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Prescott City

Prescott City Hall is located at 201 South Cortez Street, Prescott, AZ 86303; phone: 928-777-1100.

Beginnings [1]

The region was once part of a vast area inhabited by a hunting and gathering American Indian people known today as the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Tribe, one of three geographically divided Yavapai groups. The Tribe was allocated approximately 1,400 acres of land by the federal government, forming the Yavapai-Prescott Indian Reservation. The reservation is now nearly surrounded by the City of Prescott.

Although initial European contact occurred in the late 1500s, it was not until the 1860s that significant non-native populations began permanently settling the Prescott area. Prescott was established as a town and became the Territorial Capital of Arizona in 1864. Prescott was a planned community from the beginning with the original townsite laid out in a grid pattern surrounding a central courthouse plaza. The capital was moved briefly to Tucson and eventually to Phoenix, but during the late 1800s, Prescott again served as the state's territorial capital. The original Governor's Mansion is now preserved at Sharlot Hall Museum near downtown Prescott on its original site. The early economy of the area centered on mining, cattle ranching and government, making Prescott the economic and political center of north central Arizona.

Supporting commercial enterprises continued to expand in the late 19th Century. In July of 1900, a fire destroyed much of Prescott's commercial district. Following the fire, most buildings in the downtown area were reconstructed of brick and masonry, providing today's rich architectural heritage. Some 700 city structures are listed individually or as part of twelve historic districts in the National Register of Historic Places. One archeological district on city owned land is included in the register of twelve city designated historic preservation districts.

During the 20th Century, Prescott developed as an important location for health services and facilities. For many years Prescott's clean air and temperate climate drew tubercular and other respiratory patients to the area for treatment. Fort Whipple, originally established as a military outpost to protect the territorial capital and the many miners in the area, is today the Northern Arizona Veteran's Administration Health Care Center.

Also during the 20th century, the arts, cultural and educational assets of Prescott have flourished along with health care. Sharlot Hall Museum was founded in 1929 to preserve and restore the territorial governor's mansion. The museum campus and the collections, exhibits, educational and performing arts programs have been expanded over the years with a major regional archive focusing on Central Arizona material and natural history. The Elks Opera House, now owned by the City of Prescott, has welcomed audiences to performances since 1905. Three other performing arts theaters are owned and operated by the Prescott Fine Arts Association, Yavapai College and the Prescott Unified School District. The Phippen Museum of Western Art and the Smoki Museum: American Indian Art and Culture contribute to the current cultural scene.

Prescott as described in 1940 [2]

Prescott, the seat of Yavapai County, in the mountainous section of west-central Arizona, is hemmed in on three sides by ranges rising to Granite Park, Spruce Mountain, and Mount Tritle. The rocky outline of a great lion that dominates the western skyline is Thumb Butte. Granite Creek meanders through the dense pine forests of the serried mountains encircling Prescott and, after seasonal rains, flows through the town, partially sustaining northern Arizonans' boast that "Our Rivers have water in them!" The smell of pines is one of the first sensations of the visitor to Prescott, especially if he has crossed the desert before arriving. The site of "The Mile-high City" was at one time covered with a forest of pines; similar forests with boulder-strewn creeks, immediately south and west of town, contribute to Prescott's growing popularity as a summer resort.

The Broad business streets, running north and south and east and west, wind into the bordering hills, and the Plaza, a shaded park two blocks long and one block wide, with the massive classical courthouse at its center, is surrounded by commercial buildings. The Spanish-Mexican influence common to much of Arizona's architecture is absent here; since timber and granite boulders are available in abundance there are no adobe structures as in the southern desert valleys.

  1. Prescott General Plan,, accessed February, 2013.
  2. Works Progress Administration, Federal Writers' Program, Arizona: A State Guide, American Guide Series, 1940.
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