By Mick Woodcock
Rough characters or ordinary citizens? That assessment would probably depend on your point of view not only then, but now. It is safe to say that when this photograph was taken, about 1890, the corner of Granite and Goodwin Streets was in the 'less reputable' part of town.
Almost from the town's founding in 1864, the area west of the courthouse plaza was the rougher section. By the 1880s, Granite Street north of Goodwin Street was the 'red light district' on the east side and 'China Town' on the west. It is with this knowledge that we view the people in the photograph.
Little can be deduced about some of the men in the photo. From today's perspective, suits suggest 'businessmen', overalls 'laborer' and canvas pants 'cowboy.' Others in the group give clues to certain aspects of their identities. On the far left stands a volunteer fireman from the O.K. No. 3 Hose Cart Company that was formed in the late 1880s. Behind the front row, dressed in white, are two workers from the restaurant next door. To the left of the corner pole is an oriental, perhaps from one of the Chinese stores across Granite Street. Beneath the Pabst Beer sign is a Mexican. The man in the doorway with dented hat and rolled cuffs seems likely to be a cowboy, and his two broad-stance companions may well be the same. The bareheaded man with white coat and cigar is the saloon's proprietor or bartender. The seated young woman is certainly a 'soiled dove', a rarity in Victorian photographs, as no respectable woman would go near a saloon, much less be photographed in front of one. The jaunty gentleman behind her may be a gambler. At her far left, stand two black men, one holding a lidded urn for transporting draft beer.
The corner looked pretty much as it did in the photograph from 1884 to 1900 when the entire block, and much of the downtown area, was destroyed by fire. It was rebuilt in brick and reopened June 4, 1901 as the Union Saloon. In 1924, the building was known as the 'Union Pool Hall', the change from saloon perhaps coming with Arizona's 1914 'Dry Laws'. By 1937, it housed John Maiolo's secondhand store. It was torn down the following year.
The corner property was acquired by the City of Prescott. In 1955, the city opened Fire Station Number One on the site. Made of brick, the thoroughly modern structure served the community until the early 1990s. At that time, it was sold and has been a restaurant, offices and small business shops until the present.
Mick Woodcock is the Collection Curator and Registrar at Sharlot Hall Museum.
The Characters pictured here in front of the Union Saloon at the corner of Granite and Goodwin Streets, c. 1890, lend one to think this was a "less reputable" part of town (SHM Photograph, Call Number # BU-B-8069pc. Reuse only by permission).