By Elisabeth Ruffner
National Historic Preservation Week has traditionally been observed the second week in May. Arizona has chosen to designate the entire month of April to recognize and celebrate the state's cultural heritage and the people and places for which the past holds great meaning and significance. The theme this year is "Moving Forward with the Past".
Organized efforts in Prescott toward the ethic and practice of historic preservation were initiated in the mid-1970s as the erosion of Prescott's architectural heritage approached the rate of one good, useful building lost each year. Many of these efforts have been initiated by Yavapai Heritage Foundation, organized in 1974, following the campaign to save the Bashford House, which was successfully moved from the original site at East Gurley and Pleasant Streets (present location of Jack-in-the-box) to the corner of West Gurley Street and McCormick on the grounds of the Sharlot Hall Museum. This project engaged the efforts of the museum and many citizens of the area as well as the state, in funding the removal of the building to a new location on the grounds of the museum for which the State of Arizona purchased the land on the corner of West Gurley and McCormick Streets where this marvelous example of Victorian architecture proudly stands today. Collaboration with preservation interests both public and private continue today on the part of Sharlot Hall Museum.
Yavapai Heritage Foundation initiated the first community survey in the state for identifying and listing in the National Register of Historic Places those districts, sites and structures in Prescott worthy of preservation. It soon became evident that official attention to the built environment was a necessary step to assist property owners in productive stewardship. In 1976 the city council, following study and recommendation by an ad hoc committee, created by ordinance the overlay zoning which permitted owners to include eligible properties in a local register as a Townscape Conservation District (now an Historic Preservation District). Also created by ordinance was the Townscape Conservation Commission, now the Prescott Preservation Commission, which administers the local ordinance and which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Interior as a certified local government, conferring certain privileges to Prescott under federal statute.
These actions carry out the intentions of the original activists who worked to introduce owners to the values of their properties before demolition becomes the only viable alternative. Three elements were discerned as being necessary to assure success in any undertaking involving the continued productive use of buildings with historic value: a property worth preserving; an active, informed body of citizens acquainted with the value of local history and eager to preserve it; and a public body willing to translate private enthusiasm into public action.
Continuing the work of survey and inventory the Prescott Preservation Commission has added to the original nominations to the National Register of the Courthouse Plaza Historic District and 30 individual buildings. Today, listed in the local, state and/or national registers are six districts and 50 individual exceptionally significant properties.
The city government has accepted the value of preservation and has recognized the historic and natural attributes of Prescott as the most important economic factors in planning for the future. Prescott is in spirit and in deed moving forward with the past.
(Elisabeth Ruffner is a long time Prescott resident and a founder of the Prescott Historical Preservation Movement.)
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (bure4254pc)
Reuse only by permission.
The photo shows the Bashford house in its original location at 403 E. Gurley Street (where Jack-in-the-Box is now located) circa 1890. The entire house was moved to its new location on the Sharlot Hall Museum grounds in 1974. Please read the Days Past article dated April 18, 2004, about the move and including a photo of the house on its move down Gurley Street in front of the Courthouse Plaza.