David Schwartz

EDITOR'S NOTE: Just after this story was published, the Gadsden Hotel's owners announced temporary closures and major staffing changes. For the most up-to-date information about lodging and amenities, visit the hotel's website.

When Tanya Duarte describes the historic Gadsden Hotel to first-time visitors, she compares it to a geode. "You look at the outside of the building, and you see a pretty generic 'rock' of a building," says Duarte, the hotel's manager. "It doesn't really stand out. Then you bust it open, walk in and it's this gorgeous gem inside."

Now, the grande dame of Douglas, a storied spot where cattle and copper barons once held court and ghosts reportedly still haunt, is getting a sparkling face-lift. Fueled by new ownership, the Gadsden Hotel has launched a major renovation to recapture the past and provide for a healthy, long-lived future. There are guest rooms to be rebuilt with an eye toward those seeking short-term lodging. Old electrical wiring will be replaced and new plumbing installed throughout.

“The structure is beyond sound — we have strong bones,” says Duarte, who’s in her second stint at the hotel. “If all goes according to plan, I can easily see this place lasting another 100 years-plus.”

Opened in 1907, the Gadsden was badly damaged in a 1928 fire that claimed all but the Italian marble from the lobby staircase and columns. It reopened in 1929 on a grander scale, with features that remain today. The sweeping marble staircase — rumored to have been climbed by Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa atop a horse — still dominates. The 1928 Otis elevators continue to tote guests. Vintage furnishings are ever-present.

And the Tiffany-style, 42-foot-long stained-glass mural brightly depicts a desert landscape studded with saguaros, ocotillos and prickly pears. Duarte says the mural, in a sense, kicked off the renovation thanks to an unexpected gift from Naomi Baker, great-granddaughter of its creator, Ralph Baker. Still in the glass business, she sent a contractor to meticulously clean and repair the old mural — free of charge.

The hotel, acquired by three Seattle investors in November 2022, currently has 22 rooms available on the second floor, plus a restaurant and bar. A museum and other retail shops also are open.

The Gadsden, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, has seen its share of celebrities over the years, including John Wayne, Amelia Earhart and Eleanor Roosevelt — not to mention a few special guests said to roam the hallways. Duarte says the hotel isn’t marketed as being haunted, but she readily admits spirits do exist, including a well-known impish little boy.

“We do have lots of special energies here, and we don’t want to antagonize them,” she says. Once, she stood on the mezzanine, soaking in the last day of her first stint at the Gadsden, and heard, “You did a good job.” When she whirled around, no one was there.

Asked if the imp would approve of the remodel, Duarte says, “I am hopeful.”

Business Information

The Gadsden Hotel
1046 G Avenue
Douglas, AZ
United States