“A Weekend of Heritage”
Every Arizona resident, either native or newcomer (which applies to the majority of us), should visit Prescott at least once to experience our state's heritage. When you go, be sure pack sturdy footwear along and an eager mind to learn and have fun because you will do a lot of walking and learn even more.
Perhaps you did not know that Prescott served as Arizona's first territorial capital from 1863 until 1867. The territorial capital moved to Tucson, but Prescott took the title again from 1877 until 1889 when Phoenix became the permanent capital. You will learn this, and many other fascinating facts of the West.
The town itself is a wealth of history, and many of the nooks and crannies throughout "Everyone's Hometown" tell a unique story. Some of the tales are new. However, the 600 or so buildings that are listed on the National Register of Historic Places tell a story from a time when miners struck it rich with gold in the 1860’s and Doc Holiday and Wyatt Earp enjoyed the festivities of the infamous Whiskey Row where 26 saloons served some of the most notorious characters of the Old West. The time on Whiskey Row roared until 1900 when a devastating fire ripped through the downtown destroying the watering holes and most of the town.
According to a town legend, “the men who were at the Palace carried the large 1880's Brunswick Bar across the street so the fire would not interrupt their evening.” Not long after the fire, the town of Prescott rose from the ashes. Today guests of the Palace can enjoy a delicious meal in the restaurant and a drink on the original 1880's Brunswick bar in Arizona's oldest frontier saloon.
Also restored to grandeur is The Gurley Street Grill, located on 230 W. Gurley Street, a popular place for a family-oriented lunch or dinner, where I simply cannot resist the Baja Chicken Wrap for my lunch.
The Gurley Street Grill once served as the Mulvenon Saloon, owned by Sheriff Bill Mulvenon, from 1890 until 1900 when the wooden-framed bar burned down to the ground. However, reconstruction from local brick and rubble from the fire brought the building back to life in 1901.
The former Mulvenon Saloon continued to serve as a bar and the upstairs a bordello until 1948 when the upstairs business ended. Since then, reputable occupants such as an upholstery shop and apartment renters used the space until 1992 when it became the Gurley Street Grill. However, some people believe that not all of the former occupants of the building are actually gone.
"I don't believe in ghosts, but I do believe in George," Aaron Meisheid, the General Manager of the Gurley Street Grill.
George, the Grill's resident ghost, reveals his presence by turning on the televisions and the lights, and according to Mr. Meisheid, one night after he cleaned the upstairs banquet room he propped to restroom doors open with a chair. However, when Mr. Meisheid returned, before leaving for the night, he found the restroom doors closed.
Prescott would not be the place of outstanding historic preservation that it is today if it were not for Sharlot Hall, who moved to the Yavapai County frontier from Kansas in the 1880s when she was 12 years-old. During her adolescent years in Arizona, her family mined for gold and raised horses on Orchard Ranch above Lynx Creek. Ranch life lived on in Ms. Hall’s heart and she conveyed the daily hardships through poetry and prose.
Along with documenting her own experiences, Hall had a deep understanding of the importance of preserving artifacts from a disappearing era so people of future generations can learn about their heritage. While most people unknowingly tossed out noteworthy objects, Hall kept the items and had a vision of a museum for the world to see. In 1907, the planning for her museum began and she was the first woman to hold a salaried office position in the Arizona territory by serving as the Territorial Historian from 1909-1912. On June 20, 1927 Hall's dream of a museum came true when she housed her historic collection in the 1864 Governor's Mansion, and in 1943, the museum was named Sharlot Hall Museum, located on 415 West Gurley Street.
The Governor's Mansion is a preserved artifact as well. The mansion is actually the oldest building that remains in its original location within the Arizona Territory, but in the 1920's demolition was its fate. However, in 1927 not only did Hall save the mansion, she moved in to the building that same year and lived there for nine years.
Some very important people of the Arizona Territory called the Governor's Mansion home, including John Goodwin, the first governor of the Arizona Territory to serve in office. Although Goodwin was not the first territorial governor, in fact, he replaced John Gurley, whose inauguration occurred on March 10, 1863, but he passed away in August, before serving in office.
Originally, Samuel Blair built the mansion as a duplex without any extras, but Margaret McCormick (the wife of Territorial Secretary Richard McCormick who also occupied the mansion and took over the mansion once Goodwin left the property, joined the duplex), added such luxuries as hardwood floors and glass windows. Mrs. McCormick brought the mansion to a new level, and she threw elaborate parties in the house. Sadly, Mrs. McCormick passed away at the young age of 23.
The Governor's Mansion is not the only rescued building located on the Sharlot Hall Museum campus. I soon make my way to the Bashford House, which serves as the museum gift shop. While perusing through the shop I thoroughly enjoy the selection of fine clothing, and large quantity of books including several written by Ms. Hall and being somewhat of a bibliophile, I purchase two. But I am taken by the beautiful Victorian architecture from 1877. Preservationists followed Ms. Hall's example and saved the house. In addition, the entire town raised money to move the house seven blocks to the museum, away from the harm of destruction.
