9 Spots to Understand the History of Prescott – A True Western Town

September 27, 2019

Prescott’s historic Whiskey Row and vintage hotels recently earned the town the No. 1 rating of “True Western Town of the Year” by True West Magazine. As a younger, more modern feel emerges, with hip boutiques and restaurants, locals and visitors can reflect on how this small town earned legendary status. Here’s 9 great spots and historical facts* to help you better understand why Prescott is a “True Western Town”.

    1. A good place to learn more about Prescott history is the Sharlot Hall Museum, named for the first woman to hold the territorial historian title in Arizona. The museum includes 11 exhibit buildings, more than 40,000 artifacts and thousands of original documents, historical photographs, rare texts and maps, plus living history presentations featuring volunteers dressed in period garb. The artifacts extend back to prehistoric times and early man, as well as the territorial history of Prescott.


    1. Prescott started out as the capital of the Arizona Territory in 1864. The territorial capital moved to Tucson in 1867, but Prescott again became the territorial capital in 1877, until Phoenix became the capital in 1889. You can see this history for yourself by touring the 1864 Governor’s mansion, home and office of Arizona’s first two territorial governors, John Noble Goodwin and Richard McCormick, located on the grounds of Sharlot Hall museum, plus the Fremont House, home of the fifth territorial governor.


    1. The old west gold rush culture affected the early days of the town. At one time, Whiskey Row hosted about 40 saloons, drawing cowboys, gold prospectors, gamblers and bawdy girls. It was known as a red-light district until the 1950s.

    1. Virgil Earp, Wyatt Earp’s older brother (both known for the gunfight at the O.K. Corral in Tombstone), lived in Prescott in 1879 and it is also rumored that Doc Holliday, a gunman and sometime dentist (also a participant in the gunfight at the O.K. Corral) spent some time in Prescott just before heading to Tombstone


    1. The Arizona Pioneers’ Home, a continuing care retirement home, has been home to many colorful residents, including John Miller, who claimed to be Billy the Kid, as well as “Big Nose Kate” Elder, a prostitute and common-law wife of Doc Holliday.


    1. Modern day downtown Prescott bears only a vague resemblance to its early territorial self. The Plaza is still there, but most of the current brick buildings date from the 20th century, constructed as a result of a devastating fire in 1900 that burned the wood buildings. You can view a couple of timelines in Prescott thanks to public art projects supported by the community. The timeline located on the north side of Courthouse Plaza features events from the History of Yavapai County with supporting illustrations. The timeline at Prescott Public Library features world history events.


    1. As a tribute to wild west cowboys, one of Prescott’s most beloved landmarks is the Big Johnson statue a little north of downtown Prescott, at 947 Fair Street. He’s been around since the early 1970s, providing a photographic background for tourists and residents. He originally held a rifle in his hands before Texaco decided that was politically incorrect. He now holds a hand of cards.


    1. Another way to get a taste of Prescott’s history is to kick up your heels and attend the annual World’s Oldest Rodeo at the Prescott Rodeo Grounds. Since 1888, this event has occurred annually over the Fourth of July weekend and now features wild horse racing, saddle bronc riding, steer wrestling, bareback riding, tie-down roping, women’s’ barrel racing and bull riding.


    1. A good way to end the Prescott history lesson is by watching the sun set on a gorgeous view of Thumb Butte and the San Francisco Peaks. There’s a great location you can reach by heading east on Gurley Street from Courthouse Square, turning right on Palmer Hill and making an immediate right, taking you up a narrow road to a dead end. It’s a quiet neighborhood, so please be respectful when you visit the spot. Gazing at the scene provides a chance to reflect upon the timeless tales and rich history of Prescott Arizona.


If you love Prescott, but like your independence, visit Talking Rock talkingrockaz.com.

Thirty minutes from downtown Prescott, this private, guard-gated master-planned community offers a variety of home sites and new customized homes, whether you want to live on the golf course or adjacent to Arizona State Trust Land. Home sites are ½ to 10-acres in size, and ready-to-move-in homes are also available

*Reference: AZCentral Travel Guide: https://www.azcentral.com/story/travel/arizona/road-trips/2016/03/06/prescott-arizona-things-to-do-restaurants-outdoor-activities-travel-guide/76740538/