Louise Speaks: Well I waited until this time to finally blog about the beautiful town of Prescott, Arizona that I am fortunate enough to call home. As you know we have been trying to complete Patricia’s book “1000 Places To See Before You Die”. And as I have mentioned before in the book there are 1000 main attractions but inside each main attraction are many other smaller attractions. This blog about Prescott is our 150 Main Attraction and the 344 smaller attraction. It is great to say we are almost 20% done with the book.
Prescott has several nicknames. One is that we are “Arizona’s Christmas City” because of the way the Courthouse square is lite up during the month of December and January. With more than 170 huge trees surrounding the courthouse the lighting itself is pretty spectacular. This is one of Prescott’s biggest events. The event is usually the Saturday following Thanksgiving. It starts with a parade in the morning followed by the Tree Lighting at nightfall. Local school children sit on the courthouse steps and sing Christmas Carols then with the flick of a switch over one million lights in many different colors come to life. This tradition has been going on for 62 years.
Due to the western feel of Prescott, another nickname is “The West’s Most Eastern Town”. The town has a rich history and a good sense of fun along with two colleges and an aeronautical university. There are also beautiful forest, the Granite Dells and a mile high mountain known as Thumb Butte due to it’s formation. I have to show visitors how the mountain got it’s name and once I explain it, it’s easy to see it looks like a hand with the thumb extended.
Prescott is also home to the famous “Whiskey Row”. Over 20 saloons and unique boutiques line Montezuma St also known as Whiskey Row. The Palace is the oldest Saloon in Arizona and still has impostors dressed as the sheriff from the 1800’s. They are dressed in mountaineer attire complete with hat, boots and guns. There is a story about the history of the Palace. Way back the Palace caught fire. The old miners were sitting at the bar when they noticed the flames. Not wanting to stop drinking, they tore the bar from the building, carried it across the street to the courthouse lawn and continued drinking while they watched the Palace burn. Today that original bar is still sitting inside the Palace. Whiskey Row is turns into a different setting after 5:00 and even more so on the weekends. The music, the bikers, the drinking comes to life once the sun goes down. Bikers line the street as Prescott is only 100 miles north of Phoenix and only 90 miles south of Flagstaff, so it’s a great place for a bike ride with a night on Whiskey road at the end of the ride. Whiskey Row is also home to the famous “Boot Drop”. Similar to the Apple Drop on New Years Eve in New York, Prescott has a Boot Drop on New Years Eve. This is such a big event, that they do it twice. Once at 10:00 p.m. for the children or those who can’t stay awake, and then again at midnight.
Prescott still has many museums that help you relive the history of Prescott. Sharlot Hall is a log home built in 1864 that showcases Prescott’s history. This is also the location of the original Governors home, which is also the oldest wooden structure in the state of Arizona. The Sharot Hall Museum also includes an extensive collection from the Fort Misery days.
Another museum that focuses on the western part of Prescott, is the Phippen Museum. This museum was founded by and named for the artist who helped form the prestigious Cowboy Artists of America organization. This museum has a first rate selection of Western art that changes regularly. Some of the elaborate pieces are on the outside grounds like the painted ponies and the copper structures.
Another big event that calls Prescott Home is Frontier Days which hosts the Worlds Oldest Rodeo. This event is held over 4th of July week. In addition to the Rodeo there is a parade, bar-b-ques, dances and craft fairs. The town receives more visitors over this event than any other time of the year.
Prescott also has some famous hotels. The Hotel St. Michael’s is one of the oldest hotels in Prescott and is right in the center of town. It is on the corner of Whiskey Row and the Courthouse Square. The hotel does not have air conditioning other than a window unit. The elevator is closed with a sliding rod iron cage piece and is haunted. The haunted elevator and a ghostly lady that haunts the halls are just a couple of the legends surrounding this hotel. But the rooms are comfortable, the view is breathtaking and the restaurant inside serves some of the best food in town.
If you want a more luxurious say you must stay at the Hassayampa Inn. Opened as a luxury hotel in 1927 when Prescott was the bustling territorial capital of Arizona. The hotel has been lovingly restored with 68 guest rooms and the elegant Peacock Room for exquisite dining. There is usually someone playing the art nouveau piano in the hotels lobby just like in the good old days.
Downtown Prescott also has another famous building and that is the Elks Theater, previously the Elks Opera House and before that the Elks Lodge. The Elks Lodge’s original plans did not call for a theater. Entertainment hungry residents raised the necessary funds and it was incorporated into the plans for the three-story building housing the lodge on the top floor, offices on the second floor and retail space on the ground floor. The granite cornerstone of the building was laid on April 3, 1904, with an excited crowd in attendance. The grand opening of the Elks Opera House was Monday, Feb. 20, 1905.
Prescott residents were equally proud of their opera house, around which they built their business and social lives. The location is one block east of the County Courthouse Plaza and was along the streetcar route making the location ideal. Prescott was a convenient stopover for companies traveling between the larger cities to the east and west.
The venue, which at the time boasted 900 seats and eight dressing rooms, also was used a great deal for balls, civic presentations and high school graduations. The acoustics were considered superb.
The Arizona Community Foundation purchased the Elks Opera House in 1982. That same year the building was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The City of Prescott acquired the Elks Opera House in February 2001, paying $250,000 in a bid to preserve the historic landmark and ensure its continued use as a community gathering place. The interior of the Theater was completely restored to its original grandeur in 2010 and the exterior of the building was completely renovated in 2014.
Prescott also has a couple of lakes some in town and some on the outskirts of town. The local lake is Watson Lake. This lake surrounds the Dells and hosts many recreational activities like canoeing, kayaking and fishing. The lake however does not allow swimming. There is a look
out viewpoint that allows you to see the lake as it weaves in and out of the dells. Other nearby lakes are Willow Lake, which is drying up, Lynx Lake and Goldwater Lake, all of which just add to the beauty of Prescott.
I love this town…that’s why I live here. It has got to be a must stop when coming to the state of Arizona. Prescott has been rated the #3 place in the country to retire for the past 7 years. Without a doubt, I would give Prescott and all it has to offer an A rating. I love it here, and you will too.