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Tue, March 19

Museum groundbreaking honors 90 years of unique vision

The “Gubernatorial Mansion” was one of the first substantial structures built in the new town of Prescott in 1864, when most other dwellings were tents or shanties.  The log-building was restored by Sharlot Hall to became the museum she envisioned as a young girl after listening to stories of those early Territorial days. She welcomed her first visitors on Monday, June 11, 1928.  The building serves as the centerpiece for a four-acre campus containing 11 exhibit buildings (six of which are historic). The new Education Center will occupy the southeast corner of the Museum campus, and will facilitate expanded education programs, exhibits, an indoor theater/multi-purpose room, and more. (PHOTO shm171pd Courtesy Sharlot Hall Museum)

The “Gubernatorial Mansion” was one of the first substantial structures built in the new town of Prescott in 1864, when most other dwellings were tents or shanties. The log-building was restored by Sharlot Hall to became the museum she envisioned as a young girl after listening to stories of those early Territorial days. She welcomed her first visitors on Monday, June 11, 1928. The building serves as the centerpiece for a four-acre campus containing 11 exhibit buildings (six of which are historic). The new Education Center will occupy the southeast corner of the Museum campus, and will facilitate expanded education programs, exhibits, an indoor theater/multi-purpose room, and more. (PHOTO shm171pd Courtesy Sharlot Hall Museum)

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The building nicknamed “the house of a thousand hands” became the stone building Sharlot Hall had constructed during the Great Depression.

What began in 1928 as the “Gubernatorial Mansion Museum” has expanded on the vision of Sharlot Hall, a woman ahead of her time. A writer, pioneer ranch woman, activist and historian, she became the first woman to hold public office in the Territory.

From its initial building, the Museum that bears her name and honors her life achievements has continued the legacy she began with continued expansion... from a small parcel to a four-acre campus... from the simple log building to 11 exhibit buildings (six of which are historic)... and from a single collection to more than 40,000 artifacts and thousands of documents and photographs chronicling the region.

For 90 years, the Museum has continued to serve its communities and the Central Highlands, adding both exhibit space and heritage preservation. This has included relocating and refurbishing historic structures, or creating replicas of those buildings that helped form the local culture, or expanding its infrasture with modern buildings to continue presenting the “Arizona History Adventure.”

Museum Timeline

1864 The Governor’s Mansion was constructed on land claimed by Territorial Secretary Richard McCormick, and was used by McCormick and Governor John Goodwin as their residence and office. Henry Fleury, the Governor’s private secretary also resided in the building.

1865 Goodwin was elected Arizona Territory’s Delegate to the U.S. Congress and departed for Washington; McCormick became acting governor.

1866 McCormick was appointed Territorial Governor.

1867 The Arizona legislature moved the territorial capital to Tucson.

1868 McCormick sold the property to Fleury, who continued to reside there.

1873-1888 Fleury’s default on a mortgage held by McCormick initiated a series of changes in ownership of the property, which was ultimately acquired by Supreme Court Justice Charles C.G.W. French, who preserved a life estate for Fleury.

1895 Fleury passed away and the property passed by will from French’s estate to the First Congregational Church. French had died in 1891.

1899 The FCC sold the property to Joseph Dougherty who modernized the mansion and used it, in part, as rental property.

1917 The State of Arizona purchased the property for $7,000. The City of Prescott agreed to maintain it in perpetuity.

1927 The City of Prescott granted Sharlot M. Hall a “life lease” on the long-abandoned Governor’s Mansion, donating water, electricity, and fire and police protection in perpetuity. Sharlot Hall agreed to operate it as a museum.

1928 The first visitors to the Museum were received on June 11.

1929 The Historical Society of Prescott was incorporated to help with the restoration of the Mansion and the funding of the operation of the Museum.

1929-1943 Sharlot continued to manage the operation of the museum. During her tenure, the Sharlot Hall Building (1933-1936) and the Ranch House (1936) were constructed as depression-era projects of the federal Works Progress Administration (WPA); and Ft. Misery was moved to the museum grounds and reassembled (1934-1936). Paulino Weaver’s remains were moved from the Presidio in San Francisco to the Museum grounds, and reinterred.

