Friday, August 5, 2016

History of the Parry Lodge


History of the Parry Lodge

 

Within a few months of entering the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young, leader of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS or Mormon Church) had sent groups of settlers to explore southern Utah. The Mormons had three reasons for settling southern Utah: 1) to set up a series of settlement outposts on route to California and Arizona; 2) to find areas suitable for grazing and agriculture; and 3) to perform missionary work among Utah's Native American tribes. Due to confrontations with the native Paiutes, several attempts to settle the Kanab area in the 1860s failed. In the spring of 1869, an abandoned fort was reoccupied. Brigham Young visited the fort in April 1870 and established an LDS ward. In September of 1870, the townsite of Kanab was surveyed. Each family received at least one lot on which to build a house, barn and outbuildings. Lots 1 & 2 of Block 22, where the Parry Lodge is now located, were first deeded to Jacob Hamblin, then Mandana Johnson in 1886. Mandana Rebecca Merrill Johnson (1838-1921) and her husband Nephi Johnson (1833-1919) were early settlers of Kanab.

 

In December 1891, the Johnson's third son, Justin Merrill Johnson (1862-1955), was married to Emma Jane Fuller (1872-1938). The following year, Mandana Johnson deeded Lot 1 to the couple. A 1½-story frame house was built at the south end of the property in 1892. Justin and Emma Johnson had five daughters. Justin Johnson's first job (at the age of fourteen) was as a mail carrier between Kanab and Panguitch. He later made his living raising cattle and sheep, and farming. Johnson probably built the large barn behind his property. It was later used by the Findlay family who lived in the bungalow at the northeast corner of the block. Gideon Wilson Findlay (1886-1949) and his wife, Mandana (Dana) Farnsworth (1885-1967), a niece of the Johnsons, were married in September 1911. They were living on the corner of Block 22 by the 1920 census. The bungalow was probably built around 1919. Gideon and Dana raised six daughters in the home. Gideon was a farmer for most of his life.

 

During this period, Kanab was transforming from an agricultural outpost to a burgeoning township. By 1884 Kanab was incorporated and had been designated the county seat of Kane County. The population grew from 409 in 1890 to 710 in 1900. The economy of Kanab was based on farming and ranching, primarily ranching because water was a scarce commodity. The inhabitants of the town could not raise enough food to meet their needs, and the arrival of freight wagons and stages with staples from communities to the north was an almost daily occurrence. Two hotels were operating during this period: the Highway Hotel, converted from a general mercantile building (demolished), and the Cole Hotel run by Eleanor McAllister (originally the William D. Johnson House, listed on the National Register in 2000). Many of the private homes also tended to the needs of frequent visitors to Kanab.

 

Kanab has been described as the "most inaccessible place in the United States."1 Telegraph lines reached Kanab in 1871, and the telephone in the 1890s; however, the nearest railroad stop was 132 miles to the north at Marysvale (reached by the Denver & Rio Grande in 1900). On June 29, 1909, two automobiles stopped in Kanab as part of a promotional tour from Salt Lake City to the Grand Canyon, a remarkable feat considering the condition of existing roads and the fact gasoline was not readily available south of Provo, 250 miles north. The trip was under the direction of Kanab resident E.D. Woolley, who spent the next decade campaigning tirelessly to build automobile roads to Kanab and the scenic wonders in the vicinity.

 

In the 1910s and 1920s, a growing number of Kanab residents began promoting the community's amenities and its proximity to the recently established national parks: Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon, and Zion's. The Parry brothers were among the most significant contributors to this effort with their multiple business ventures in providing services to tourism in the area.

 

The Parry brothers were born in Salt Lake City to Gronway and Laura Althea Gardner Parry. Gronway Robert Parry was born on February 22, 1886, Chauncey Gardner Parry was born on January 31, 1896, and Caleb Whitney Parry was born on March 13, 1904. The family also included five sisters.

 

In 1915, the Parry brothers, Gronway and Chauncey, purchased the Cedars Hotel and started a transportation company that shuttled passengers from the Los Angeles & Salt Lake Railroad to St. George, Utah. While studying at the University of Utah, Chauncey spent a summer on a survey team in southern Utah. The young man was impressed with the scenery and in 1917 with his brother, Gronway started the National Park Transportation and Camping Company to be concessioners for lodging and transportation to Zion Monument. Working with William W. Wylie, the brothers set up tent camps in Zion and used touring cars and open-air buses to transport tourists. At one point business was so good they enlisted their thirteen-year-old brother Whit to drive a bus.

 

Taking a brief hiatus during World War I, Gronway and Chauncey joined the Army Air Service. Gronway was soon mustered out because of the effects of a bad dose of smallpox vaccine but Chaucey received flight training. After returning from the service, Chauncey re-established the company in 1920 as the Utah-Grand Canyon Transportation Company and expanded services to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. Wylie, in debt, left the company and Chauncey invited his brother Gronway to join the company. For the next two decades the Parry brothers would be involved in several efforts to improve the roads to the canyons and other scenic wonders, including a road carved through the hills to the Coral Pink Sand Dunes near Kanab.2

 

In the second decade of the twentieth century, the population of Kanab saw its largest increase from 733 to 1,102, much of the increase directly tied to the increase in tourist related industries. Roads were improved dramatically and the road that would eventually become part of Highway 89 (the main north-south thoroughfare in the state of Utah at the time) was paved by 1921. Most of Kanab's Center Street was on Highway 89 and the street became the city's commercial district. In 1922, a new era for Kanab began when a Hollywood film crew stayed in town during the filming of Deadwood Coach, a western starring Tom Mix and his Wonder Horse. Because the Parry brothers were in the business of taking tourists by bus to the national parks, they had the necessary resources to transport the film people and their equipment. This was the beginning of their involvement with the movie industry. Kanab's association with the movie industry resulted in the town's nickname, "Little Hollywood."

 

In 1924 younger brother Whit became a partner in the transportation corporation. In 1925. the Parry brothers, under the name Hiway Tourist Park & Co., purchased a home at 86 South 200 West in Kanab, which they renovated and named the Parry Cafeteria. During the height of the tourist season, busloads of visitors would stop there for a good meal and rest stop between visits to Zion's and the Grand Canyon. By the mid-1920s, the Union Pacific Railroad was interested in establishing its own tourism franchise in the area. Due to increasing competition from the Railroad and other transportation companies, the Parrys reluctantly sold the transportation company and cafeteria facility to the railroad in 1927. This house is currently Jake’s Chaparral restaurant.

 

Chauncey was retained by the Union Pacific as superintendent of the transportation company and subsequently designated as a special agent for the promotion of movies in Utah.3  Gronway also was retained as a superintendent and both continued their employment with Union Pacific for 17 years.

 

In December 1928, Chauncey Parry bought as an investment the Justin and Mandana Johnson farmhouse at the corner of Center Street and 100 East, a more prominent location than the cafeteria property. Within three years, Chauncey had remodeled and expanded the frame house with a café and a large kitchen in the rear, and built several cottage-type motel units. The local newspaper described the project as an "up-to date hotel with a large dining room [and] several modern two roomed cabins equipped with good beds and running water."4 The Parry Lodge opened in June 1931. At the time there were a few other hotels in Kanab. The Highway Hotel was still in business, but would remain so only for a short time. The Kanab Hotel and Café was an urban-type hotel built in 1929 as a commercial block on Center Street. The Hotel Alice, run by Alice B. Robinson in the 1920s and 1930s, was in her home at the south end of town, on the highway. The Kanab Auto Court, a group of cabins on Highway 89, was also built at the same time.5 The Parry Lodge, with its rows of cottages, is architecturally significant as the first modern motel court in the city.


