Skip to main content

A Quick Stopover in Willcox, AZ

Located along Interstate 10 in far southeastern Arizona, the quaint city of Willcox was born during the same post-Civil War period as the nearby (and previously discussed) city of Lordsburg, NM. In fact, Willcox was founded in the same year (1880) as its New Mexico counterpart and for the same initial purpose – as a ‘whistlestop’ rail town along the newly-constructed southern transcontinental railroad route made possible prior to the Civil War by the Gadsden Purchase of 1854. Like Lordsburg a short distance to the east, this town’s location was optimal given its location at the midpoint between other junctions of interest such as Phoenix and El Paso.

When initially settled in 1880, the town was known as Maley, but was renamed in honor of Gen. Orlando Bolivar Willcox in 1889. A graduate of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (class of 1847), Willcox served in the Union army during the Civil War, attaining the rank of Major General while leading troops into battle at some of the War’s most memorable battles, including Bull Run, Antietam, and Petersburg. Willcox had visited this small community (then still known as Maley) on one of his cross-country journeys and the town’s folks chose to honor the occasion by naming their settlement in honor of the Union general. Today, Willcox is a city with a population of about 3,500. It’s one of the larger settlements in Cochise County, created in 1881 from land formerly belonging to neighboring Pima County. One of the more interesting (and perhaps counterintuitive) industries this area is known for is grape growing. Upwards of three quarters of all wine grapes grown in Arizona come from the Willcox area, one of two such federally-designated wine growing regions in the state.

Unlike its counterpart Lordsburg, Willcox did not develop at a U.S. Highway crossroads; US 191 does pass through town on a multiplex with I-10, but this designation is a relatively new one to the area – it only began existing in the 1990s. The historic U.S. Route designation that *did* pass through town at one time was the infamous US 666 (aka “Devil’s Highway”), which was extended southwestward from New Mexico in the early 1940s on a path toward the Mexican border near the town of Douglas. Through Willcox, 666 followed Haskell Avenue downtown; this stretch of the former U.S. Route is now signed as an I-10 Business Route. Following the decommissioning of US 66 in 1985, Arizona officials began petitioning to have the “cursed” 666 number eliminated from its route roster – a move finalized in 1992 with the extension of US 191 along much of the old US 666 corridor through the state. There are no signs indicating the presence of the Devil in this part of Arizona anymore, but the roads that were once home to this quirky and memorable piece of route-numbering history are still alive and well today, waiting for you to discover them for yourself.

Located along Interstate 10 between Tucson and Lordsburg (served by Exits 336, 340, and 344), it’s a popular stopping point for long-distance drivers along the interstate that connects this region with cities such as Phoenix, Los Angeles, and El Paso. There are several hotels & restaurants either in town or along the interstate through the area and yours truly chose one of these hotels for an overnight stay in February 2020. Please enjoy this series of photos I gathered during this quick stopover in town:

Above: Scenes along the Interstate near town


Above: Entering town from the south on AZ 186



Above: Junction with Interstate 10 & AZ 186 north of downtown



Above: Passing through Willcox westbound on Haskell Avenue (I-10 Business Route, former US 666)


Above: Passing through Willcox eastbound on Haskell Avenue (I-10 Business Route, former US 666)

How to Get There:


Willcox, AZ city website

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Ghost Town Tuesday; Vineland, Florida; the town killed by Disney

Vineland is a small ghost town located in southwest Orange County, Florida near the junction of Florida State Road 535 and Interstate 4.  Vineland is somewhat unique due to it largely being squeezed out of existence by Lake Buena Vista which is the company town where Disney World is located. Vineland was founded in the late 1800s as Englewood.  The town name of Englewood changed to Orange Center in 1911 before finally assuming the name Vineland in 1924.  Much like the rest of Orange County the community of Vineland was centered around Citrus Grove.  In the case of Vineland said orange groves were centered around Ruby Lake. The end of Vineland came as the Disney Corporation began purchasing parcels of citrus grove land to build Lake Buena Vista.  Vineland fell into a sharp decline in the 1960s but the community managed to continue to exist to modern times.  Much of the street grid of Vineland still exists east of FL 535 but most of the original structures are either gone or falle

Old NY 10 and Goodman Mountain in the Adirondacks

  Old highway alignments come in all shapes and sizes, as well as taking some different forms after their lifespan of serving cars and trucks has ended. In the case of an old alignment of what was NY 10 south of Tupper Lake, New York, part of the old road was turned into part of a hiking trail to go up Goodman Mountain. At one time, the road passed by Goodman Mountain to the east, or Litchfield Mountain as it was known at the time. As the years passed, sometime around 1960, the part of NY 10 north of Speculator became part of NY 30, and remains that way today from Speculator, past Indian Lake and Tupper Lake and up to the Canadian Border. At one time, the highway was realigned to pass the Goodman Mountain to the west, leaving this stretch of road to be mostly forgotten and to be reclaimed by nature. During the summer of 2014, a 1.6 mile long hiking trail was approved the Adirondack Park Agency to be constructed to the summit of the 2,176 foot high Goodman Mountain. For the first 0.9 mi

Oregon State Highway 58

  Also known as the Willamette Highway No. 18, the route of Oregon State Highway 58 (OR 58) stretches some 86 miles between US 97 north of Chemult and I-5 just outside of Eugene, Oregon. A main route between the Willamette Valley region of Oregon with Central Oregon and Crater Lake National Park, the highway follows the Middle Fork Willamette River and Salt Creek for much of its route as it makes its way to and across the Cascades, cresting at 5,138 feet above sea level at Willamette Pass. That is a gain of over 4,500 in elevation from where the highway begins at I-5. The upper reaches of OR 58 are dominated by the principal pinnacle that can sometimes be seen from the highway, Diamond Peak, and three nearby lakes, Crescent, Odell and Waldo (Oregon's second largest lake). OR 58 is chock full of rivers, creeks, mountain views, hot springs and waterfalls within a short distance from the highway. OR 58 was numbered as such by the Oregon State Highway Department in 1940. OR 58 is a del