Across the plaza from Civic Space Park (where guitarist Stan Sorenson and I played a noontime concert today) stands one of the most interesting and historic buildings in downtown Phoenix: the Westward Ho.
Upon its grand opening in 1928, the neo-Renaissance Westward Ho was the tallest structure in the area (16 stories!) and one of the most elegant hotels in the west, with vaulted ceilings, stained glass windows and beautiful tiled floors.
Over the years, the hotel accumulated its share of fame.
Jack Benny broadcast radio shows from the Westward Ho during World War II.
Elizabeth Taylor kept a suite at the hotel and dined in its restaurant, Top of the Ho.
Paul Newman filmed a scene for the 1972 movie Pocket Money there.
Robert Wagner married Natalie Wood on the hotel patio.
Marilyn Monroe filmed the parade scene in Bus Stop (1956) on Central Avenue in front of the Westward Ho and is said to have gone for a moonlight swim (without a suit!) in the hotel pool.
Some of the Ho's other famous guests include John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King Jr., Roy Rogers, Jackie Gleason, Myrna Loy, Amelia Earhart, Esther Williams, Danny Thomas, Gary Cooper, Lucille Ball, Clark Gable, Henry Fonda, Bob Hope, Liberace, Lee Marvin, Tyrone Power, Eleanor Roosevelt, Shirley Temple, Al Capone, Spencer Tracy and John Wayne.
Contrary to popular belief, the Westward Ho does not appear in the opening sequence of the 1960 Alfred Hitchcock film Psycho, but is featured in the 1998 Gus Van Sant remake.
A 280-foot television broadcast antenna, added to the hotel's rooftop in 1949, is now used as a cell phone tower.
In 1980, after 52 years, the Westward Ho hotel closed for business and was converted to subsidized housing for the elderly and mobility impaired.
The building is now recognized on the National Register of Historic Places.