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We can’t imagine life without it, especially here in the desert southwest. However, there was a time not so long ago that the installation of air conditioning was a newsworthy event and a marketing opportunity. Today the professionals at AIRzona Heating and Cooling Comfort Solutions are but a phone call away and that means we are assured a climate controlled comfortable home in any season. Less than a century ago the air conditioning specialist was a rarity.

While the first use of air conditioning in an hotel is difficult to pinpoint with accuracy, the general consensus is that the St. Anthony Hotel at 300 E. Travis Street in San Antonio, Texas, which opened in 1909, was the first hotel in the world with fully functioning air conditioning. Still in business this luxury hotel garnered international headlines with the promotion that it was a fully air conditioned facility “that kept the Texas heat at bay.”

San Antonio was a wealthy city in the first decades of the 20th century. That prosperity is reflected in the early use of air conditioning. Built in 1928 the Milam Building, an office complex at 115 E. Travis Street, was the first air-conditioned high-rise building in the city. Needless to say its opening was also a headline grabbing event. This, however, was not the first air conditioned office building in the United States. That distinction goes to the Larkin Administration Building designed by Frank Lloyd Wright in 1906.

In 1929 the air conditioned Majestic Theatre opened its doors in San Antonio. This was the first air conditioned theater in Texas. Joske’s Department Store that opened in 1936 in that city was the first fully air-conditioned store in the state and people drove from hundreds of miles to shop in comfort.

Arizona was still the western frontier in the 1930s. The entire population of the state numbered less than 450,000 people but still Phoenix was eager to be seen as a modern progressive city. The air conditioned Hotel Westward Ho opened in 1929, and the Fox Theater that opened in 1931 was promoted as the first “air cooled” movie palace in the state.

One can’t help but wonder if Las Vegas would have ever become a vacation destination if it wasn’t for the magic of air conditioning. Before 1946 “sin city” was little more than a dusty desert crossroads. There were, however, a few oasis such as the Apache Hotel that opened in 1929 with an air conditioned lobby. The El Rancho Vegas, which opened in 1941, was the city’s first fully air conditioned hotel. Historians consider this property to be the cornerstone for the modern city of Las Vegas. Ten years later every new hotel built in the city featured air conditioning.

The magic of air conditioning is no longer a luxury for desert dwellers. It is a necessity that has transformed what was once viewed as purgatory into an oasis.

Written by Jim Hinckley of Jim Hinckley’s America


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