1943 Sharlot passes away, bequeathing her collections to the Historical Society of Prescott.

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The ranch house was one of the early additions to the Museum, built on site and overseen by Sharlot Hall herself as an homage to the rural buildings of her time, particularly those that were ‘home’ to the farmers and ranchers of the area. The building was completed in 1936. (COURTESY PHOTO pb115f5i3 Sharlot Hall Museum)

1943-1965 The Museum was governed and managed by a 15-member Board of Trustees of the Historical Society of Prescott, which in 1946 changed its name to the Sharlot Hall Historical Society. During these years the Memorial Rose Garden was initiated (1948); a beautification project for the grounds was begun (1954); the Sharlot Hall Building was enlarged with a north addition – the Hartzell Room (1950); and the schoolhouse was constructed (1962).

1965 The Arizona State Legislature enacted legislation creating a state agency– the Prescott Historical Society–to operate the museum. The Sharlot Hall Historical Society continued to provide financial support to the PHS.

1966-1973 Dora Heap, a long-time Board member, was hired as the first director of the Museum in 1966. Developments during her tenure include the expansion of the west side of the Sharlot Hall Building (1970), the acquisition of the land east of the Governor’s Mansion (1970), and the acquisition and relocation of the Frémont House to the Museum grounds (1972).

1973-1991 Ken Kimsey was hired as the Museum director in 1973). Much was accomplished during his 18 years at the helm, including: the introduction of a volunteer auxiliary (1973), the Folk Arts Fair (1973), and the Folk Music Festival (1980); the relocation of the Bashford House to the Museum grounds (1974) and its restoration (1976); the construction of the Museum Center (aka The Lawler Exhibit Center)(1977-79); a major renovation of the Governor’s Mansion (1981-1982); the acquisition of land at the northwest corner of the Museum block (1988); the introduction of the Sharlot Hall Award (1984); and the opening of the Transportation Building (1990).

1991-1994 Mac Harris was hired as Museum director in 1991. During his tenure the construction of the amphitheater was completed (1993), the west parking lot was constructed (1993) and the Museum obtained accreditation by the American Association of Museums (nka the American Alliance of Museums) (1992).

1995-2006 Richard Sims was hired as Museum director in 1995. Developments during his tenure include the initiation of a capital campaign to fund the expansion of the Museum in accordance with a Master Plan adopted by the Board in 2000; the introduction of the Prescott Indian Art Market (1998); the opening of the Ft. Whipple Museum in an historic home on Officer’s Row at the Prescott Veteran’s Administration Medical Center (1998); the acquisition of the Granite Creek Center (2001); the opening of Baskets Keep Talking as a permanent exhibit (2001); the reaccreditation of the Museum by the AAM (2003); and the purchase of land at the southwest corner of the Museum block, completing the acquisition of all property bounded by Gurley, McCormick, Beach and Summit (1997).

2007-2013 John Langellier was hired as Museum director in 2007. Developments during his watch include: the relocation of the Library and Archives to the newly-renovated Granite Creek Center (2008); the Living History Mercantile Store was opened; the initial phase of the permanent pre-history exhibits – First Americans – was opened (2013); and the Trades Building was constructed (2013).

2014-present) Fred Veil was hired as the Museum director (2014). Developments to date include: the construction of Sharlot’s Depot as the Museum’s admissions center, and the concurrent restoration of the Porter engine (2014); the completion of the pre-history exhibits – Beasts (2014) and Prescott Culture (2016-2017); construction of a new blacksmith shop (2016); the opening of the Rose Garden Discovery Kiosk (2016); the construction of a petroglyph rock garden as the initial phase of an Ethnobotannical Garden (2016-2017); the initiation of a capital campaign to fund the construction of an Education Center (2016), and reaccreditation of the Museum by the AAM (March 2018).

2019 February 21 - Museum and community officials gather for the groundbreaking ceremony for construction of the new Education Center building – with an expected occupancy in early 2020.

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