There is a small building on the corner of Madison and Central Avenue in Downtown Phoenix.
It’s boarded up windows, and faded brick and mortar blend so well with the dusty background of the forgotten warehouses and vacant lots. It’s so small, you might miss it if you weren’t really paying any attention.
A two-storied red brick building with a warped and faded wooden rooftop. The only way you would know it was a hotel, is from the black and white sign in the center of if that reads, “HOTEL”.
Forgotten over time and dwarfed by the home of the Phoenix Suns and downtown high-rises, this little building stands as a boarded up faded memory of desert travelers and dreams past.
With no one to cross its threshold wearily while carrying leather bags across the country slowly and dustily, the once welcoming lobby is hidden from the world outside its plywood and gated front door.
Once, the temporary home of a newly wed couple on their way to Los Angeles. They married in Philadelphia. He, the son of a market owner. She, the daughter of a lawyer. Their love was strong and deep the moment they met. But she was to be wed to her fathers partner and become a socialite. Married to champagne and fake smiles while her husband-to-be argued for the benefit of corporations and the elite. Then she met the market owner’s son. Strikingly handsome, with a head full of coal black hair and smile that lit the flame in her heart, he was destiny personified. He fell for her, she for him. But they were not planned for each other. So they ran. With love and dreams of a life together, they took the train West and married while stopped in Dallas before riding the train to Phoenix and the little brick hotel on Madison and Central. They didn’t even plan to stay in Phoenix. But the train had mechanical trouble and everyone was given the choice to wait, or get off until it was fixed. They got off and entered the lobby of the Hotel St. James as Husband and Wife. Three days later, she left as a widow.
The small hotel stands still. Against the Arizona elements and Time, it stands. It’s a memory you can touch and imagine the past guests it once welcomed. Like I imagined the couple.
Maybe some day, it will fall or be torn down to make way for new memories and progress. For now though, I see it and smile and remember.