The History of Relics Restaurant in Sedona

Relics Restaurant & RoadHouse

“A Sedona Historic Landmark Attraction Celebrating 70 Years in Business”

The Gibson Homestead, Winter 1935

Looking for historic places in Sedona, AZ? Look no further! Relics is located at Rainbows End, which is a Sedona Historic Landmark Attraction, in the beautiful Red Rocks of Sedona. It is the town’s oldest continuously operating restaurant. The Gibson old stone-and-wood house and now our “Gibson” Room (pictured above)  was built in the early 1900s by the  Gibson family  on the last    homestead   available in  Sedona, which they “claimed” – 160 acres. The Gibson family – Frank, Bessie and son Paul age 15 – made the trek from Oklahoma to what was then a small town nestled in the red rocks with Bessie’s sister Lucille, her husband Arthur (Shorty) Newton and two other siblings sitting on top of the family belongings, which were piled high in a half-ton truck. It was a scene straight out of The Grapes of Wrath.

Henery Frank Gibson Holds a Winning Hand and Brass Knuckles in the Other Hand, 1908
During their journey, the Gibson’s truck broke down twice before finally arriving in Sedona. To survive the family dry farmed their land for a couple of years and hoped for rain to grow their watermelons, squash and pumpkins. But depending on Mother Nature for rain wasn’t enough, so the family had to find other means in order to get by. Through the years Frank and Bessie sold off parcels of their land.

Mrs. Lawson, 1950 - Cooking in RainbowsThe Gibson house was turned into an eating establishment called Rainbows End when Ray Lawson and his wife purchased the property in the 1940s and it quickly became famous for their fried chicken. Ray was inspired by “a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.” Today the “Gibson” Room seats 50 for dinner and the Front Room – the “Sunset Room”, which was originally the front porch of the Gibson House, is used  as a private dining room and seats 12 for dinner.

The red river rock stone building now standing between the  “Poolroom” and “Patio” is the  oldest structure on the property. This  was used and operated by the Gibsons as a general store, a gas station and garage. This small building, built in the 1800s as a stand alone structure by a still unknown builder, served as a stage coach stop and military registration point during World War I. As of today, it has been restored, authentically furnished and stocked with merchandise for your shopping pleasure. The end result has become as much a museum as it is a store, which is open to public daily at 5pm.
Original Entrance to Rainbow's End SaloonThe “Lounge” and formerly infamous saloon was added by Ray in the early 1940s. The Saloon has entertained its share of western movie stars when filming in Sedona including John Wayne. In 1965 scenes from “The Rounders” starring Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda were filmed here at Relics. The Saloon was in fact the western movie stars’ favorite hangout from the 1940s to 1960s.  One incident involving the movie crowd that took place in the saloon in the early 1950s occurred during the filming of “Johnny Guitar,” starring Sterling Hayden, Joan Crawford and Mercedes McCambridge. A big crowd had gathered in the saloon to celebrate Joan Crawford’s birthday. As the story goes, someone asked Joan how old she was and Joan replied 35. Mercedes said “she hasn’t been 35 for 40 years.” Joan ran over to Mercedes, pulled her off her bar stool by the hair and the two of them had a major punch-throwing, kicking, scratching and screaming fight. This continued for some time before they were pulled apart by the onlookers, but not before the commotion had drawn all of the restaurant patrons out of the “Gibson” Room to see what was happening. 

Read Now: Sedona AZ Restaurants-Relics Restaurant-Dinner in Sedona

Lawson Room ready for a function with an open dance floor

The “Lawson” Room and former Dance Hall in the back of the building was added last. This room can accommodate 120 dinner guests with a dance floor, which makes it ideal for large private events and wedding receptions. In fact, through the years Relics has become known for the most affordable wedding venue in the area. Members of the community actually helped lay the wooden dance hall floor so that Rainbows End would be ready for the first grand opening country dance party. Before the Dance Hall was built there was a Bunk House, which ultimately burned down, where Cowboys could stay overnight for free with a meal for drinking in the Saloon. The “Lawson” Room has been used for many purposes throughout the years including: a community gathering spot and social club, a kid’s public game room, a bingo hall, a place to hold church services when traveling ministers were in town before Sedona had any churches, a U.S.O. dance club during WW II, a roller skating rink in the 1950s, the Verde Valley’s favorite country/western dance hall in the 1980s–1990s and continues to this day to be the dwelling place for many ghosts that have been seen, heard and even photographed in recent times.  

