Avenue Hotel brings back 20th century nostalgia
By Sam Conn
Douglas, Ariz. — The adobe side of the Avenue Hotel was built in 1901 with the brick side coming along in 1915. Over the years, the old hotel has had very few owners. It has been closed for the past 35 years. It has also been reported to be one of the most haunted hotels in Arizona.
File comment: The Avenue Hotel was first class in its day with running water and steam heated rooms. A night in the hotel would cost you a buck.( All photos by Sam Conn)
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A year ago, Henry and Robin Brekhus bought the Avenue Hotel. The pair have owned and operated the Gadsden Hotel in Douglas for 20 years. "I have always liked it and I wanted it," said Robin. "I thought of opening it as a bed and breakfast."
The hotel was closed by then owner, Rose Bruno, in 1973. She bought the hotel sometime in the 1920s. She lived alone in the hotel until her death in 1986. The Brekhus family bought the hotel from her trust.
The hotel looks like it came right out of an old Hollywood western movie. "My favorite thing is its integrity," Robin said. "It's like a museum. It's so pristine ... it really is like walking back in time."
Mable McGee is the Avenue's most seen and heard ghost. "She was working here in 1905 when she died," Robin said.
Mabel was born in 1887 and had a romance with a Mexican bullfighter, named Alfonso Armenta, at the tender age of 13.
She married him and he deserted her shortly after their marriage.
On Oct. 29, 1902, Mable gave birth to a son, Herbert Lee Caviness, whom she called "Herbie." There is no record of a marriage but on the birth certificate, the father is listed as Henry Caviness.
As the story goes, toward the end of Mable's life, her sweetheart was a fellow named Frank Farrel. She was never legally married to Farrel but used his name.
In December of 1904, poor Mable found herself deserted again. Mable took a job at the Avenue Hotel.
Mable died in the Avenue Hotel on March, 14 1905. A newspaper reported that Mable committed suicide by overdosing on morphine. That conclusion came about because unfinished notes were reported to be found in her room. Others believed she was murdered. "He (Farrel) came to town and threatened to kill her," Robin said. So, even today, people wonder if Mable killed herself out of depression or if she was murdered.
No one seems to know were Mable is buried or what happened to Herbie. "Deserted by the men she loved twice, a 2-year-old son and dead at 18 ... how sad is that," Robin said.
Since Mable's death, strange things are reported to happen at the old hotel. "MVD Ghostchasers said they heard voices," she said. "They had some weird things happen to them."
The team spent the night in the hotel recently. Their report says that with about six people in a room, they asked Mable questions and voices did appear to come through on the sound-monitoring equipment. One member of the group complained of a strong taste of blood in his mouth although on inspection, there was none to be found.
Other people who have stayed in the hotel since it has been closed have called the police more than once because they believed an intruder was in the building. "The police come and they have heard it too," Robin said. "Slamming doors and footsteps ... they never find anyone." Other times things just seem to disappear. "You lay your keys down and they are gone," she said. "Then they turn up in another part of the hotel."
For now, Robin rents the hotel to large groups for family reunions and weekend business retreats. So far, Mable doesn't seem to mind he company and enjoys fiddling with guests personal belongings. A few folks have been a little spooked at the hotel's hair-raising happenings.
For more information, call the Gadsden Hotel at (520) 364-4481 or http://www.hotelgadsden.com
File comment: The bar in the Avenue Hotel reflects the splendor of the beginning of the 19th century.
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File comment: The ghostly barber shop in the Avenue Hotel is as it was more than a hundred years ago.
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File comment: The rooms in the Avenue Hotel do not have an indoor outhouse as the Gadsden Hotel rooms do. Even so, they have a charm all their own.
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File comment: The service at the Avenue Hotel was billed as "The Best in the Southwest" and you could enjoy a drink while you waited for your room.
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