Days Past: A short history of the Bashford House - Part I
Prescott was established as the capital of the newly created Arizona Territory in the spring of 1864. At the time, it could not even be characterized as a settlement, just a few camps of miners and the beginnings of Fort Whipple a few miles from town. Prescott's earliest buildings consisted of tents or brush shelters. However, with a plentiful source of timber, log buildings soon began to appear and, by 1865, Prescott was described as a town built entirely of wood.
The earliest existing example of log construction in Prescott is the Governor's Mansion which still stands today at its original location on the campus of Sharlot Hall Museum. Other log buildings on the campus also represent the log building types of the 1860s - Fort Misery, which was moved from its original site on Goose Flats next to Granite Creek near South Montezuma Street and subsequently rebuilt and restored; and the Schoolhouse, a replica of the log schoolhouse which was built in 1872 by Samuel Rogers beneath a large Cottonwood tree on what is now the campus of Mile High Middle School. The schoolhouse was de-stroyed in a fire in 1948.
Very shortly after Prescott was established, entrepreneurs of every sort came to the area. A. O. Noyes and George Lount very quickly established a sawmill on the banks of Granite Creek. By 1867 or 1868, George Curtis became a partner in the business and began building homes and commercial buildings. The availability of sawn lumber made an impact on the development of Prescott as the crude and often dirt-floored log buildings were considered temporary.
By the 1870s, homes were being built with locally made brick foundations, horizontal wood siding, sash windows, brick chimneys and wood-shingled roofs. There are only a few unaltered buildings left in Prescott from this time-period and once the railroad arrived in 1886, many were converted to large, fancy, Victorian-era homes. By then, Prescott was a center of commerce in the area and many wealthy businessmen had moved into the community. It was important in the society of the day for the socially elite to have an up-to-date, elegant and attractive home in which to entertain. Most of these homes were located along Union, Gurley, Mt. Vernon and Pleasant Streets.
The Bashford brothers - Coles and Levi - came to Arizona Territory in 1864 with the first territorial governor. Coles, a prominent politician in Wisconsin where he had been a governor, senator and attorney general became the president of the Arizona Territorial Legislature, and in 1875 was appointed Secretary of the Territory. His brother, Levi, came to Prescott and soon became an important merchant, opening the Bashford Mercantile Store in 1868.
In the spring of 1874, Cole's son William Coles Bashford joined the mercantile business and a partnership with Robert H. Burmister resulted in the well-known mercantile "The Bashford-Burmister Company," commonly known as "The B-B." Located across the street from the Plaza on West Gurley Street, it was a very successful business well into the 20th century. Along with the success of the business came the financial success of its partners, including William Bashford.
In 1877, Samuel Baker built a small, rectangular, two-story, wood-framed cottage on the southeast corner of Pleasant and Gurley streets, facing west, onto Pleasant Street. It was soon purchased by William and his wife Mary-Louise for $2,000. There are no known photographs of this building, but it can be surmised that it was a simple "Victorian Cottage," typical of the homes being built in Prescott at the time.
Over the next 10 years, the Bashfords completely transformed the building in size, architecture and elegance. Several additions enlarged the footprint of the house and a solarium and a two-story bay window were added to the east side of the building. The front entrance was relocated to the Gurley Street façade and a beautiful moon gate was added to the entrance, along with a pair of stained glass French doors. Painted in a period color scheme of approximately seven colors, the house was a very visible landmark on East Gurley Street. By 1903, it was the epitome of a Victorian-era Queen Anne with Eastlake influences which could, and did, hold its own with any of the other high-style homes in Prescott.
Nest Sunday: The preservation and historical registration of the Bashford House.
Days Past is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners, International. This and other Days Past articles are available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit articles for Days Past consideration. Please contact Assistant Archivist, Scott Anderson, at SHM Archives 445-3122 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org for information.