Prescott Elks Building Is Reborn as Performing Arts Center

Courtesy of Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center. See more photos at the end of this article.

Thanks to long-awaited renovations and a total remodel, a historic building in downtown Prescott has a new purpose.

The Elks Performing Arts Center of Prescott opened its doors to the public in January of this year. The building, originally constructed in the late 1800s, is located in the heart of downtown Prescott, on the corner of Gurley and Marina streets. In 1905, the second and third floors of the building were added and were home to Elks Lodge No. 330.

The building was eventually bought by the city of Prescott and rented out as office space for attorneys. In 2012, it was purchased by a private party and given to the nonprofit Elks Performing Arts Center, and construction on what would become the new arts center began.

Frank DeGrazia, the principal architect of the renovation, said he, the contractors and the nonprofit organization wanted to return the structure to its original look while also updating it. When the second and third floors of the building were occupied by attorneys’ offices, the beautiful 14-foot-tall curved ceilings were hidden, and the original wood flooring had been covered several times.

“It’s interesting to see what was there, and to be able to hopefully bring that back,” DeGrazia said. “When people come into the building, they have that kind of enjoyment.”

Barbara Taylor, 78, has been a secretary at the Elks Lodge of Prescott Valley for three years, but her connection to the building and the Elks runs deep — her mother and father were heavily involved in the Prescott branch of the Elks when she was a young girl in the late 1940s. Taylor, who has lived in Prescott all her life, said her mother was the president of the Elks Ladies — as was Taylor, four times in the 1960s.

“My dad joined the Elks when it was downtown in 1948, and mom joined the Elks Ladies in 1949,” Taylor said. “I was the only brat, and they didn’t want to leave me at home, so I would go down and decorate the lodge.”

Taylor said she remembers spending time in the nearby theater and then climbing the three stories to find her father.

“I used to get out of the theater, and if I went upstairs for my dad, I’d take the elevator up to the second floor, walk way in the back in the dark to find the stairs, walk up to the third floor — which came out in the kitchen — and find my dad,” she said.

According to Steven Kartstein, the marketing and program manager of the Prescott Elks Theatre and Performing Arts Center, the building now features several large dance halls on the second floor. They’re designed for practicing various styles of dance, including contemporary, ballet, tap, clogging and Irish. The second floor also features music isolation booths for vocal practice and recording. The third floor has two event halls that can hold a total of about 200 people. The first floor of the building is occupied by three retail businesses.

“There was a lot of pent-up demand because the remodel had been going on for five years,” Kartstein said. “Everyone was thrilled to get in here and see what we had done. Anybody that comes in here is just wowed by the remodel and how much we’ve done and how we are partnering with the community.”

The organization aims to promote and support the teaching of the performing arts in the Prescott area, Kartstein said. The nonprofit has started raising money to award scholarships to students who have declared a major in the performing arts, in honor of late benefactor Ann Dater.

For more about the arts center, or to donate to support it, visit the Prescott Elks Theatre website.

— Emily Balli

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The Kaibab Plateau: An Arizona Road Trip

The Grand Canyon's North Rim is just one of the Arizona Strip's spectacular sights. | Noah Austin

Last week, a pair of assignments for Arizona Highways took me to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon and the surrounding Kaibab Plateau. I scheduled the trip a while back and had no idea it would come during three of the hottest days in the history of the Phoenix area, but that's exactly how it worked out when my wife and I headed up to the Arizona Strip.

The Strip, in many ways, is more tied to Utah than it is to Arizona. If you're driving, there are only two ways to reach it from the rest of the state, and we checked out both of them on this trip: Navajo Bridge, which carries U.S. Route 89A over Marble Canyon, and U.S. Route 89's Glen Canyon Dam Bridge, just downstream from its namesake and Lake Powell.

