In the early 1800s the area that is now known as Ash Fork, Arizona was primarily used by traders and fur trappers on their way from Santa Fe to Los Angeles. It was established in 1882 after originally a siding of the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad (which later went on to become the Santa Fe Railroad) and was officially named in 1882 by F.W. Smith.
Ash Fork got its first official post office on April 12th, 1883. In 1885 the entire town of Ash Fork burnt to the ground. It was rebuilt on the opposite side of the railroad tracks in 1893. This is where it still stands today. Ash Fork was conveniently located along the railroad and later accessible from the building of Route 66.
Buh Bye Santa Fe Railroad
The Santa Fe Railroad moved its mainline away from the Ash Fork area in 1960 and with that almost half of Ash Fork’s population (mostly railroad workers) moved with them. If that was not enough another large fire almost completely destroyed Ash Fork again in 1977 destroying almost all of its downtown businesses. The final piece of Ash Fork’s demise was when Interstate 40 bypassed it. Since most travelers were now taking Interstate 40 instead of Route 66 the local businesses started closing up.
Another Devastating Fire
The Ash Fork community suffered one more devastating fire in 1987 destroying almost all the remaining buildings on the south side of Route 66 in the business district.
One of the best ways to see and learn about the history of Ash Fork is to visit the Ash Fork RT 66 Museum. The museum is located at 901 Old RT 66 in Ash Fork, Arizona. It contains a large display of Ash Fork’s history. It’s run by a volunteer organization called the Ash Fork Historical Society which was formed in 1997.
A fun way to find the Ash Fork RT 66 Museum would be to follow the “Burma Shave” signs. Burma Shave was a shaving cream company that used roadside signs with sayings for advertising. According to Wikipedia, the first signs appeared in 1926 along US Highway 65 in Minnesota. The signs remained in most of the USA until 1965.
The signs along RT 66 from Kingman to Ash Fork are re-creations of the original signs and were not originally placed there by Burma Shave.
The Ash Fork RT 66 Museum is staffed by volunteers and gets its funding through donations and profits from a gift shop located inside. The volunteers are very friendly and knowledgeable and love to share their knowledge of this town and the surrounding area with their visitors.
Self Proclaimed Flagstone Capitol Of The World
Ash Fork proclaimed itself as the “flagstone capital of the world” and this museum is packed with the local history of the town and RT 66. You can probably see all the displays within an hour. If you are like us and like to take numerous pictures and read all the display history you can easily spend a few hours there. The building has restrooms that were extremely clean and the volunteer staff was both friendly and knowledgeable.
The time period covered in this museum spans from the late 1800s to the 1950s. The displays were set up nicely and orderly with plenty of room to move around.
The surrounding area around the museum is also home to some historical sites such as the old railroad company houses and the post office.
We loved our drive down RT 66 into Ash Fork. We love to see things the way they used to be as opposed to today. The museum was a wealth of information on the history of Ash Fork and we highly recommend you stop in during your travels along RT 66.
Check Out Our Slideshow Below Featuring 66 Photos Of Ash Fork