Originally Published: November 20, 2010 9 p.m.
The return of the Territorial Capital to Prescott from Tucson back in 1877 was followed a year later by the arrival of the fifth Territorial Governor John Charles Fremont and his family. For the next three years, they rented a simple Victorian house originally built in 1875 by William "Zed" Wilson located at the southwest corner of East Gurley and Marina streets (site of the current Carnegie Library building next to the Elks Theater). This house has been known through the years as the "Fremont House."
In April of 1891, the local Episcopal Bishop's Committee purchased two lots on the northwest corner of Marina and Union streets from Mrs. Frances Bashford for $750. Construction of the new church began on New Year's Day 1892. The oak pews arrived in early April. Mrs. H.C. Gooding gave the altar vessels. On Palm Sunday (April 10, 1892), the first services were held in the new building, with Rev. Edward W. Meany officiating. The organ arrived 18 days later.
Bishop John Mills Kendrick came up from Phoenix in August 1892 to officiate at the marriage of Ethel Meany, daughter of the vicar at the new church, to Frank M. Murphy, a financier who was involved in many different enterprises in the Arizona Territory.
In 1902, Frank and Ethel Murphy purchased the Fremont House, which likely would have been demolished to make way for the building of the Carnegie Library at that location. They then gave the house to the mission. The house was moved from its original site to Union Street just west of the church in April 1903. For the next 22 years, the home served as the rectory for seven successive priests and their families.
With the church loan paid off and the deed transferred to The Episcopal Church Corporation of Arizona, the mission became self-supporting and, again, changed its name, for the final time, from Church of the Advent to St. Luke's Church in September 1903.
At the Parish annual meeting on Jan. 5, 1925, the vestry of St. Luke's Church was authorized to purchase the A.H. Case property at 120 South Mount Vernon Street for the new rectory. Nearly one and a half years later, Mrs. Bessie Brown (of Piggly Wiggly) expressed a desire to purchase the Fremont House, and it was sold to her on July 30, 1926, for $3,000.
Thirty years passed. The house had been divided into four rentals with an expected annual income of $2,280 and once again was for sale. However, the building had acquired many leaks and the whole structure needed repairs and painting inside and out. The vestry made an offer of $12,000. Announcement of the purchase was made at the Parish annual meeting in January 1957. The house once again belonged to St. Luke's Church. In February 1958, a fire in the apartment house resulted in damage of slightly less than $1,000. Immediately, talk began of the sale and moving of the building, with the space to be used for a parking lot. Nearly 10 years passed before any interest was shown.
In 1970, the Prescott Historical Society expressed an interest in the "Fremont House" for historic preservation purposes. However, time was needed to procure a site for the structure. On June 28, 1971, the rector, wardens and vestry of St. Luke's Church agreed to give the house to the Prescott Historical Society pending the necessary approval by the Diocese of Arizona. Approved, the Historical Society requested a year to prepare a new site. In June 1972, another fire occurred in the attic of the house, causing some damage to the structure, which was now in the hands of the Historical Society. Fire, vandalism and weather each took its toll on this house, which now required a great deal of work to restore it to its original beauty.
The Fremont House was moved to the Sharlot Hall Museum campus and, by the following year, was completely restored and furnished to the time when the Fremonts lived in it nearly 100 years earlier.
As for St. Luke's Church, a new building was constructed at 2000 Shepherd's Lane near the Prescott airport. The first service, on Palm Sunday 2000, was exactly 108 years after the first service at their original church building on Marina Street, Palm Sunday 1892.
For more photos and other Days Past articles see Sharlot.org/library&archives/history/dayspast. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Scott Anderson at Sharlot Hall Museum Archives at 445-3122.