922 on the site of the original mission.
Another of Yuma’s preserved historic sites is the Historic Coronado Motor Hotel, which also happened to be the hotel at which we stayed for our weekend getaway to Yuma. The hotel was first built in 1938 and had 14 rooms. It was the first connected hotel in Arizona and was the oldest Best Western still in existence (68 years) until it recently became an independent property.
The Historic Coronado Motor Hotel was, and still is, owned by the Peach family. John Peach’s parents came to the United States from Czechoslovakia through Ellis Island. His father John Peach was a tailor, and it was suggested to him to come out to Yuma as there were no tailors in Yuma. While John Peach ran a tailor shop, Marie Peach managed a hotel for room and free board. In 1938, they built the Peach Auto Court in what was at the time the outskirts of Yuma.
The Casa de Coronado Museum is a museum in the building that used to function as the home of the Peach family and the original lobby of the hotel. If you ask in advance, Yvonne Peach will provide a tour of the museum. The museum is filled with so much Yuma memorabilia, like items from when Bob Hope would come to town and perform at the USO, as well as the Peach family’s furniture, appliances, and photos.
We loved staying in this hotel with so much Yuma history. It’s an old-style hotel but the rooms have been renovated. When you first check in you’ll be greeted with the special touch of a towel animal on your bed. The bed was comfortable and the bathroom felt more like a home bathroom than a hotel. The hotel is in close proximity to Yuma’s historic downtown, which means you can buy a bottle of Yuma wine at Yuma’s Main Squeeze and bring it back to enjoy in the room over the weekend.
Guests of the hotel have breakfast included, which is served at the Yuma Landing Bar & Grill. Some more of the Peach family’s Yuma memorabilia can be found in the restaurant. The restaurant is called Yuma Landing because it is on the site of the place the first person to land an airplane in Arizona under its own power touched down. A monument to Robert Grant Fowler is outside.
For a town that people usually only drive through or use as a quick rest stop, Yuma has a surprising amount of history and things to do and see.
Thank you to Visit Yuma for hosting our weekend in Yuma, Arizona and making this post possible. As always, all opinions are my own.