We stopped at Navajo Bridge to see if we could spot the California condors that recently made a nest near the bridge. We spotted the cave but weren't able to see any condors — possibly because it's hard to see a black bird in a black cave. After lunch at Marble Canyon Lodge, we took a detour down to Lees Ferry on the Colorado River, where we visited Paria Beach and the Paria Riffle (pictured). Then we continued west, past the towering Vermilion Cliffs and up onto the Kaibab Plateau. (Click each picture for a larger version.)

We stayed at Jacob Lake Inn, which dates to 1923 and features a motel and cabins — plus a general store, a restaurant and some of the best cookies you'll find. The inn is centrally located on the Strip, offering easy access to the North Rim to the south and several of Utah's national parks and monuments to the north. The lake (pictured) for which the inn and community are named is now just a small pond; it's named for early Mormon settler Jacob Hamblin.

We spent most of two days at the rim, checking out Cape Royal, Point Imperial (pictured) and the hiking opportunities around Grand Canyon Lodge. Because it was hot even up at the Canyon, we didn't hike down into the gorge, opting to stay at the cooler climate of the rim. If you're in search of solitude and quiet, I can't recommend the North Rim enough. The South Rim has its charms and is certainly more accessible, but up north, there's less development and just as much natural splendor. (And it's cooler.)

We also explored some forest roads, including one route that led us to this spectacular view (pictured). It's likely you'll read about the drive to this location in an upcoming issue of Arizona Highways.

The drive to the Canyon on State Route 67 (the North Rim Parkway) is spectacular, too. This (pictured) is DeMotte Park, a huge meadow surrounded by ponderosa pines and other evergreens. We saw several deer and wild turkeys here, along with some of the North Rim's famous (or infamous) bison herd.

We then took the scenic route back to the Valley, heading up into Utah and east on U.S. 89 to Lake Powell and Page. That gave us a chance to enjoy the view from the Echo Cliffs as we descended from Page to the Marble Canyon area below.

On our way home, we couldn't resist a stop at the San Francisco Peaks' Lockett Meadow (pictured), which I hadn't yet visited. Then it was on to Flagstaff (for dinner at Diablo Burger) before returning to Phoenix.

We've got a lot of hot days left this summer, and a trip to the North Rim and the surrounding area can provide much-needed relief. It's one of my favorite places in Arizona, and if you visit, I'll bet it'll become one of yours, too.

— Noah Austin, Associate Editor

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Contemporary Navajo Life, One Portrait at a Time

Photos of participants in "E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah" are pasted on the Axle Contemporary truck. | Courtesy of Axle Contemporary

In September 2016, artists Matthew Chase-Daniel and Jerry Wellman took their mobile art gallery, Axle Contemporary, to the Navajo Nation and surrounding areas to create the third project in an ongoing series called E Pluribus Unum

The ongoing series captures portraits of individuals across parts of the Southwest. The individual photos are then digitally blended to create one final image — one face that represents all who participated in the project.

“For us, the title of the project, E Pluribus Unum, is about this notion that with the individual and blended portraits, that the individual and individual personality, culture, thoughts and identity are all very important, and also, the blend of all those individuals make a coherent whole. We’re all very different and we’re all very similar at the same time,” Chase-Daniel said.

The artists stayed in each community for one to three days, depending on the size of the town, and offered free portraits to those interested in participating in the art project. 

“This project was all done digitally, and it was a wonderful way to engage people in a direct and immediate way,” Chase-Daniel said. “We 

have solar panels on the roof of the truck to run a printer on board, so people come in, have their portrait taken and within five minutes are handed a free copy of their picture, and another [is] pasted on the outside of the truck. Over the course of the project, the truck becomes a gallery where the outside has hundreds of photographs that draw new people in.” 

In all, the two artists captured more than 800 photos for E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah

“When we showed up in a little town like Chinle, people were fascinated. They came, they participated. We just didn’t know if we would gain any interest or traction, showing up in a little town,” Wellman said. “People showed up and wanted to participate. They understood what we were doing and our project. I thought that understanding of what we were doing indicated a level of sophistication and understanding that was really heartening to see.” 

Participants were asked to bring along an item that was important to them. People brought their children, pets and everyday items like water bottles, keys and cellphones.

