About Beale Celebrations
The first J C Penny store in Kingman was a short-lived affair. It opened in a Front Street store at the Hotel Beale in late 1921 and closed less than a year later shortly after the manager died.
The grand opening of the J. C. Penney Company store on the corner of Fourth and Beale Street in the winter of 1951 represented a dramatic transition of the historic heart of the city. The new, modern store stood in stark contrast to places such as Central Commercial that had opened in the era of WWI or some of the store fronts that predated statehood.
A tangible link to the city’s history was razed in the store’s construction. H.H. Watkins had built a home at this location in about 1885. The front parlor served as a pharmacy.
Watkins completed business college in California in 1879, and the following year followed the Mojave Road west to the Colorado River. He established a small general store in Hardyville near the present site of Bullhead City but relocated to the county seat at Mineral Park a few months later and established a pharmacy. This store, with his brother F.F. Watkins as his partner, is purportedly the first dedicated pharmacy in the northwestern part of the Arizona territory. A sign over the door read, “Drug Store, Watkins Brothers, groceries, dry goods, and notions.”
Sensing opportunity in the newly established railroad town of Kingman, in about 1883 he sold the business in Mineral Park and relocated. He established a pharmacy of sorts in a small cabin that also served as his home, and then expanded both the store and house with construction on the northwest corner of 4th and Beale Street in 1885.
Tragedy struck in 1888 when Watkins home and business burned. Howard Watkins rebuilt his house on the site. Undaunted by the loss, the Watkins Brother’s Pharmacy, later the Pioneer Drug, was opened in a new building on the corner of Fourth Street and Front Street, Andy Devine Avenue, in what would become the Luthy Block. The store now houses El Palacio restaurant.
After the J C Penny store was relocated to its new location on Stockton Hill Road in the late 1970s, the building was repurposed for use as the City of Kingman planning and zoning offices. In 2013 the building was purchased by a developer and work commenced to convert it into an event center.
During the historic 2014 International Route 66 Festival the building was used to showcase legendary Route 66 artists such as Jerry McClanahan as well as authors and Route 66 association from each state along the Route 66 corridor. After the festival work continued the building’s transformation that included the neon trimmed Art Deco touches and Beale Celebrations signs created by Legacy Signs.