Originally Published: April 24, 2018 6:05 a.m.
The story of “Mike the Dog” is uniquely Prescott.
For about 15 years in the mid-20th century, Prescott’s “official community dog” greeted visitors and served as an ambassador of good will along downtown’s Whiskey Row.
“Regardless of age, color, creed or station in life, he was a silent, tolerant, loyal friend,” reads a plaque that has adorned the northwest corner of the Yavapai County Courthouse for more than half a century.
So famous was Mike in Prescott that the Evening Courier ran a front-page obituary the day after his Dec. 14, 1960 death, headlined, “Ol’ Mike is dead.”
That tidbit of Prescott’s picaresque past is among the wealth of information waiting to be discovered along the new Prescott Heritage Trail.
Introduced in 2017, the idea of a trail to celebrate Prescott’s history will become official with a launch in early May 2018.
Community Outreach Manager John Heiney says the city’s tourism department is currently putting finishing touches on a slightly reconfigured trail that will include the community’s three main museums, Sharlot Hall, Smoki, and Phippen.
Meanwhile, the original map is available at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, 117 W. Goodwin Street — conveniently the first stop on the Heritage Trail.
At 123 years old, the Chamber building is a worthy introduction to the Heritage Trail. A historic marker at the building’s entrance explains that the Romanesque/Classical Revival building was constructed in 1895 and served as both a fire station and a city jail. It was one of only two buildings facing the courthouse plaza that survived the fire of 1900.
Next up on the trail is the vacant lot next door, which once served as the home of the Ruffner Plaza Stables. Owner George Ruffner reportedly sold the building in 1922, after which it was remodeled into a modern garage, and later burned down.
The self-guided heritage tour also takes in the July 14, 1900 fire, which forever changed the face of downtown Prescott.
According to the historic marker at the corner of Montezuma and Goodwin, the fire started in a room in the Scopel Hotel (located at the Montezuma/Goodwin corner). The fire went on to consume all of the buildings on Whiskey Row, as well as almost everything in its path to Granite Creek and Willis Street.
From there, the Heritage Trail moves on to the post-fire Whiskey Row, with stops at the Sam Hill Hardware building, the Palace Saloon, and the Hotel St. Michael.
The tour also passes by an interesting chapter in Prescott’s more-recent history, with the plaque at the “Sam Steiger Crosswalk.” The Whiskey Row plaque commemorates the efforts of Steiger — a former Prescott Mayor, and long-time U.S. Congressman and Arizona State Senator — in establishing the mid-block crosswalk.
The trail then crosses Whiskey Row to the Courthouse Plaza, where it makes stops at the Mike the Dog plaque, the Centennial Tree, the historic timeline, the Roughrider Statue, the War Memorial, and the Statehood Tree — each with interesting histories of their own.
The route then crosses Gurley Street toward the Bashford Burmister Store and the Union Block building, and heads down Cortez Street to pass by the Head Hotel, the Masonic Temple, the Bank of Arizona Building, the Knights of Pythias building, and the Goldwater store.
It then circles back to the plaza with a stop at the well on the plaza, before heading across the street to the Federal Building (U.S. Post Office), and Prescott City Hall.
The tour ends with the 1960s-era city hall, which was built at the former site of Howey’s Hall — an 1876 building that served as a mercantile, opera house and second-hand store before becoming a fire station in 1904. Howey’s Hall was demolished in 1959, and was replaced by today’s city hall.
Heiney said plans are in the works in the next year to double the number of stops along the Heritage Trail and take in the city’s Greenways Trail system as well.
The Heritage Trail was designed to take about an hour to complete, and Heiney noted that many restaurants, bars, and shops are conveniently located along the way.
A ribbon cutting and official launch for the Heritage Trail is scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday, May 7 at the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, 117 W. Goodwin St. Snacks, refreshments, and live music will be on hand, and a free historical walking tour will take place from 11:30 to 2 p.m.
Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks. Reach her at 928-445-3333, ext. 2034, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Prescott Heritage Trail
Length: 1.5 miles
Prominent features: The Yavapai County Courthouse from various angles; little-known facts about Prescott’s downtown; plenty of restaurants and bars along the way
Why it’s great right now: Springtime in downtown Prescott brings mild, sunny days and colorful flowering trees; the City of Prescott is poised to officially launch the trail during National Tourism Week, 11 a.m., Monday, May 7