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Oldest saloon in Arizona receives a makeover

Front of the Crystal Palace Saloon during renovations

Outside and patio dining is becoming a new amenity in Tombstone, Arizona.

Kim Herrig, owner of the Crystal Palace Saloon has known since taking over the saloon in 2002 that this was the perfect addition to the historical building.

The Crystal Palace will be the only restaurant/bar in Tombstone to have outdoor and rooftop dining. The renovations being made will bring in more revenue, a second floor and deck is being added to the saloon. Construction began in June 2017, starting with the replacement of support beams. All construction should be finished by Thanksgiving, the 16-foot high ceilings make for extra difficulty with placing the mezzanine outside.

The Crystal Palace will be the first restaurant/bar in Tombstone to have outdoor and rooftop dining. A second floor and deck is being added to the saloon. In June of this year construction began, starting with the replacement of all support beams. The 1800’s style 16-foot high ceilings make for extra difficulty with designing the mezzanine outside.

The Crystal Palace Saloon is the oldest saloon in the state of Arizona, opened in 1879 and since has only had about four owners. The information and background of the first owners is unknown, with very few facts available, up until the restoration in the 1960s by owner Harold Love.

Herrig moved to Arizona in 1999 and saw a great opportunity in the saloon. The character and feel of the saloon is felt immediately upon walking in, the dark brown wood, the dress of the servers and staff, and the overall sense of walking and taking part in a piece of history.

“I knew the previous owner wanted to get out and I wanted to get in.” Herrig said. “The building was run down, the business side was falling apart and I could see the potential, it was the only original bar left in Tombstone and I wanted to be a part of the history.”

During prohibition the owner at the time removed the original bar, where liquor was kept and patrons sat down to enjoy a drink, from the building to Sonora, Mexico in order to preserve it. Police would remove and destroy bars in the time of prohibition. But despite efforts to preserve the bar, it was destroyed in a fire, according to Herrig. 

Love owned the Crystal Palace for many years starting in the 1960s. Love also owned the OK Corral, which has since been taken over by his son after his passing. The OK Corral is another major landmark for the city of Tombstone, and shares managing history with the Crystal Palace. Herrig credits Love for keeping the Crystal Palace old-mining look and condition it is today.

“Harold Love came in to the saloon and wanted to bring back the history of the original saloon,” Herrig said. “In 1963, he hired a company out of Tucson to make the bar identical to the original one during prohibition after finding the blue prints. The bar is exactly the same, mahogany and same scale size.”

Love also owned the OK Corral, The OK Corral is another major landmark for the city of Tombstone, and shares managing history with the Crystal Palace. Herrig credits Love for keeping the Crystal Palace old-mining look and condition it is today.

The city of Tombstone has a population of around 1500 in the city limits, but the small town stays busy all throughout the year. Crystal Palace’s competition with other restaurants is steady during the busy winter season, when the snowbirds decide to travel to Arizona.

The history of the city and the saloon is what brings the crowds back. Since the 1800s, the saloon has been a constant meeting place, with miners who would get off of work and head to the saloon to gamble, drink and play games like roulette and wheel of fortune, according to Herrig.

The original wheel of fortune wheel and roulette hang in a case on the wall of the saloon to this day. The history of the bar, and the town, can be seen the second visitors walk in to enjoy the nostalgia of the mining times. Herrig feels the old time artifacts brings even more character to the building.

Owner Kim Herrig surrounded by employees

“The renovation is a big project and I can’t wait for it to be over,” Herrig said. “The contractor is local. Permits from the city were easy to obtain, the contractors are having to dig and put in footings outside in order to build the deck. The historical society was very excited about renovations and approved everything.”

Employees love working at the Crystal Palace and the nostalgic atmosphere.

“It’s a great place to work, a great group of people working here in the saloon, said Isaiah Carillo, bartender for three years, “I think it is awesome working in a place with so much history. It’s a blast here, and to see all the visitors so excited is the best part.”

When there is a building with as much history as the Crystal Palace, the chance to meet guests who never leave awaits visitors. Herrig, a few patrons and employees have felt the presence of a few different friendly ghosts, specifically in the restroom area of the saloon.

According to Herrig and bartender Isaiah Carillo, the ghost is somewhat of a “peeping Tom,” choosing to hang out in the women’s restroom area, making loud stomping noises and slamming stall doors late at night.

Renovations and the addition of the second story are due to be finished Thanksgiving of this year.

Hannah Bloom is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News Service, a service from the School of Journalism at the University of Arizona. You can contact her at hannahbloom@email.arizona.edu

Click here for a Word version of this story and high-resolution photos.

One Comment

  1. With all due respect, you all need to proof read your stories before posting them. Many of the stories from Arizona Sonora News Service run with the same paragraph worded slightly differently, two times in the story. It reflects poorly on the editors, and the quality of the journalism program at UofA.