Unfortunately, I am not present at the museum for the many spectacular roses that will soon bloom from more than 260 rose bushes located in the Territorial Women's Memorial Rose Garden. The rose bushes were planted to honor the pioneer women of Arizona. Therefore, I must return, and when I do, I will have the opportunity to enjoy the roses and the living history program offered by the museum.
According to Pamela Mundy, the museum's Marketing Coordinator, the living history interpretative programs is such an integral part of the museum's mission because it teaches audiences about the hardships and livelihood of the pioneers on the frontier. For further information on the schedule for the living history programs, visit www.sharlot.org.
However, I do not leave the Sharlot Hall Museum without listening to the stories that the artifacts tell, especially within the Sharlot Hall Building, the main exhibit building on the campus. One-thousand Prescott residents, mostly from the Yavapai Tribe, worked under the 1934 Unemployment Relief with the Civil Works Administration to construct the building (and many other buildings throughout Prescott). Ms. Hall dedicated the building to the construction workers by giving it a second name, “The House of 1,000 Hands.”
While I am in the Sharlot Hall Building, I listen carefully to the many stories of the baskets crafted by the area's indigenous people. Anthropologists conclude that more than 10,000 Yavapai people lived on the 9,500,000 acres of Yavapai County. They nomadically moved throughout the year because of changes in climate and their resources. Their handmade baskets served a countless functions for the Yavapai (and indigenous people throughout the country). Some of the uses included cooking, shields, hats, houses, canteens, fish traps, gathering seeds, and eating trays. During the frontier days of the Arizona Territory, Yavapai women often wove bassinet baskets for the ranch families. In the early 1900's, Yavapai women, and even some of the men, wove baskets to sell to travelers to the area for very little money. Today, the Yavapai Tribe continues to thrive in the county.
The Yavapai Tribe was not the first group of people in the area at all. In fact, the ancient Prescott People lived in the area from 800-1400 A.D.
Perhaps the best place in Prescott for complete immersion in the history of the people who are the original residents of the frontier is the small, yet rich Smoki Museum located on 147 N. Arizona Street, where the mission statement is "respect for indigenous cultures of the Southwest."
The Smoki People founded the Smoki Museum in 1935 as a place to display prehistoric and contemporary pottery, Native American jewelry, and art by such artists as the accomplished Kate Thompson Cory and Ryan Huna Smith, a painter of the Colorado River Indian Tribe. The museum will display Smith’s work from April until September of 2007.
However, the Smoki People were extremely controversial. The fraternal organization consisted of very prominent members of Prescott who were mostly white men who dressed in Native American attire and imitated Native American dances that they routinely performed from 1921-1990. Some residents of Prescott supported the Smoki People because of their involvement with the community and their preservation of Native American artifacts, while many Native Americans find the imitations and ceremonies offensive and degrading to their culture. The group disbanded for a variety of reasons in 1991, but in 2004, the Smoki Museum organized a permanent exhibit that examines the Smoki People of Prescott so visitors can develop their own opinion regarding this influential group.
The collection of pottery, textiles, bows and arrows, and kachinas represent many Native American tribes throughout the Southwest including Yavapai, Hopi, Apache and Ancient Puebloans. The Ancient Puebloans, or more commonly referred to as the incorrect term "Anasazi," which means "ancient enemies," mostly inhabited the northern part of the state and the Prescott People lived in the present-day Prescott area. The truth is, no one is completely sure about what happened to these ancient groups, but it is unlikely that they merely vanished.
"They may have been absorbed into another tribe," Greg Baumert, who is a volunteer in charge of the museum’s educational department, says.
However, the people of the ancient past left behind clues for archeologists to try to understand how they lived.
Many of the prehistoric pottery are from a variety of ancient ruins throughout Yavapai County. For example, the Smoki Museum has an impressive collection of Prescott grayware pottery, and Tusyayan black on white pottery from the King's Ruin located near Prescott.
The King's Ruin dates back 1000-1200 A.D. and it had 13 rooms that were for various functions. Dr. Byron Cummings, who served as the Director of the Department of Archaeology at the University of Arizona in the 1930's, led an archeology team to excavate the King's Ruin in 1932 for the purpose of learning about the past and preserving the prehistoric artifacts. Also included in the Smoki Museum's extensive collection is a variety of pottery from Tuzigoot National Monument, located in Cottonwood, AZ, which is about an hour north of Prescott. The artifacts from Tuzigoot represent the Sinagua People who occupied the Tuzigoot Pueblo from 1100-1400.
When you visit the Smoki Museum, not only will you observe priceless artifacts and artwork, but you will also have the opportunity to experience Native American activities at the hands-on educational table, where Mr. Baumert chooses different activities and changes them periodically. Today I get to make music with a rasp(a notched stick that another stick scrapes), assemble a jigsaw puzzle that reveals a picture of early pottery, and create some bead art on the beading loom. I also take a moment to grind corn on the metate, just as the Prescott People did long ago, but after only a few moments bent over with the task I gain tremendous respect for the women who worked on the trying chore on a daily basis.
