In the 1870s, John Lorenzo Hubbell established a trading post in the Arizona desert that provided a place where the local native people could get together for business transactions and cultivated relationships that have carried generations into the future.
Hubbell Trading Post was a vital part of the Northern Arizona economy, and Hubbell played an important role in the community that is felt even today. In its heyday, the trading post saw hundreds of people come and go. Women would stay on the grounds, weaving and creating goods to trade and sell. Men would stock up on supplies for their families and pick up the latest news from their neighbors.
Hubbell had a sincere interest in fostering the relationships between these people, and he was often asked to serve as mediator, guidance counselor, teacher and liaison with the outside world. He made it a point to respect and honor the traditions, religions and history of the local people. Instead of preaching his own beliefs, he was open-minded and sought to understand. In addition, Hubbell collected baskets created by members of the local tribes and amassed what is now one of the largest collections of Native American artwork.
The site of the trading post was turned over to the National Park Service in the 1960s and it became a national monument, though the trading post itself is still a thriving business, which sells a selection of fresh baked goods, items for the home and foodstuffs. Local craftsmen and artisans have set up shop in an adjoining room, and visitors to Hubbell Trading Post National Monument can browse handmade jewelry, crafts and weavings.
An on-site visitors’ center / museum offers insight into the history of the site, and a free self-guided tour allows visitors to walk in the footsteps of former traders. For just a few bucks, people are welcome to take a guided tour of the house Hubbell and his family lived in, which I highly recommend.
As we began our house tour, our guide asked why we were visiting. We had no particular reason to be there except for out of curiosity. I thought the question was an odd one until our guide began explaining the rich history of the Hubbell Trading Post. Families would travel long miles to reach the post, and apparently many people visit the site with stories of family passed through generations about Hubbell and the trading post. Their grandmothers remember playing with other children on the grounds; their great aunts or uncles caught up with other family members, as if the grounds were designated for family reunions. Occasionally people point out a basket woven by a family member or a weaving that a great-grandmother created years ago, now hanging on a wall in the museum.
The walls of Hubbell’s house are covered in paintings, the ceilings are covered in baskets. He had an enormous book collection that consisted of many classics. The furniture is worn in. The piano music looks like it was just set out.
It’s one thing to just learn facts about Hubbell and the trading post, but it’s the authenticity of this site that makes it so memorable. The stories are about people who stopped by last week or are hanging out in the trading post right now. The guides that work at the site are truly passionate about it, and that enthusiasm is contagious.
A lot of people would easily pass this site up as they make their way from Northern Arizona to Holbrook or Flagstaff, but it’s definitely worth taking the time to stop. A quick walking tour takes 30 minutes at most and the house tour should take about 45 minutes.