“At the time, a lot of people were saying, 'Water; water is life.’ If you want to talk about something that is very beautifully meaningful to everybody and anybody, it would be water. Between the water, car keys and the cellphone, those are very important things today,” Wellman said. 

Many of the items brought helped to tell a story and place a timestamp on the portraits. That was by design.
“Some of what you see in the photos are traditional and very identifiable as Native American or Navajo, and then you have other things that are much more cross-culture and very much 'of the time,'” Wellman explained. “So even what kind of cellphone they have will identify this project in time. If you look at these pictures 50 years from now or 100 years from now, you’ll be able to tell digitally when they were made. If the portraits were made 10 years earlier or 10 years later, the objects, clothing, all things like that would be different. 

“It’s really a portrait of a people and community in a place and in a time. And that’s what we tried to do in all the projects, including the Santa Fe and Albuquerque projects. As we go through this series of E Pluribus Unum projects, we’re creating this portrait of life in New Mexico and the greater Southwest in this time, this decade.”

E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah will be exhibiting at the Navajo Nation Museum in Window Rock from July 12 through January 31. The opening reception will be held July 12 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. A book containing the entire collection of photographs, as well as essays by the artists and by Navajo Nation Museum zfirector Manuelito Wheeler, and a poem by Navajo Nation poet laureate Laura Tohe, has been published. 

To learn more about E Pluribus Unum: Dinétah, click here.

— Kirsten Kraklio

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, June 1964

From the issue: "'Summer — Woods Canyon Lake' by Robert B. Whitaker. Woods Canyon Lake is located approximately forty-three miles northeast of Payson, one mile off the Rim Road at an elevation of 7,500 feet. Chevelon Creek gains its birth from the headwaters of Woods Canyon Lake as seen here from the U.S. Forest Service campground area."

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From a Reader: Arizona Wildflowers in Switzerland

Mexican goldpoppies bloom in Marianne Schneider's yard in Switzerland. | Courtesy of Marianne Schneider

Arizona Highways has subscribers in more than 100 countries, and Marianne Schneider, who emailed us recently from her native Switzerland, is one of them.

"For more than a decade, I have been an Arizona Highways subscriber, and I have deeply admired (and with envy) your wildflower issues," she writes, "although we spent one or two months in Arizona and Texas every year to see them on the spot."

She continues: "In 2012, I bought me a bag of goldpoppy seeds, and, as you can see from the attached photos, beautiful wildflowers grow in Switzerland as they do in Arizona. I am very proud of my goldpoppy meadow, although it does not have Arizona size."

Beautiful pictures, Marianne. Arizona natives and frequent visitors will recognize these as Mexican goldpoppies (Eschscholzia californica ssp. mexicana), which are a subspecies of California poppies. They're frequently found in the Sonoran Desert, and we wouldn't have guessed they would thrive in the Swiss environment, but perhaps we underestimated them.

Do you have any Arizona-native plants growing in your yard or garden outside Arizona? Send us a photo and let us know!

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See a California Condor Nest From Navajo Bridge

A California condor stands outside its nest in Marble Canyon. In the cave to the right, its mate and chick are visible. | Courtesy of John Sherman

John "Verm" Sherman loves California condors. As we've reported in Arizona Highways, Sherman, a frequent contributor to the magazine, has been on a quest to photograph every condor in Arizona. Along the way, he's gotten to know these unique and rare birds — and he recently told us of an equally rare opportunity to see a condor family in the birds' natural environment.

"Condors 354 and 496 picked a nesting site in clear view from Navajo Bridge," Sherman says in an email. "This gives the public a never-before-had chance to personally watch a condor chick grow up in the wild."

Sherman photographed the nest May 30 and saw an egg inside; the next day, the egg had hatched, revealing the newly designated Condor 891. He plans on following the chick until it fledges, which probably will happen around November. Until then, it will remain in the nest in Marble Canyon, upstream from Navajo Bridge.

