Originally Published: March 3, 2012 9:56 p.m.
Sharlot Mabridth Hall died on April 9, 1943, and accolades about her life achievements rolled in from across the state. Dwight B. Heard, co-founder of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, said, "In Sharlot Hall, this country found the unusual combination of the sturdiness of the pioneer with the beautiful spirit of the poet. She will be long remembered for both characteristics." For the previous 16 years, she exhibited those traits in the museum she founded.
After Sharlot's death, the museum was reopened within two months. The informal group that had supported Sharlot's efforts became the newly formed official Prescott Historical Society, and the functions of the museum were continued with its board of directors handling the smallest details for many years thereafter. The state legislature appropriated $2,000 annually beginning in 1944 for the operation of the museum, increasing the amount allocated over the ensuing years.
As early as 1938, it was suggested that the museum have a memorial rose garden to commemorate early women pioneers. The Prescott Garden Club and Yavapai Cowbelles made it a reality in 1948, locating the garden just south of the Governor's Mansion (the garden was relocated to the north of the mansion in the mid-1970s and remains today).
In 1953, Dr. Clark Hartzell co-funded the addition of the Hartzell Room to the north end of the stone Sharlot Hall Building. Created to house his extensive collection of Native American artifacts, it opened in 1955 and now holds an outstanding exhibit about the Yavapai people and their history in the community. Around this same time, with monthly visitors surpassing 1,000, the board decided to remove the stockade-like fence of juniper poles, which was constructed in the early 1930s.
The Prescott Rotarians and Prescott Education Association joined in 1962 to construct a replica of the first schoolhouse in Prescott just west of the stone Sharlot Hall Building and it can be seen there today. The original schoolhouse from which it was copied burned in 1948. It was located near the present Mile High Middle School.
Visitation to the museum during Prescott's centennial year, 1964, was 25,000, and the museum was still without an official director! Two years later, a lifetime Prescott resident, Dora Heap, was hired and ably guided the museum until she stepped down in 1973. It was during her tenure that the Governor's Mansion was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The entrance to the Governor's Mansion was located on Capitol Drive, which connected Gurley Street with Beach Avenue to the south. Under Heap's leadership, the lots across the street from the Mansion were purchased and the museum property expanded. Capitol Drive, closed to traffic, became the main walkway from Gurley Street into the museum complex.
In 1971, the "Fremont House" was purchased and moved from its location on Union Street to the new lot across from the Governor's Mansion the following year. During his tenure as Governor of the Arizona Territory from 1878-1882, John Charles Fremont lived in the little house originally located where the Carnegie Library building now stands on Gurley Street. In 1902, it was moved to Union Street as part of the St. Luke's Episcopal Church property. Now, many questioned the move to the museum, and one architect suggested the best way to deal with the old house, even after it was moved, was to burn it down! An eyesore until it was restored and furnished at a cost of $29,100 (a special state appropriation), the Fremont House was completed and dedicated in January 1974 and is now a significant addition to the museum.
The board hired the museum's first professional director, Ken Kimsey, in the summer of 1973, leading a staff of 10. Before this time, collections were not cataloged and were stored with little security in the stone building and other outbuildings. Several thefts of valuable artifacts in 1961 and Buckey O'Neill's gun in 1970 proved devastating. Mr. Kimsey promoted a cataloging system for artifacts, extended the museum's hours, enhanced security, produced a newsletter and encouraged staff to attend professional workshops and conferences. A volunteer auxiliary was formed with 20 members. Solutions for many previous museum problems were on the horizon.
An all-metal 1878 windmill, the "Mast Foos Iron Turbine," was acquired from the Matli Ranch north of Prescott in the mid-1970s and assembled over the museum's well. In 1980, the mill was successfully nominated to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Prescott Antique Car Club restored Sharlot M. Hall's personal Durant 1927 Star Four touring car, adding such conveniences as an electric starter. It can be seen in the museum's transportation building, along with a stagecoach, covered wagon and other vehicles. Sharlot's car is still used in the annual July 4th parade. The stagecoach has also been used in many local parades.
In 1974, nearly 40,000 people visited the museum, and 500 researchers consulted the library and archives. Another historic residence, the Bashford House, was donated to the museum, and the project to raise $25,000 for its relocation to the museum grounds began.
This article and additional photos are available at Sharlot.org/archives/history/dayspast and via RSS e-mail subscription. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Sharlot Hall Museum archivist Scott Anderson at 445-3122 for information.