According to an AAA pamphlet from that time, lodging at the Parry Lodge was provided in both cottages and guest rooms in the lodge. Nightly room rates ranged from $1.50 to $2.50 for a room without a private bath and $2.50 to $5.00 for a cottage with a private bath.


By the 1930s, tourism had become so important to Kanab's economy that the Kane County Standard newspaper began featuring prominent front-page banners that read "Kane County, Heart of the Scenic South" and "Kanab, Home of the Tourist and Gateway to the Grand Canyon, Route 89."6 The Parry Lodge did a brisk business during the tourist season, but the Parry brothers also used the motel to woo filmmakers to the area. Using his aviation experience gained in World War I and flying his own biplane, Chauncey Parry took aerial photographs of the scenery of Kane County and prepared a portfolio for his contacts in Hollywood. He promoted not only the scenery of the area, but the amenities provided by the Parry Lodge, which included catering, transportation, animals, local residents for extras, and craftsmen for set construction, in addition to lodging. For the most part, Chauncey was in charge of public relations and promotion. Gronway Parry handled transportation issues. He also recruited, trained and managed local residents for movie extras. Whit Parry and his sister Kartryn  managed the motel and restaurant, creating a "top-notch establishment fit to lodge movie stars."7


In1938, Chauncey acquired a parcel of land directly north and west of the original property to build additional cottages. Postcards from the era show the various changes that occurred to the cabins over this time period from standalone cabins to a row of cabins with a common roof and covered parking spaces to the present “Movie 1” and “Movie  2” facilities.

 

Unfortunately Chauncey Parry died in Cedar City on March 10, 1943, from injuries sustained in an automobile accident. His obituary stated "he has been directly responsible for bringing 35 moving picture companies from Hollywood to make films in this area." After Chauncey's death in 1943, Whit Parry took over the whole operation. He subsequently bought out his brother Gronway's interest in the company as well. Gronway Parry remained at his home in Cedar City and died there on May 2, 1969.

 

Whit Parry expanded the Parry Lodge property to a full half block when he bought the bungalow from Dana Findlay in 1944 and an old log cabin (constructed by George W. Adair in 1871) by quit deed from George Herber Robinson. After complaints from his movie star guests that there was no night life in Kanab, Whit refurbished the Adair log cabin at the back of the property with pool tables, a bar and slot machines for his movie star guests in 1945. The building, known as the “Black Cat” was closed to local residents. In 1951 the “Black Cat” burned in a fire caused by a discarded cigarette butt and was never rebuilt. In its place, the upstairs front room of the Lodge was designated the “Red Room” due to its red carpeting and used by Whit Parry as a bar and dining room. It had a dumb waiter (which still exists today) to bring food from the kitchen.

 

Whit could also be very accommodating for his special guests. The Parry Lodge was known for its garden-foundation area with a brick wall enclosure with flowers and trees surrounding a spraying water foundation where movie star guested liked to relax after a hot day of filming. In the early 1950’s, this area was replaced with a kidney-shaped swimming pool and patio at the request of guest John Wayne who wanted a “place to cool off.” When John Wayne offered to pay half the cost of constructing the pool, Whit Parry agreed. The pool and patio were filmed in 1956 in the movie “The Girl in Black Stockings” starring Mame Van Doren, Ann ?, Jeanne Carmen, and Lex Barker.

 

In another example of Whit’s desire to accommodate his movie star guest, he knocked-out walls in three adjoining Movie I units for Frank Sinatra because the star wanted a larger room during his stay while filming Sergeant's Three with his Rat Pack (and to provide more privacy for partying between the rooms). With its fleet of mobile kitchens, Parry Lodge could cater hot meals for several hundred crewmembers and extras on location in the desert near Kanab. Under Whit Parry's management, the Parry Lodge was voted "one of the 10 best roadside inns in the United States" in 1956. 17 The lodge was also featured in several national publications, including two Saturday Evening Post articles (in 1945 and 1949), and Life magazine (1968).