Currently, the Smoki Museum envisions the Native Gardens Project, which will consist of living history, an outdoor classroom, a community-gathering place and a vegetable garden maintained by local children.
Prescott offers a broad spectrum of activities for visitors to the area, including art enthusiasts and collectors who will find a wealth of art unique to the Southwest. The fascinating granite formations, comfortable weather and historic architecture lures artists of all media to Prescott, and on the fourth Friday of every month, Prescott hosts their art walk.
During the 4th Friday Art Walks you will find more than 20 art galleries open late featuring a variety of local artists. Perhaps you may wish to explore metal sculptures at the Ted Phillip Denton Contemporary Art Studio, located in the Old Firehouse Plaza on 220 W. Goodwin, Suite C or hand blown glass at the Arts Prescott Cooperative Gallery also located in the Old Firehouse Plaza on 124 Montezuma Street. Live music, delicious food, and a warm atmosphere are all part of the art walks. You can find the hours for specific galleries and a map of the art walk on the web at www.artthe4th.com.
However, art can be enjoyed everyday in Prescott by visiting one of the fine art museums. Spending the afternoon at the Phippen Art Museum, located on 4701 Highway 89 North, is one of the best ways to explore the heritage of Southwestern art.
The Phippen Museum is named after George Phippen(1915-1966), the co-founding president of the Cowboy Artists of America. His work within the museum collection such as several bronze sculptures and his mixed media piece "Stage Over Pass," provides a feel for the frontier.
In 1949, Mr. Phippen moved his family to Prescott where he used local residents and the surrounding scenery for his masterpieces. He interpreted life in the West in great detail by placing a mirror behind him while he painted so he could concentrate on the depth and distance of the subject. In addition, the reverse image provided more detail and composition.
A gift of land from the James Family Trust and funds from the Memorial Day Weekend Phippen Museum Annual Western Art Show and Sale enabled the Phippen Museum to open in 1984. Since the opening of the museum, the mission statement has continued the legacy of Mr. Phippen: "To preserve and exhibit museum quality Western art and educate the public about the unique heritage, history, legends and influence of art of the American West."
I stop by the "Family Discovery Center" where I try to recapture the West on the real life western easel, but I don't believe the museum will display my stick figures in the "Winners' Roundup Exhibit" which is the current exhibit at the Phippen Museum until July 8, 2007. The exhibit consists of a collection of work by award-winning artists from the past 32 years of the Memorial Day Weekend Phippen Museum Annual Western Art Show and Sale plus other prestigious awards such as Southwest Art Magazine art awards.
The 33rd Annual Phippen Museum Western Art Show and Sale will take place this year from May 26-28 at the Courthouse Plaza located in downtown Prescott. For more information about the event and the Phippen Museum, visit www.phippenartmuseum.org.
Happy trails to all the visitors to Prescott, and do plan to make a second visit so you can learn even more about the history of our state and the historic town of Prescott.
WHEN YOU GO
Don’t forget to pick up your Prescott Area Passport to Culture. The passport guides you through the cultural areas of Prescott. The six areas listed in the passport are the following:
· Heritage Park Zoo, located on 1403 Heritage Park Rd. The zoo is open everyday from 9 A.M.-5 P.M. May-October and 10 A.M.-4 P.M. November-April. Contact 928-778-4242 or www.heritageparkzoo.org
· Highlands Center for Natural History, located on 1375 Walker Rd. Contact 928-445-5497 or www.highlandscenter.org.
· Phippen Art Museum is located on 4701 Highway 89N. The museum is open Mon-Sat, 10 A.M.-4 P.M. and Sunday 1-4 P.M. Contact 928-778-1385 or www.phippenartmuseum.org.
· Prescott Fine Arts is located on 208 N. Marina. It is open Mon-Sat. 11 A.M.-4 P.M. Contact 928-445-3286 or www.pfaa.net.
· Sharlot Hall Museum is located 415 W. Gurley St. The museum is open every day except major holidays. Contact 928-445-3122 or www.sharlot.org.
· Smoki Museum is located on 147 North Arizona St. The museum is open April-October, Mon-Sat: 10 A.M.-4 P.M.; Sun. 1-4 P.M. and November to March, Mon, Fri, Sat: 10 A.M.-4 P.M., Sun. 1-4 P.M. Contact 928-445-1230 or www.smokimuseum.org.
Prescott offers a variety of activities throughout the year including the World’s Oldest Rodeo from June 29-July 4. For a complete calendar of events contact www.visit-prescott.com.
There are numerous places to stay in Prescott, including the historic Hotel St. Michael located on 205 W. Gurley St., right in the heart of downtown Prescott. Contact 1-800-678-3757 or www.stmichaelhotel.com. Rooms rates are $59-119 per night.