Crown King, Arizona, sits 6,000 feet high in the Bradshaw Mountains. The only way to get there is by a 27-mile dirt road with numerous switchbacks. The town is home to just 133 individuals, but it boasts one of the oldest bars in the western United States: the Crown King Saloon. What’s more, the bar has survived virtually unchanged for over a century, though it’s been through some tough times. Beloved by its owner, the Crown King Saloon was moved piece by piece from its first location to Crown King. It also survived Prohibition, numerous city fires, and the flux of time. The Crown King Saloon is a piece of living history that you can personally sit in and order a drink.
Crown King Saloon is the passion project of a man named Tom Anderson. In 1906, just 18 years after the town of Crown King got its first post office, Anderson wanted to put a saloon in what was then a small mining community. Crown King already had a saloon, as did Anderson. He owned a watering hole more than two miles away in another mining community called Oro Belle. The thing is, Anderson didn’t want his saloon in Oro Belle. He wanted it in Crown King. So he moved it, piece by piece, until he had assembled his saloon in the desired location, alongside Crown King’s company store, two Chinese restaurants, and the feed yard.
The Saloon is simple in design. It’s a two-story wooden building with white pillars and a white picket fence on the upper patio. To this day, it resembles an old paddleboat like the kind Tom Sawyer would have ridden up the Mississippi River; how much more it must have done so on a weekend night back in the day, with the lights from inside shining bright and the noise of drinkers, gamblers, and miners all around.
By some reports, Crown King Saloon served as a brothel as well as a bar. Others in the town dispute that claim. It was surely a place where jokes and stories were told. People also came to the saloon to read and write letters — popular pastimes in Crown King, John Sayre writes in “Ghost Railroads of Central Arizona.”
Little seems to have changed since Anderson moved the Crown King Saloon into the remote little town. He ran the place until he passed away in the 1950s, which probably makes him the longest resident of Crown King, according to Bruce Wilson in “Crown King and Southern Bradshaws: A Complete History.”
Although Anderson is gone, his saloon carries on. There are neon bar lights now, and cars parked out front. Other than that, not much has changed since it was first moved, piece by piece, from Oro Belle more than 100 years ago.