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10:29 AM Mon, Sept. 24th

Palace excavating some of its colorful history

Palace Restaurant and Saloon maître d’ Steve Waller — aka “Marshall Steve” — stands atop the antique glass bricks to be removed in front of the restaurant’s entrance. (George Lurie/Courier)

Palace Restaurant and Saloon maître d’ Steve Waller — aka “Marshall Steve” — stands atop the antique glass bricks to be removed in front of the restaurant’s entrance. (George Lurie/Courier)

Want to own a purple piece of Prescott history? The operators of the Palace Restaurant and Saloon just might be auctioning some off.

Workers are starting to remove dozens of century-old, small purple blocks embedded in the sidewalk just in front of the swinging doors at the entrance to the 141-year-old restaurant, which bills itself as the oldest business – and bar – operating in the state of Arizona.

The square glass blocks, which were once clear but are now a deep, cloudy purple, have deteriorated to the point where restaurant general manager Scott Stanford said “they’ve become a safety hazard.”

Over the years, a number of the blocks have been damaged or have disappeared.

“People have pried some out and stolen them or they just break loose,” Stanford said. “We’ve had to fill those squares in with cement or a patch.”

The blocks, which are being replaced one section at a time, figure prominently in the business’s colorful history.

“Back when there was a brothel and opium den operating below the restaurant in the basement, they would shine a light through the glass blocks to advertise the business,” Stanford said.

Stanford’s been told by historical preservation experts the glass blocks have turned purple over the years because of their high magnesium content.

“I guess that purple color is one way to tell that they are really, really old,” Stanford said.

Prescott resident Kristen Hoagland, who often walks her dog around the grounds at courthouse plaza, noticed the blocks coming out of the ground last week and wondered what was happening.

“I think they are really cool-looking and am sorry to hear that they are taking them out,” Hoagland said.

The somewhat delicate work of removing the more-than-century-old artifacts, polished smooth by countless shoes and boot heels, “hopefully will be wrapped up in a couple of weeks,” Stanford said.

The restaurant’s property manager, Stanford added, is replacing the old blocks with similar-looking but brand-new replicas.

“If our landlord gives us permission to hold on to the old blocks, then we’ll definitely auction them off here,” Stanford said.

Proceeds from the auction, he added, would be earmarked for U.S. Vets United States Veterans Initiative.

The Palace continues to be one of Whiskey Row’s biggest draws.

Past patrons have included Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, who, according to local history, actually killed two people in gunfights behind the saloon.

Movie icon Steve McQueen also once tipped a few at the establishment’s ornate, polished cherry bar while filming the movie “Junior Bonner” there.

USA Today has dubbed the Palace one of America’s 10 best historic saloons.

The basement directly below the Palace, once a lively speakeasy, has its own rich, somewhat sordid history, with its maze of small, dirt-floor rooms that once reverberated with the clang of slot machines and the quiet murmurs of opium addicts and brothel patrons.

Recent posts on Facebook allege the subterranean space is still haunted, a rumor investigated last year by local ghost hunters (https://www.dcourier.com/news/2017/oct/31/haunting-night-palace/).

Stanford said it’s a shame the old blocks have to be removed.

“But I think it would be really cool to be able to allow people around here to be able to buy a little souvenir from the area’s past,” he said.