Estate History - A Spanish Colonial Dream
Royal Palms offers guests the rare opportunity to enjoy rich amenities of a Resort all within the walls of a storied estate. The Estate's rich history dates back to 1929 as the winter home of Delos Willard Cooke, a New York industrialist and financier, his wife Florence, and son, Chauncey.
It was 1926 and despite the full, heady swing of the “Jazz Age,” Delos Willard Cooke at age sixty-two was tired. His career as a railroad and steamship executive in New York was coming to a close. He, a nephew of banking mogul J.P. Morgan, could now look back with pride at his long career in transportation, which included being a top executive at the Cunard Steamship Line, vice president of the Erie Railroad, and federal fuel administrator for the state of New York.
TIMELINE OF HISTORY
Delos and Florence Cooke begin planning their Spanish Revival style winter home "El Vernadero" or "Winter Haven".
Mansion completed. Property is 65 acres total.
Home sold to W.E. Travis, President of Greyhound Bus Lines. Second story of mansion and Priest's quarters built at this time.
Home sold to John Ross, President of Aviola Radio Co. 3.5 acres of the property are parceled off and sold.
Ross sold the home & 30 acres of citrus groves & date palms to a group of investors headed by former band-leader Al Stoval. 15 casitas, The Orange Tree Restaurant & a heart-shaped pool were built. The Royal Palms Inn opened on February 1st for $35 per day. An additional 45 casitas are added to the property.
Property is sold to a syndicate of Midwestern investors headed 1998 In January, Destination Hotels & Resorts, a subsidiary of by Fred W. Renker, a former nationally ranked tennis player & manager of The Paradise Inn.
Charles Alberding, a Chicago investor, & his Oklahoma-based company Alsonett Hotels purchased the Inn. Dining room expansion, meeting rooms, lobby, modern pool & 9-hole golf course added.
Pat Ryan, Alberding’s long time Chicago secretary, becomes one of the first female general managers of a resort in the United States. Ryan opens the Royal Palms Inn year-round.
A 2-story hotel room building of 68 units & parking garage built on the east side of the property.
Vocalists such as Patti Andrews, Frank Sinatra Jr., Torry Martin and The Hallemans as well as small orchestras were booked at The Orange Tree with ballroom dancing for the guests.
Alberding’s family sold the 9-hole golf course to Doug Sandahl of Montecito Homes. 29 single-family homes were developed. Alberding’s family sold the remaining 8.9 acres of the property to President of Spring Creek Hospitality, Fred Unger.
Property closed for extensive restoration. Heart-shaped pool removed. Royal Palms became the site of the 1996 ASID Designer Showcase (American Society of Interior Designers), a major fundraiser for the Phoenix Symphony. Over 20 design teams involved.
Royal Palms Hotel & Casitas opens for business on April 7th. T. Cook’s restaurant opened May 28th.
The multi-million dollar addition of Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms begins in May is completed and opens December 30, 2002.
Royal Palms Hotel & Casitas becomes Royal Palms Resort and Spa, and shines as one of the premiere luxury destinations in the United States.
T. Cook's and Cook's Lounge underwent a revitalization, including a full remodel of the restaurant, a completely renovated kitchen, and creating of The Mix Up Bar.
The winter of 1924-25 must have felt colder than most. It made Cooke think it was time to savor some of life’s quieter pursuits, and to do it in a warmer climate such as Phoenix. His wife, Florence, was in ill health and the bitter New York cold set her back to the point where Cooke knew it was time for a real change. He would retire officially on May 1, 1925, his letter stated, so he could “devote most of my time to the welfare and happiness of my wife from now on. She has first claim on me.” This deep love for his wife and family went into the building of their grande estate.
Cooke and Florence chose a 65-acre parcel near the base of the southern slope of Camelback Mountain. Against this dramatic backdrop, they built El Vernadero, their winter haven. The Cooke's wanted to model their home architecture after their beloved grand European adventures. They reached out to the respected Phoenix architectural firm of Lescher & Mahoney to design the home, a 3,500-square-foot Spanish Revival villa. With its white plaster over brick, Granada-tiled roofs, elaborately grilled windows and doorways, and elegant archways, the mansion made a lasting impression on all who were fortunate enough to receive invitations to visit.
By June of 1926, Lescher & Mahoney completed the plans of the Cooke residence. It was a true Andalusia- inspired mansion, with flourishes of Mexico’s hacienda and Spanish Colonial styles. At 3500 square feet, the home was one of the largest in Phoenix. The Cookes made sure it was sited at the end of a long, grand driveway flanked on both sides by towering palms. At a cost of one million dollars when finished, including the sixty-five acres of prime land, the Cooke’s “El Vernadero” moved rapidly from dream to reality.
The Cooke mansion was finally completed three years later, in 1929, and was well worth the wait. In fact, much of the romantic charm found today throughout the property comes as much from the original detail work the Cooke's incorporated into the main buildings as any other elements added later. A true Spanish Colonial-inspired design with Mediterranean and hacienda flourishes, the Cooke home stood apart from the other homes hidden in the shadow of Camelback Mountain.
For two years Delos and Florence Cooke enjoyed their new home in Arcadia until Delos passed away in 1931 at the age of 66. Shaken by the sudden death of her husband Florence Cooke continued wintering at the estate, working on her gardens, and maintaining their dream. But six years later and falling ill, Florence Cooke sold the property to W.E. Travis, then president of Greyhound Bus Lines.
The wealthy Travis family settled into their new Arizona home with great appreciation for what the Cooke's had accomplished. Travis and his wife made great efforts to keep the home true to the original dream, but they did make several major improvements. It was during his tenure that the second story was added to the west wing of the mansion. The family enjoyed their home for more than five years. Following the death of his wife, Travis sold the home to John Ross, president of the Aviola Radio Company, who shortly thereafter sold it to former well known band leader of The Biggest Little Band in America, Al Stovall.
A visionary who predicted a boom in tourism to the Southwest following World War II, Stovall and his partners guided the estate’s transition from private residence to inn. They built 15 casitas to the west of the original Cooke home, and converted the main house into several more guest rooms, a reception area and dining room. In the winter of 1948, the first room reservations were recorded for the newly named Royal Palms Inn.
Over the years Royal Palms has transitioned into the timeless classic we all love today. Royal Palms Resort and Spa reflects its proud history, offering new and unique experiences for guests who treasure this living Arizona landmark.
During your visit with us, discover the story of Royal Palms past, present and future. Join us every Saturday for guided history and art tours. Kindly contact our Concierge@royalpalmshotel.com or dial (602) 808-3122
We invite you to explore our historic estate and share it with the world. Our Instagram History Map will guide you through our most popular historic sites on property. View Map here