 

The impact of having such a tight relationship with the movie industry rewarded the Parry Lodge and the town of Kanab. With each film company leaving thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of dollars in the community, the effect on Kanab's economy was dramatic. Often a movie company would pack the Parry Lodge to capacity and other hotels and restaurants in the city would benefit from the overflow. In one case, according to the local newspaper, "Every evening a large crowd of employees gather at the cabins at the west entrance to the Parry lodge grounds, where a large pay roll is distributed. Business houses, hotels and auto camps are all doing thriving businesses. The company [the Columbia Film Company] is certainly spending a great deal of money here in making the films for their production."9 Among the movies filmed on location in Kanab were Drums Along the Mohawk, Stagecoach, Billy the Kid, My Friend Flicka, Buffalo Bill, Pony Express and In Old Oklahoma (the first outdoor talkie).


Each spring when a film crew arrived at the Parry Lodge, the residents of Kanab were somewhat star-struck. Rosalie Hatch, who grew up across the street from the motel, remembers sneaking out at night to peer through the rose bushes at the movie stars relaxing in the shady arbor around a fountain lit with colored lights. 10 One waitress tells a story about serving Clark Gable: she brushed up against his arm and reportedly wouldn't wash her arm for a week. 11 The residents of Kanab have many tales to tell about who was polite (Fred MacMurray), who was bossy (Barbara Stanwyck), who was a "cowboy's cowboy" (John Wayne) and who was a "drugstore cowboy" (Charlton Heston). 12 Jeff Miller, who worked as a teenage switchboard operator at Parry Lodge, remembers receiving a ten-dollar tip for taking some ice to a party. Later he walked around the room: "Movie stars had been there. Iwent around and touched things. I didn't wash my hand for days. I was sure I had stardust on my hands. It was a dream world, a highlight of my youth." 13 In turn, the stars were often profuse in their praise of the Parry Lodge. After staying at the lodge during the filming of 1948's Green Grass of Wyoming, Charles Coburn wrote "Fine food, fine beds, fine service, and I've had a damn fine time." 14


Whit Parry was known as a perfectionist. The waitress uniforms and shoes "were white, with a handkerchief placed neatly in the breast pocket and a crisp white apron. No nail polish, no jewelry, and every hair in place was a must."15 Whit was also very fussy about the food. During the winter off-season, he would travel the world searching for recipes to use in the motel's restaurant. The Parry Lodge was an "elegant dining place," the most expensive restaurant in town. Whit's sisters also worked at the lodge. Kay Parry Plant made the salads, dressings, and hors d'oeuvres for special parties, while Mary Parry Page acted as hostess and decorated the lodge with fresh flowers. 16

 

In spite of his success, Whit Parry did have financial problems running the Lodge. In 1957, due to growing debts, Whit sold the Lodge to Dean Ezra Vance. Dean and his wife Harriet operated the Lodge for a short time before Whit again took it over. Harriett managed the Pink Poodle, a clothing boutique at the Lodge during this period.

after a short retirement in California, Caleb Whitney Parry died on June 23, 1967. The local paper ran a large headline that read "C.W. Parry, Movie Booster, Kanab Businessman, Dies."

 

In the 1960s, the Parry Lodge suffered more than just the loss of Whit Parry. Interest in westerns was dwindling and so was the movie industry in Kanab. Though several Technicolor westerns and a number of television shows, such as Gunsmoke, were shot near Kanab in the 1950s and 1960s, the film industry was not the income generator it had been previously. However, the community still benefited from its proximity to the national parks and other recreational areas. By 1965, there were twelve motels in Kanab and three in nearby Fredonia, Arizona. In 1967, the remainder of the Findlay property including the bungalow was purchased by the Parry Lodge after the death of Dana Findlay that year.

 

In 1966, due to illness and financial problems the Parry Lodge was sold at a Sheriff’s sale to Bernell Lewis, the Kanab mayor and a friend of Whit’s. Lewis tried to maintain "the standards so that people couldn't tell Whit wasn't still running the lodge." 18 Lewis' sons, Jerry and Pat, renovated the motel rooms and changed the front landscaping.

 

For a short time after selling the Parry Lodge, Whit Parry operated a restaurant across the street from the Parry Lodge. After a brief retirement in California, Whit Parry died from cancer in June, 1967. His brother Gronway died and was buried in Cedar City in May, 1969. During his life beginning in 1911, Gronway had assembled an extensive collection of horse-drawn carriages and other vehicles and become an expert in their restoration. Before his death he sold his collection to the Iron Mission Park Commission in Cedar City for half its value. He considered this a gift to the people of Cedar city.

 

Deciding to go into another business, Lewis sold the Parry Lodge to Golden Circle Tours on January 7, 1971. The lodge expanded under its new ownership with the “L” and “2-Story” buildings constructed in 1972 and 1978 respectively increasing the number of lodging units from 37 to 82. 19 Norman Cram, president of Golden Circle Tours, said that the lodge was interested in catering to people and tours wishing "to stay in the area for a few days while they visit the nearby national parks." In November 1978 after poorly managing the property for 6-7 years,, Golden Circle tours sold the property to Ken Broadhead and his partners, Steven and Brent Heaton.

 

During this period, many renovation and changes were made to the Lodge including renovating the original Movie 1, Movie 2, L and Pool Cottage interiors, adding a hot tub-gazebo to the fenced pool area, and enlarging  the Dining Room to be flush with the house.

 

In 1981, the Parry Lodge was sold to an investment group. Three years later, the investment group defaulted on the final balloon payment and Steve and Ken reclaimed the property. In April 2015, the Parry Lodge was sold by Steve Heaton to Forever Resorts

 

Today the Parry Lodge continues to serve Kanab's many visitors. Despite some modernization, the Parry Lodge retains an atmosphere of a bygone era. Though the lodge's star-studded glory days are long gone, the over 250 signed autographed photos in the lobby are one reminder. Other reminders include the nameplates above the historic rooms with the names of the stars that stayed there. If the room is available, a patron can request to sleep where Walter Brennan, Gregory Pack, Maureen O'Hara, Tim Conway, or Julie Newmar slept, although the original furnishings are no longer there. The food and the service are still excellent. The Parry Lodge, which has never changed names with changes in ownership, is the best and most fitting tribute to the Parry brothers and their contribution to Kanab's tourism and movie-making industries
.

 

1 Elsa Chamberlain Carroll, ed. ( History of Kane County, Kane County Daughters of Utah Pioneers, (Salt Lake City, Utah: Utah Printing Company, 1960), 36.

2 J. W. Thomas, "Chauncey Gardner Parry - Modern Pioneer," 2.

3 Thomas, 4.

4 Kane County Standard, March 27,1931.

By the 1960s all of these hotels, with the exception of the Parry Lodge, were either demolished or no longer operating as hotels.

0 Kane County Standard, May 9,1930, the first issue of many to feature the banners.

7 Terri Draper, "Little Hollywood." Photocopy available at the Utah State Historical Society.

8 Kane County Standard, March 12,1943.

9 Kane County Standard, June 9,1939.

10 Rosalie Hatch, interview conducted by author, July 5, 2002, Kanab, Utah.

11 Quoted in Bradley, 233.

12 "Parry Lodge and Its Technicolor Dreamcoat," Utah Holiday Magazine, September 1985: 57-66. Also "Parry Lodge: A Landmark

Than and Now," Southern Utah News, August 6,1981.

13 Ibid, 58.

14 History of Kane County, 1960, 180.

15 Danell Wudarski, 'Whit Parry," available at the Utah State Historical Society.

16 Ibid.

17 Frank Jensen, "Kanab - Southern Utah's Cow-Town Tourist Stop," Desert Magazine, September 1960.

18 "Landmark."

19 In 1973 the old barn was converted to a live theater, "The Old Barn Playhouse." Currently the theater is used only sporadically.

20 Quoted in Bradley, 322.

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