By Bradley G. Courtney
The Juniper House, Prescott’s first restaurant, was founded by a multifaceted pioneer named George Barnard. A native Michigander, Barnard was one of several original Prescottonians who initially made his way west after hearing of the discovery of gold on Sutter’s Creek in California. Like several other 1849 Argonauts, he later moved to Arizona after learning of mineral strikes there.
The Juniper House serves as an example of how the first service-oriented businesses were built using readily available resources. Prescott was still basically a dream in the summer of 1864. Where, less than a year prior, there were only a few human beings, there was now a semi-village anxiously hurrying to be not only a real town, but the political and commercial center of Arizona Territory.
With the Civil War still raging and the future of the United States hanging in the balance, and with Prescott’s first Fourth of July coming up, it was critical for these first Prescottonians, overwhelmingly pro-Union, to celebrate it properly. For entrepreneurs, it was time to get a provisional business in place to open on the Fourth and think long term later.
When July 4th rolled around, Barnard was ready to go. He served breakfast, lunch and dinner; his bill of fare featured beef, mutton and venison recipes. Barnard’s menu was a hit, as the Juniper House was “largely patronized” that Independence Day.
Named “by the boys” because of the sizable juniper tree near which Barnard conducted his business, the Juniper House began in the most pioneer of ways.
One witness noted that the “progressively inclined” Barnard had “no house nor stove” when he successfully opened for business on the first Independence Day in Prescott. Rather, he cooked his cuisine over an open campfire by that juniper tree. Customers found it convenient that, after their repasts were dished out, they could move to the shady side of the tree.
From the noteworthy pioneer, Charles Genung, Barnard had purchased sixty-two pounds of elderberries at a dollar a pound for the event, with which he made numerous pies to sell. They were also used as currency. Barnard had previously employed the Miller brothers to haul logs to the site where he erected his restaurant and paid them in elderberry pies.
A pencil-drawn map, dated 1864 and stored in the Sharlot Hall Museum Library and Archives, shows a log structure labeled “Juniper House” standing on the southeast corner of Cortez and Goodwin streets where city hall is now. Although most likely drawn from memory by Barnard himself, the figure representing the Juniper House fits the description of it by well-known pioneer, Albert Banta.
Banta called the Juniper House a “a spacious dining hall.” In reality, it was a twelve-by-fifteen-foot room. A single table made from halved logs placed side-by-side, flat sides up, was featured in the middle of it. That presented a problem for prissier patrons: “The pitch oozed in gobs from the split surface of the pine poles, and one had to have a care lest his bread or other things got stuck in the pitch,” reported Banta.
The food was “the best the country afforded.” Fried venison was an oft-featured specialty. This might be accompanied by stewed apples dried in the desert heat. Breakfast sometimes consisted of pancakes topped with a creatively homespun version of syrup that apparently produced a rather humorous presentation.
The Juniper House slowly floundered and then met its demise in 1865 after falling victim to fire. Barnard, among several other accomplishments, later co-founded one of early Whiskey Row’s most long-lasting and successful bars, the Nifty Saloon on Montezuma Street.
Brad Courtney, author of Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row, offers free Whiskey Row History Walking Tours. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at https://www.sharlot.org/articles/days-past-articles.l. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to email@example.com. Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 2, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information or assistance with photo requests.