The Modernist Pasts of Hotel Valley Ho & Mountain Shadows in Scottsdale

Shadow play

Our tour guide, Ace, greets us in the large open lobby of the Hotel Valley Ho, a landmark property in the heart of Scottsdale. She’s quick to point out the black-and-white photos adorning a nearby wall. Most are from the 1950s, the hotel’s heyday, when celebrities like Bing Crosby, Tony Curtis, Janet Leigh and Zsa Zsa Gabor sipped martinis poolside.

That magnificent mid-century aesthetic survives in the current incarnation of the hotel: vivid color, warm woods and modern accents bathed in natural light. But as Ace shares, the journey from 1956 to today wasn’t always bright and shiny.

Designed by Edward Varney in a sleek, minimalist style, the original Valley Ho was built by John B. Mills based on the belief that “the important thing is to make your guest feel wanted.” Mills owned the hotel along with Robert Foehl and his wife, Evelyn. For many years the hotel provided a desert oasis for Hollywood elite, even hosting Natalie Wood and Robert Wagner’s nuptials in 1957.

But in the ’70s the hotel changed ownership and lost much of its luster in the ensuing decades. It wasn’t until 2002 that a local company purchased the resort and began a meticulous restoration. Three years later the new Valley Ho debuted with a cheerful nod to its glamorous past.

Accommodations can be found in the main hotel, which wraps around the buzzing OH Pool, or The Tower and its sweeping views of Scottsdale and Camelback Mountain. All rooms and suites come thoughtfully furnished with mid-century-inspired furniture and accents, many with sliding glass doors that open to private balconies.

Above: Valley Ho

Swanky ZuZu creates a fun vibe with a tasty menu from breakfast to dinner. The bar bustles all afternoon and into the night with cocktails and conversation in the stylish lounge or adjacent patio. The VH Spa will reopen with safety measures on October 1 and make available a full list of treatments to guests.

Mountain Shadows

A sister property on the other side of Camelback Mountain in Paradise Valley offers a fresh take on a vintage escape. Built only a few years after Valley Ho in 1959, Mountain Shadows similarly attracted celebrities alongside international travelers and families.

In 1960 the property enjoyed an 80-acre expansion with the addition of a golf course, clubhouse and more accommodations. In the ’80s the hotel endured a corporate takeover and closed in 2004. After changing hands several times and undergoing a complete renovation, the new incarnation of Mountain Shadows opened its doors in 2017.

Mountain Shadows takes a modern approach to design, playing off the original layout but spicing up the vibe with a clean, elegant style. Rooms come spacious and beautifully appointed. The hotel’s low profile and minimalist design allow guests to take full advantage of the gorgeous desert setting.

Mountain Shadows

Much of the activity takes place around the two 75-foot pools, flanked with cabanas and connected by an overwater walkway. Hearth ’61 is your hub for food and drink, with ample outdoor dining and inviting ambience.

Golfers will appreciate The Short Course, a fun, quick round on the par-3 with 18 holes. The original golf course at the resort was designed and built in 1961 by architect Arthur Jack Snyder. Architect Forrest Richardson, who was mentored by Snyder, completely redesigned the course by combining its storied heritage with modern features.  

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