A Ghost Town Today
Twin Arrows, now just a remnant of what once was a once-bustling hub, sits quietly in the Arizona desert. Just off of historic U.S. Route 66, this ghost town is located within the boundaries of Coconino County, between the vibrant city of Flagstaff and the quaint town of Winslow.
Nestled within the desert landscape where Twin Arrows resides, a rich tapestry of history unfolds, intertwined with the legacy of the indigenous Hopi and Navajo tribes. These lands, once the heartland of these tribes, bore witness to numerous conflicts, notably the fierce conflicts between the Navajo and the Apaches.
The Spanish Conquistadors
The first pioneers of European lineage to imprint their footsteps upon this terrain were the Spanish conquistadors. Their arrival marked a significant alteration in the dynamics of the region, a change that was amplified when the area was absorbed into the nation of Mexico. This shift in governance followed Mexico’s triumphant liberation from Spanish colonial rule.
However, the winds of change hadn’t ceased. A new conflict soon arose, with the United States locking horns with Mexico in the bloody chapter of history known as the Mexican–American War. Gunshots and cries of soldiers echoed throughout the valley until the signing of the 1848 Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo brought an official halt to the fighting.
This treaty, thrust upon the Mexican government during a very troubling time, presented its most significant repercussion: the Mexican Cession. This monumental agreement saw the northern territories of Alta California and Santa Fe de Nuevo México being reluctantly ceded to the United States, forever altering the historical and geographical landscape of the region.
During the 1880s, wagon roads between Flagstaff and Winslow were meticulously charted and surveyed, tracing paths across the untamed landscape. These dusty routes drew the attention of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad, who opted to construct their iron veins of commerce and transport along the same course. The railway line coursed to the north of what would eventually become the historical alignment of the National Old Trails, and ultimately, the famed US 66.
US Route 66 Is Born
In 1926, the U.S. Highway System gave birth to US 66, a lifeline that would prove vital during the Dust Bowl of the 1930s. The road helped to guide countless souls migrating west in search of a better life. The highway also breathed life into the economies of the many communities it threaded through.
A Slow Start For Twin Arrows
The hamlet of Twin Arrows found itself bustling with newfound energy as Route 66, hugging the trajectory of the National Old Trails Road, brought a steady stream of traffic. It was here that the Canyon Padre Trading Post was born, its name derived from the jagged gorge that etched its way through the nearby landscape. However, the store and diner in Twin Arrows experienced a lethargic start until a reinvention took place.
Becoming a Landmark
Inspired by the nearby town of Two Guns, the owners rebranded the trading post as the “Twin Arrows Trading Post” and added a service station to its offerings. They then constructed two towering 25-foot arrows on the property, their tips piercing the desert ground. These large landmarks became a unique and helpful symbol for traveling motorists, their silhouette easily recognized amid the vast expanse of the desert. The trading post began to flourish, drawing patrons from the steady stream of traffic along Route 66.
The trading post, with its emblematic pair of arrows jutting towards the sky, had become an oasis of civilization amidst the sun-scorched wilderness. Its heart—the diner and store—became the stage for countless stories, and the shelter for countless souls.
Once Full of Life
Inside the diner, every surface gleamed with a luster that only objects doused with love and care could boast. The Formica tables and vinyl-cushioned chairs, scrubbed clean daily, bore the imprint of many hands and bodies, each leaving behind the faintest trace of their life’s story. The air perpetually smelled of fresh coffee, frying bacon, and an undernote of cinnamon that hung around the kitchen door. This rich tapestry of aromas woven together was as iconic as the towering arrows outside, a signature scent that welcomed all who visited.
The diner’s heart beat with the rhythm of conversations, clinking utensils, laughter, and the soft murmur of an old radio. Throughout the years, it provided the soundscape to the human symphony that played out in its confines. Truckers shared their tales of the road over steaming mugs of coffee and hearty meals. Families on vacation marveled at the endless desert landscape outside the windows. Solo travelers found solace in the anonymity provided by the desert outpost. All were tied together by the threads of shared humanity and their bond of traveling the open road.
Evenings Under The Arizona Sky
Evening was when the diner truly came alive. As dusk draped the desert in hues of purple and crimson, the Twin Arrows Trading Post would sparkle with a warm glow as it lit up under the Arizona twilight. The sinking sun painted the diner in a soft, warm glow, a stark contrast against the cool, encroaching night. Inside, the radio crooned old melodies, giving rhythm to the night.
The laughter echoed long into the night, only fading when the last of the patrons retired, leaving behind an empty room warmed by their shared stories. The diner, steeped in the silence of the desert, would hold its breath, waiting for the desert sun to herald a new day, a new set of travelers, a new swirl of stories.
More Than Just a Rest Stop
Over the years, the Twin Arrows Trading Post became more than a simple rest stop on Route 66. It transformed into a beacon of life amidst the arid wilderness, a witness to the constant ebb and flow of humanity traveling the vein of America that was Route 66. It became a living, breathing entity, absorbing every spoken word, every hearty laughter, and even the sighs too heavy for words, weaving them all into a silent song echoing through the vast desert. The cash register’s ring, the sizzle of the griddle, the clink of coffee mugs—all became the backdrop for the ever-evolving human experience.
It was not a grand or opulent place, but it didn’t need to be. It offered warmth, sustenance, a sense of familiarity to those far from home, and a pause amidst the relentless march of time.
Twin Arrows Closes For Good
Years rolled into decades, until 1995 saw the final sunset for the Twin Arrows Trading Post. Its doors closed, the laughter faded, and the twinkle in its windows dimmed. Yet, it was not an end, merely a gentle retreat into the pages of time. The trading post became an echo, a wistful sigh on the desert wind, a memory etched deep into the history of Route 66.
Today, if you pass by the Twin Arrows Trading Post, you’ll see a silent tribute to years gone by. The two arrows still stand tall, their paint chipped and colors faded, but their spirit undeterred. Twin Arrows, though no longer humming with life, continues to live on in the memories of those who found a piece of home within its embrace, and even in those who’ve only heard its tale.
The advent of Interstate 40 is ultimately what started to spell a grim fate for the once-thriving Twin Arrows Trading Post. As motorists began to bypass the iconic US 66, favoring the newly constructed highway, the pulse of business at the trading post began to wane. This once bustling hub of activity began to witness its glory fade. Ownership changed hands numerous times, like a flickering candle passed between unsteady hands in the wind, until in 1995, the flame was finally extinguished. The trading post was shuttered, its doors closed for the last time, and was left to the mercy of time and desert winds.
Thanks for checking out Architectural Afterlife! If you enjoyed this post, you may enjoy checking out these other interesting places.
If you enjoyed this post, or any others on this blog, and if you enjoy learning about these places, be sure to check out these books
You can also click HERE to be updated on new blog posts, or anything else! You’ll get to choose what kind of emails you’ll receive.
If you’re interested in seeing the gear I’m using in 2023, you can find a list of that below. These are all affiliate links, and I do make a small commission off of anything you purchase from my recommendations below: