By Kristen Kauffman


In 1912 President Frank L. Wright of the Prescott Power Company had an idea. In the early 20th century, towns hosted chautauquas, a week-long series of lectures and concerts focused on rational and cultural subjects—and one was coming to Prescott. Wright wanted to make the streetcar operational again, but he would need money. He announced how much he previously lost on the streetcar project: $26,000 ($832,347 today). Ten local businessmen put up a $500 bond to get the tracks in order, and the Arizona Power Company agreed to repair the wiring, so the only cost was railway repair and wages for two motormen.


The Prescott streetcar originally ran from about 1904 to 1909. In 1892 the first streetcar franchise was granted to businessman Frank Murphy who was instrumental in bringing the Sante Fe railroad to Prescott. He had hoped to bring tracks into the Bradshaws, but the railroad wouldn’t fund it. This is why Murphy objected in 1902 when Wright proposed a streetcar line downtown with plans to expand to Groom Creek. Mayor Burmeister granted the new permit because Wright was willing to risk his own capital. 


On May 28, 1904, the Weekly Journal Miner paper compared the Gurley Street track to those in Los Angeles and San Diego. By November 15, 1905, Wright expanded the line from Arizona Avenue to Sheldon, through the south entrance of Fort Whipple (the Yavapai College entrance today), ending at “the new hospital” (today’s V.A.). Wright invited a Weekly Journal Miner writer, several prominent businessmen and local politicians to ride the full track from Park Avenue to the fort—a ride of fifteen minutes. The fare was $.05 for a single ride or $1 for 25 rides. The streetcar would be downtown on the hour and the half hour starting at 7:30 am and then at Fort Whipple at 15 and 45 minutes after the hour.


Interestingly, the last run at 11 pm was the busiest. Soldiers rode to Prescott on the railroad to report for duty the next day. Some had too much to drink on the train and couldn’t walk. All were glad they didn’t have to walk two miles to the fort near midnight.


On January 22, 1906, a second car was delivered, one accommodating 28 passengers. Moreover, it was heated, enclosed and wired for electric lights—something that motorman Eli Stauffer appreciated so much he convinced Wright to adapt the first car.


On the same day the second car was delivered, construction on the car barn began on Cortez between Willis and Sheldon (where the ASIS Massage School is today). The 25-foot-by-90-foot temporary structure suggests that Wright’s finances might have already been tight.


However, in 1909 something happened that no one could have expected. The garrison at Fort Whipple withdrew, evaporating the streetcar’s business. By 1910 Wright’s franchise went bankrupt. By 1911 the streetcar stopped running. In 1912 the city council told Wright to take out the tracks if he wasn’t going to use them. The business venture that started with so much hope had turned into the town’s annoyance.


Refreshing the streetcar for the Chautauqua in 1912 seemed like a great idea, but the project folded anyway. In 1915 the tracks were removed or paved over, and some tracks were used to construct the vaults in the Bank of Arizona. In March of 1915, one of the streetcars was shipped to Douglas, where it was salvaged. The second streetcar stayed in Prescott for a while longer. Until the mid-1940’s it was parked next to the armory–a sad, weather-beaten token of an ill-fated idea.


“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International ( This and other Days Past articles are also available at The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at for information or assistance with photo requests.