Originally Published: November 20, 2018 8:40 p.m.
Western heritage is all around Prescott’s Whiskey Row, but the tourists who flock to the historic street might not always be tuned into the rich past.
Dennis Gallagher, the founder and president of the Prescott Western Heritage Foundation, says he was once one of those visitors.
“My wife and I moved up here from Mesa about 12 years ago, but before that we used to come up to Prescott, and we’d park downtown and walk around and have lunch, walk around some more, and then go home,” Gallagher said. “We didn’t know about a lot of the things that Prescott and Yavapai County have to offer.”
Basically, he said, “We really haven’t had a lot of visibility of our history around the plaza.”
Now, the Foundation, with Gallagher at the helm, plans to fill that void by creating a center that will be dedicated specifically to the fascinating stories of Yavapai County’s Western past.
WHISKEY ROW ACCESS
The chosen location for the new Western Heritage Center is a spot in which Prescott’s history has played out for more than a century.
From hardware to early-model Fords to pottery to rustic furniture, the long, narrow space at 156C S. Montezuma St. has long embodied Prescott’s business past.
Gallagher said work has been underway for two years or more on the Foundation’s plans to create a Western Heritage Center in downtown Prescott.
This past September, the plans crystalized when the foundation was able to lease the space that once served as the home of the venerable Sam Hill Hardware Company.
Most recently, the space housed The Rancher’s Wife home furnishings store. Over the summer, the building was eyed briefly as an Italian restaurant and deli, but those plans reportedly fell through.
Gallagher and Foundation Vice President Robert Greninger say the Whiskey Row location makes the building the ideal location for the center they are working to create.
Although Prescott’s varied museums have a wealth of information about the history of the area, Gallagher and Greninger noted that none of them has a Whiskey Row location.
“The intent is having a central location down here where we have the foot traffic,” Greninger said, adding that the center would serve as a “showcase” of what the museums and other history-focused organizations have to offer.
The museums and historical societies are being invited to participate with exhibits of their own.
“We plan to key in on ranching history, mining history, railroad history, law enforcement history,” as well as the culture of the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, Greninger said.
Events such as the Cowboy Poets and the World’s Oldest Rodeo are also expected to have a seasonal presence, and could use the center to sell tickets to their annual events.
Along with plans to work with the local non-profits, Greninger said the center also aims to collaborate with the Prescott Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chamber sees about 30,000 people and year,” he said, adding that the center hopes that the Chamber will “direct them over here to get a more comprehensive and in-depth understanding.”
ACKER NIGHT PRESENCE
Although the building is currently in the early stages of renovations, the Foundation plans to give the community a glimpse of what is to come during the popular Acker Music Night in December.
The Rusty Pistols Reloaded will be providing entertainment, and more than a dozen members of the Arizona Territorial Society are expected to be on hand in period costume to add to the western atmosphere.
Acker Night, now in its 30th year, is scheduled for 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Friday, Dec. 7, throughout the downtown.
LAW ENFORCEMENT PAST
Meanwhile, the Foundation is working on its extensive floorplan for historic displays, as well as a mercantile where visitors will be able to buy locally created arts, crafts, and books.
Among the confirmed displays is one that will feature the history of Yavapai County law enforcement. Greninger and Gallagher say Yavapai County Sheriff Scott Mascher has been active in the planning for the center.
Mascher said the Sheriff’s Office “is excited to participate with the Western Heritage Center by loaning historical items for display.”
The Sheriff’s Office’s historian “will be assisting by reviewing and providing artifacts and support documents appropriate for the center,” Mascher added.
He sees the Western Heritage Center as “a great opportunity for residents and visitors alike to witness some of the colorful history of Yavapai County through these exhibits.”
Greninger said the center’s plans include interactive features, such as a green screen where people can have a historic photo taken.
‘RICH, UNIQUE HISTORY’
The Western Heritage Foundation was founded in 2011, and soon afterward, Gallagher said the idea formed for a downtown center.
“Our history is just so unique,” Gallagher said. For instance, he said, “Prescott was the only territorial capital in the United States where there wasn’t already a city in place.”
Organizers plan for the Western Heritage Center to be dynamic, with displays changing and rotating regularly.
“It’s going to be a supplement of what the Chamber does,” Greninger said. “We’ll take that one step further, and provide the visual, and have some artifacts.”
More information about the Western Heritage Foundation is available at: https://www.visitwhc.org/.