Sherman says biologists with the condor recovery program are frequently at the bridge with spotting scopes that the public can use to see the nest. Visitors also can donate to the program, which Sherman says has been decimated by budget cuts this year.

Sherman says it's hard to see the chick in the morning because of the harsh light, but in the afternoon, between 4:30 p.m. and sunset, if you have a good pair of binoculars, you should be able to get a glimpse of the condors and their chick upstream from the bridge. Keep in mind that drone flying is strictly prohibited in the area.

Through a variety of conservation measures and reintroduction programs, the condors now number more than 400 in the wild — up from just 22 in 1987.

As for Sherman's quest to photograph every condor, he recently bagged his "white whale": Condor 203, which was the last of the condors that were in the wild when Sherman decided to photograph them all. But his quest has taken long enough that several new captive-bred condors are now flying free in Arizona. And Sherman has yet to photograph one of them — Condor 850. So his search continues.

You can see more of Sherman's work on his website or Instagram feed, and you can learn more about the condors by visiting The Peregrine Fund's Condor Cliffs page.

All photos courtesy of John Sherman.

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Arizona-Owned Ranch Set to Become a State Park

Arizona State Parks and Trails plans to make Rockin' River Ranch in Camp Verde its newest state park. | Courtesy of Arizona State Parks and Trails

A Camp Verde ranch that the state of Arizona purchased nearly a decade ago is finally on its way to joining the state's parks system.

As the Associated Press reported this month, the Rockin' River Ranch, along a section of the Verde River that's a haven for bald eagles and native fish species, has sat quietly, mostly used by a horse-boarding concessionaire, since Arizona State Parks bought it for $7 million in 2008. The money for the purchase came from a conservation fund.

Shortly thereafter, the economy tanked, and there was no money to develop the property into a park. The outlook is better now, and the department, now known as Arizona State Parks and Trails, received a $4 million allocation in the new state budget to develop the new park.

Primitive camping and RV sites will be constructed at the 209-acre property this year, the AP reported, with picnic areas, roads and other amenities to come later based on consultants' recommendations and public input. A "soft opening" is expected this year, with a grand opening planned for sometime in 2018.

The Rockin' River features a mile of riverfront, plus cottonwood trees, pastures and desert areas. Camp Verde's mayor told the AP that making the ranch a state park will help preserve the river in its natural state and should attract visitors to the area.

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Throwback Thursday: Arizona Highways, June 1957

From the issue: "'Water Hole Near Lakeside' by Wayne Davis. The grass is green and the living is easy for the fine herds of Hereford cattle summering in the White Mountains. This photograph was taken at the Broken Arrow Ranch, a few miles from Lakeside on the road from Lakeside to Vernon."

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Frank Lloyd Wright-Designed House Will Be Donated to Architecture School

Courtesy of David and Gladys Wright House

A Phoenix home that legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed for his son and daughter-in-law will soon inspire students at Wright's architecture school.

As The Arizona Republic reported last week, the David and Gladys Wright House is being donated for use by the School of Archictecture at Taliesin, which is based out of Wright's former Arizona home of Taliesin West in Scottsdale.

Owner Zach Rawling said his donation of the house is the biggest gift in the architecture school's history. The property will actually be owned by a new non-profit organization, and the donation is contingent on that group raising a $7 million endowment to restore and run the site.

The plan, the Republic reported, is for the house to serve primarily as a place for architecture students and faculty to live, work and learn about Wright's approach to architecture in the Southwest. It will also host public events such as tours and lectures.

The David and Gladys Wright House was built in 1952. As Matt Jaffe reported in the February 2016 issue of Arizona Highways, it was set to be torn down before Rawling bought it in 2012. Controversy has raged since then over Rawling's plan to open the house for commercial activity, such as performances and weddings. Residents of the Arcadia neighborhood where the house is located expressed concerns that doing so would be disruptive to the neighborhood.

Rawling said the new plan is a better outcome than he thought would be possible when he bought the house, and supporters said they hoped the plan would end neighborhood concerns.

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