The Breakfast Club
An Affiliate of The Arizona Pilot's Assn.


The Knife & Fork

Breakfast Club Visits Douglas/Gadsden Hotel

9 Dec 06
by Warren McIlvoy

To wrap-up the year's slate of fly-ins, the Breakfast Club made an encore visit to Douglas, Arizona and the Gadsden Hotel. Just two year's ago and also in December, the Breakfast Club did pretty much the same trip but, only this time, we found the Gadsden Hotel dressed-up in all it's holiday adornments.

Our route to Douglas was mostly the same as our trip to Benson with the exception that when we reached San Manuel, we took a more southeasterly course. The first portion of the trip from Grine intersection, took us over the mining towns of Superior, and Kearny and then over San Manuel. We passed to the east of the mountains flanking Tucson and a little bit later, the Dragoon Mountains. Our course paralleled this north/south mountain ridge and the Sulphur Springs Valley until we flew over the small town of Gleeson. Just south of San Manuel, there was a layer of clouds that, depending on your route, that varied from about 7500 to about 8000' that required a slight deviation in the altitude for a couple of folks. From the conversation on our group flight following frequency, I had determined that we were about in the middle of the
Breakfast Club gaggle.

The light, southerly winds at Douglas favored runway 21 so I made a mid field crossover for a left downwind entry into the pattern. Parking on the Douglas ramp was beginning to get scarce but there was just enough for the
Breakfast Club gang. The hotel van had departed with the first wave of starving aviators so I had a few minutes to get some photos of several of the Breakfast Club aircraft. After about 15-minutes, the van returned to take the rest of the group to the hotel and a rendezvous with the rest of our group.

At this point, let me relate a snippet of history of Douglas, Arizona and the Gadsden Hotel


"In the 1800's, the area surrounding Douglas attracted prospectors and cattleman. John Slaughter (Confederate soldier, Texas Ranger and Sheriff of Cochise County), developed one of the most famous cattle ranches in the Southwest. But Douglas came into its own with the discovery of copper in nearby Bisbee.

In 1870, Tucson was the nearest shipping point for ore from Bisbee, which was then sent overseas to Wales for reduction. When Benson and Fairbank became rail centers, wagons hauled freight for the mines, with copper ore as a return load. The copper business was booming, and Bisbee's first smelter was soon overloaded. Both the Phelps Dodge corporation and the Calumet and Arizona Copper company started new smelters on Whitewater Draw near Douglas.

The townsite of Douglas was named for the president of the Phelps Dodge Corporation, and was established in August 1900. Shortly after, the El Paso & Southwestern Railroad was built into Douglas. The new town expanded rapidly. The Copper Queen Library, built before 1904, served as a combined library-reading room and dance hall.

Over half of Arizona's copper production was being processed in Douglas smelters at the beginning of World War I, with monthly payrolls exceeding a half million dollars. The town of Agua Prieta, just across the border, flourished on the export of copper ore from the rich Mexican districts of Nacozari and El Tigre".


The Gadsden Hotel

"In 1907, Pancho Villa and Wyatt Earp were still slinging guns, Arizona still had not become a state, and the Gadsden Hotel first opened her doors to the West, providing gracious hospitality to all who passed through. Named for the famous Gadsden Purchase, the hotel became the second home for cattleman, mimers, ranchers, travelers and businessmen in the newly settling territory. Over the years, dignitaries and celebrities were added to her roster; Among them, the stars of "The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean", and several other feature-length Hollywood movies actually filmed in the hotel lobby.

So much history was made within the walls of this prestigious five story, 150-room structure that in 1976, The Gadsden Hotel was proclaimed a National Historic Monument by the National Register of Historic Places.

The Gadsden is a hotel unlike any you'll find elsewhere. Besides a colorful and legendary past, perhaps most splendid is her architecture. The spacious main lobby is beautifully set with a solid white Italian marble staircase and four soaring columns. Each capital is decorated in 14K gold leaf worth $20,000 in 1929. The building is constructed of structural steel and reinforced concrete. The finest materials and fixtures available were used, even the plumbing is installed with all copper pipes throughout.

An authentic Tiffany stained glass mural extends forty-two feet across one wall of the massive mezzanine. An impressive oil painting by Audley Jean Nichols is just below the window. Vaulted stained glass skylights run the full length of the lobby"


Upon entering the hotel from the north entryway, we came into the main, grand lobby that was festooned with Christmas decorations. Most of the north portion was dominated by a huge decorated Christmas tree that extended well into the mezzanine level. The Italian marble columns were adorned with large red bows. There were rows of chars arranged opposite the grand staircase that would later accommodate a wedding. In the southeast corner, the El Conquistador Restaurant had set-up tables for the Breakfast Club group. The whole set-up including the spacious, eloquently decorated lobby and the holiday mystique, contributed to a very pleasant setting. The only "downer" was the very slow service. As best I could tell, we only had two people serving 21 people.

After breakfast, several people from the Breakfast Club group elected to wander around the lobby and mezzanine level to take-in the elegance of the Gadsden Hotel. I choose to take advantage of this opportunity to get some photos from the higher vantage point of the mezzanine level. The subdued lighting in the lobby below required bracing the camera against a steady column in order to accommodate a slower shutter speed. My small group caught the second van ride to the airport for our return trip. I needed to buy fuel but the airport office was closed so I had to call their "after hours" number to get someone out to unlock the fuel pump. When I called the office earlier in the week to let them know that there would be some folks that would buy fuel, they did not tell me that they would be closed.

The Douglas Gang

  • Warren & Jeri-Ann McIlvoy in 93MB, BC-1& 1.5
  • Ken Calman in 320ME, BC-6
  • John & Pat Rynearson in 3501S
  • Trent Heidtke in 703CD, BC-112
  • Austin Goodwin and Glen Yoder in 4351X, BC-317 & BC-007
  • George Wilen in 5734B, BC-34
  • Nate D'Anna in 12VG
  • Larry Berger in 7077V, BC-66
  • Richard Azimov and Robin Novak in 6864Q, BC-2
  • Allan & Patricia Wallace in 1628W, BC-39
  • Jerry & Nancy Grout and Terry & Lynne Confer in 1129T
  • Lance Thomas & Stephanie Wolff in 3180R, BC-80

What's Next?

To kick-off the
Breakfast Club's 14th year of fly-in festivities, we will be returning to our roots at Marana Regional Airport (AVQ) then call Avra Valley. In February, we will be going to Laughlin (IFP) but at this time, we have not decided on which hotel to visit. That's all for now but remember, fly safe.

Click on the Douglas/Gadsden Hotel link to view photos of this fly-in event.