By Ruby Schmieder
Before the Mountain Club existed there was the heat of Phoenix B.C. (Before Cooling). It had a population of about 40,000 most of them suffering through the summer heat. The more affluent mothers fled with the children to the California seacoast hoping to protect the small children from the (sometime fatal) summer complaints. However, it was never a desirable situation to separate families for the summer. Thus there was a need to correct this unhealthy exodus.
Two men saw the advantage of keeping the families intact and near enough for the fathers to join the family on the weekends. These two men were Milton Smith, who had the vision, and Eban Lane who had done well in Phoenix real estate. After excitedly discussing the possibilities they formed a partnership. The next step was to find a nearby and easily accessible location to build a summer resort with all the amenities unknown in the mid twenties. Action was swift after this decision, so they engaged the services of a pilot to take them all over Arizona looking for a high altitude forested area which could be purchased. They found exactly what they were looking for; a large area densely covered with virgin ponderosa pine. The Fry Ranch south of Prescott had 600 acres. They bought it and added 200 acres more to make 800 acres and called it the Hassayampa Mountain Club. All this was located only one mile from the center of Prescott. Thus, the building of this Arizona resort began with a crude survey of the rocky terrain, an almost impossible task that resulted in many errors. The aim was to build only summer cabins which could be closed in the fall when families returned to Phoenix.
In order to attract well-to-do families the developers included a golf course, a swimming pool, tennis courts, playground, stables for horses, a club house and next to that a small dwelling for the social director called the "Howdy House".
Although common today, Smith and Lane initiated a novel way of selling the lots to prospective buyers. First they engaged a bus to bring prospective buyers through Wickenburg, up the steep narrow Yarnell hill and across White Spar Road to Prescott, 3 hours. Then the developers would lunch with the customers on the playground and salesmen escorted buyers over the area The lots were small but so was the price -- $300 to $450. Some lots were traded for services or for material to build the Club House ("Howdy House"), leveling the playground, and legal work. Water was obtained from the City of Prescott (population 8,000 in 1930) with an awkward agreement that was later changed.
In the early years of the Hassayampa Mountain Club, roads and streets were not named, there was only one way to identify locations and that was by the number according to when they were built. For instance the first built house was #1. Perhaps the second house was two miles away but would still be called #2. Since this system was very confusing all mail was delivered to the Howdy House. By l93l, a great number had built their summer homes with 1' X 12's and furnished with them with the bare necessities -- usually furniture recycled from their Phoenix homes. On the other hand some built much finer and larger homes, most of them remain today with little or no remodeling. The smaller cabins have gone through many stages of enlarging and improving.
In l937, the club was in serious danger of falling to pieces until a group of Phoenix business men took on the task of reorganizing the and incorporating of the club as non-profit and renaming it just the Mountain Club instead of the Hassayampa Mountain Club. A volunteer board and needed committees were selected to rule under the by-laws set up. These by-laws have been basically maintained with a board of directors elected every year at the annual member meeting in July. In the years since l945, the club has run smoothly with only minor problems along the way which have been settled with patience and good will.
There has been critical factors which changed the picture of the club from an exclusive resort to a residential area. For example, water pipes had to be buried, streets had to be named, and addresses were assigned for postal service. With those changes residents of Prescott began to see the desirability of living among the pines with lots of open spaces.
Just look at it now, there are about 385 dwellings, some are new and some are remodeled cabins. I look on with amazement for when we bought our cabin in l944 there were less than a hundred homes. Now, our daughter owns it and many third generation residents have taken over from their grandparents. There must be something magical about the Mountain Club.
Ruby Schmieder is the Author of three books including Prescott's Unique Mountain Club.
Sharlot Hall Museum Photograph Call Number: (pb145f7i10). Reuse only by permission.
When the Hassayampa Mountain Club first started in the early 1930s, there was a Prescott sales office on Copper Basin Road for customers who were residents of Phoenix trying to escape the Summer heat. The name was later changed to The Mountain Club. The Mountain Club offered many amenities such as a swimming pool, golf course, tennis courts, a playground, horse stables and a club house. These were all available to keep the wives and children (who stayed at home) of the Phoenix businessmen entertained.