As a result of this reputation, Relics paranormal activity and related history have recently been extensively investigated and filmed in March 2016 by the Travel Channel for a paranormal TV show. Yes! Relics was confirmed haunted and therefore the only public location in Sedona known to be spirited.  The extent to which, was revealed along with some unexpected results in The Offering episode of The Dead Files, which aired on Saturday, March 18, 2017 (Season 9, Episode 13).   To show respect for such things there is a table in the Roadhouse that is “Reserved for the Ghosts”.  This Ghost Table is set with Relics’ best silverware, antique Tiffany China and antique German etched crystal glasses. Do not hesitate to ask the host/hostess for a Haunted Brochure containing recent ghost photographs taken here on the property.

Read Now: Relics Restaurant: The Haunted Restaurant in Sedona, Arizona

In 2003–2006 the current owners Joe DeSalvo & Karen DeSalvo added the “PoolRoom” byenclosing the breezeway adjacent to the “Lounge”, which previously connected the front and back of the building. This was followed by meticulously restoring the entire facility one room at a time over a four-year period while remaining “open” for business every day throughout the process. The restoration included exposing the original stone exterior wall and original wood flooring of the Gibson House, which had been covered for sixty years as well as stripping and refinishing all of the original woodwork throughout the facility. The original materials and fixtures were utilized wherever possible. 

The Lounge after the renovations showing original exterior wall of the Gibson HomesteadFollowing this painstaking endeavor and continuing to this day, the interior is tastefully decorated using period antique furniturefixtures and accents reminiscent of the opulent and luxurious aspects of the old west including many antique dining tables and chairs as well as a monumental Front and Back Bar . This Bar was acquired from the Sedona estate of a famous movie actress, who purchased it from MGM Studios in the 1950s because it was made for and used as a stage prop in one of her movies and she loved it. To accommodate the height of the Back Bar, the “Lounge” ceiling had to be raised twelve feet.

When the Bar was installed, we discovered that it had never been used “commercially” as it was not “electrified” for lighting,  “plumbed” for water nor had any hardware installed on the Back Bar cabinet doors for opening. The Front Bar foot rest however, was salvaged from the original bar; therefore, we know that many movie stars too numerous to list used it at one time or another including John Wayne and Elvis. The basement, which is now used as an office for the restaurant, once served as residential apartments and is quietly rumored to have been a brothel at a time long forgotten. Most antiques and collectables throughout the facility are available for sale to create a unique dining and shopping experience.

Interior decor featuring period antique furniture and accents reminding us of the Old West opulenceRelics “character” is further exemplified by the use of our old world restaurant procedures. For example, you will find no computer-based “point-of-sale” system here at Relics; rather, vintage cash registers are used with traditional server-prepared Guest Checks. In addition, servers who are dressed in 1800s styled uniforms are responsible for the total serving process vs. the use of “runners” or “expeditors.” Also, typical of times past, servers are advised when their orders are ready in the kitchen by a home-made, manually operated light indicator system vs. the use of those often annoying wireless vibrating pagers. While out of “character”, Relics does however, accept all major credit cards.

Rainbows End 
as seen in movie “The Rounders”, 1965. You can see the Gibson Homestead peeking out from behind the Rainbows End sign, and next to it the saloon built by the Lawsons. Further to the right you can see the garage and a gas station, which is the oldest stone building on the property.

 as you see it nowadays. The exterior has changed throughout the years, however the Old West charm and character remain under the warm care of current owners – Joe and Karen DeSalvo.

In addition to the purchase price, the current owners spent almost one million dollars on the most recent renovation, restoration and transformation of Rainbows End. However, throughout the years, all of Rainbows End former owners have helped transform Sedona’s first town gathering spot and family restaurant to a western-style steak house and now finally a full service fine dining restaurant and banquet facility, hosting a wide variety of private and special entertainment events with dancing on Northern Arizona’s largest wooden dance floor. In this regard, please provide us with your e-mail address and you will be first informed of our Coming Attractions, Events and Special Promotions. Rainbows End former owners were: Scott & Donna Davis, Ray Irwin & William Huddleston, Dominic Tresso and Ray Lawson.Co-owner and Executive Chef Karen, proudly serves the highest quality char-broiled USDA Choice award winning steaks and Slow Roasted Prime Rib prepared daily. In addition, her menu includes a wide variety of exciting appetizers and salads as well as signature fish and seafood dishes. When you visit Relics Restaurant, we hope you enjoy our classic-style cuisine in this historic setting as you combine your dining experience with a trip back in time. Please do not hesitate to ask the host/hostess for a souvenir copy of recent ghost photographs taken here on the property and a tour of our facility or feel free to wander about on your own to explore the uniqueness of this old historical building and incredible collection of antiques.

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