Originally Published: April 23, 2009 11:12 p.m.
PRESCOTT - To protect historic sites and deal with state budget cuts, the Sharlot Hall Museum board of directors is building a fence around the grounds in downtown Prescott.
Work on the fence already has started, and museum officials hope to complete it by early next month.
Museum officials estimate that they fail to collect as much as $7,000 annually in $5 adult entrance fees because many people just wander onto the grounds, which consists of numerous buildings covering an entire city block.
"The fence really helps define the museum and campus," museum Marketing Coordinator Mike Lange said.
The fence will encircle everything except the Victorian Bashford House, which is home to the museum's gift shop.
Otherwise, adults 18 and older no longer will be able to stroll through the museum grounds without either a membership or $5 entrance fee. And event entrance fees no longer will be optional. Membership is $25 for adults, $35 for senior citizens and guest, or $50 for families. Members get free entry to the grounds and special events, as well as store and theater discounts.
The grounds will close completely after regular daytime hours.
The main entrance will be on the Gurley Street side of the grounds.
Museum Director John Langellier and Lange pointed to numerous acts of past vandalism including graffiti on the large Corn Mother sculpture, warming fires that people apparently ignite overnight and damage to the 1864 territorial governor's mansion from skateboarders.
The grounds also are home to the 1875 Frémont House, home to the Arizona Territory's second governor, and the 1863 Fort Misery, the oldest log building associated with the territory.
"It's an historic site, so we have to protect it as such," Langellier said.
The fence also will allow the museum to close on selected days, such as Mondays after weekend festivals, to reduce staff overtime hours for breakdown and clean-up chores.
Langellier noted that museum founder Sharlot Hall erected a wooden fence on the grounds in the 1930s that remained through the 1950s, well after her death.
"Sharlot had a fence to keep out the bootleggers, vandals and thieves," he related.
And shortly after museum officials removed the fence in 1954, someone stole priceless objects including belongings of Spanish-American War hero Buckey O'Neill, Langellier said.
Talk of replacing the fence has been going on for many years, he said.
Donations will cover the expense of the new fence, thanks to a special anonymous donation earmarked for that purpose that will cover half the $30,000 cost. The Prescott Fence Company is donating about $1,800 of in-kind services, too.