Saguaro Lake: Then and Now

This Harry Vroman portfolio of Saguaro Lake appeared in the January 1957 issue of Arizona Highways.

Russ Glindmeier was so taken by a photo in this month's Arizona Highways that he set out to re-create it — 60 years later.

"I was captivated by the double-page spread photo of Saguaro Lake in the March issue," Glindmeier writes in an email to Photo Editor Jeff Kida. The photo was published in our January 1957 issue and shows the lake's marina, where Glindmeier is a long-standing member of the "great boating fraternity" described in that issue.

Glindmeier was out on the lake last week, and before heading home, he set out to find the place where Harry Vroman, who made the 1957 photo, set up his tripod. "My mission was to replicate his photo as it would look in modern day," he says. "I crawled among the boulders, looking for the particular rocks in the foreground of Harry's photo. Once I found them, I then attempted to compose the same image."

He says he didn't get as close as he'd hoped, but we think he did pretty well. The photo at the top of this post is Vroman's original, and here's a GIF that matches his shot up with Glindmeier's present-day photo.

Glindmeier shot his photo on a Nikon D800E, using a focal length of 19 mm. He notes that Vroman may have stood a bit farther back from the rocks and used a slightly longer focal length. Regardless, these two photos are an interesting look at how the area has changed over six decades. Thanks for sharing, Russ!

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Mission San Xavier del Bac Featured on NPR Program

Greg McKelvey | Mission San Xavier del Bac

One of Arizona's oldest and most-photographed structures is receiving national attention after it was featured on the National Public Radio program All Things Considered this month.

Mission San Xavier del Bac, located on Tohono O'odham land near Tucson, was featured on the show the week of January 9. It was part of "Finding America," a series intended to share the stories of communities across the country.

In the piece, Gabriel Otero, a Tucson resident, discusses the mission's history, culture and importance to his family. In his words: "If someone's hungry, we feed 'em. That's just our culture. It's Native, Hispanic, Mexican, Chicano. Our culture is very colorful, and you know, if you come here, you'll feel that. And you're gonna love it."

To learn more about Mission San Xavier del Bac, visit its website.

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Petrified Forest Complex Named National Historic Landmark

The Painted Desert Community Complex serves as Petrified Forest National Park's headquarters. | Courtesy of National Park Service

The federal Department of the Interior named 24 new National Historic Landmarks this month, and one of them is right here in Arizona.

The Painted Desert Community Complex, located in Petrified Forest National Park (the subject of our February issue), became the 46th National Historic Landmark in Arizona on January 11. Several nonprofit groups worked with the Arizona State Historic Preservation office, a division of Arizona State Parks, to help secure the designation for the complex. Another Petrified Forest structure, the Painted Desert Inn, has been a National Historic Landmark since 1987.

The site's buildings were constructed in the early 1960s, as part of the Park Service's Mission 66 program to modernize park facilities, and now serve as the national park's headquarters. Designed by architects Richard J. Neutra and Robert E. Alexander, they're considered an excellent example of Modern architecture and a successful balancing of park needs and limited impacts to natural resources.

"We're excited to continue revitalizing Painted Desert's Modern legacy for future generations," said Juvenio Guerra, a spokesman for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, one of the advocates for the designation. "This recognition not only energizes our restoration efforts, but also serves as an example for the treatment of Mission 66 structures throughout the National Park Service."

To learn more about the designation and the complex, click here.

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Pah-Ute County: An Oddity of Arizona's Past

This 1867 map shows the counties of Arizona and New Mexico after part of Pah-Ute County was transferred to Nevada, but before the smaller Pah-Ute County was merged with Mohave County.

Arizona has 15 counties today. That's not the fewest among U.S. states (Delaware has only three counties), but it isn't many — especially given the size of our state. In fact, 13 of the 15 counties rank among the 100 largest counties in America, and Coconino County is the country's second-largest, behind only San Bernardino County in California.

So it's hard to imagine that long ago, before Arizona became a state, the Arizona Territory had just four counties. And in the 1860s, a fifth county came along — and became an odd footnote in Arizona history.

Mohave, Yuma, Pima and Yavapai were the original four counties, created in 1864. A year later, the Territorial government split Mohave County in half to create Pah-Ute County. The new county, in the northwest corner of the state, included much of present-day Clark County, Nevada, including the site that one day would become Las Vegas.

But the new county was short-lived. In 1867, Congress expanded the state of Nevada to include land west of the Colorado River, including part of Pah-Ute County. When that happened, there was no reason for Pah-Ute to exist, and shortly thereafter, it was merged back into Mohave County.

Do you know any other odd facts about Arizona's history? Let us know in the comments!

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Echoes of Childhood in an Emry Kopta Photo

Starlie Polacca and Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca hold two of their children in an Emry Kopta photo. | Museum of Northern Arizona

In the November issue of Arizona Highways, we featured photos by Emry Kopta, an early 20th century sculptor and photographer whose primary subject was the Hopi people. As we noted in the issue, most of the photos, which we licensed from the Museum of Northern Arizona, didn't include much information about their subjects. We asked our readers to contact us if they recognized anyone in the photos.

As it turns out, the young couple in this photo are the parents of Angelita Thompson and Maxine Morris, who got in touch with us through Thompson's granddaughter. Their reaction to seeing the photo in Arizona Highways? "Wow! We've never seen our parents this young!"

We asked Angelita and Maxine a few questions about the photo, their parents and their lives since then. Their father, Starlie Polacca, and mother, Elsie Lomayesva-Polacca, had 14 children, two of whom are pictured here. The women say they're not sure which of their siblings these are, but they're definitely older siblings. As Angelita and Maxine were born in the late 1930s, this photo must have been made much earlier.

Both parents were born on Hopi Tribe land and lived there until their late 40s. Starlie was a rancher, while Elsie was a housewife. Later, the family relocated to Parker, along the Colorado River; as Angelita and Maxine put it: "The Mohave people were fighting for their water rights against the U.S. government, and their enrollment number needed to be increased in order for them to keep their land. Our parents relocated, and we all became enrolled tribal members in the Colorado River Indian Tribes."

Starlie died in a tractor accident when Angelita and Maxine were young, while Elsie lived to be 97 years old. Of the 14 siblings, Angelita and Maxine are two of the three still living; the other, Anthony Polacca, lives in Kansas.

We so appreciate Angelita and Maxine taking the time to share their family's history with us!

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A Unique Way to Tell the Grand Canyon's History

Meagan and Debbie Gipson with some of their Grand Canyon Project creations. | Courtesy of Meagan Gipson

Meagan Gipson really loves her home state. As a fifth-generation Arizonan, her roots in the Grand Canyon State are well established. Her great-great-grandfather, William Wallace Bass, is credited with constructing a cableway across the Colorado River, establishing the first school at the Grand Canyon and creating trails throughout the Canyon, including the Mystic Spring Trail.

To Meagan and her mother, Debbie, the history and stories from their family were too interesting to keep to themselves.

Over the past few years, the two have researched the Bass family history, using just about every resource available: letters, diary entries, trips to cemeteries and libraries, phone calls to historical societies and more. They worked to find all the details — or “sparkly bits,” as Debbie calls them.

The result of their investigations: the Grand Canyon Project.

“The whole concept of Grand Canyon Project is multi-sensory. It’s multimedia-based; it’s driven by all of the senses coming together to truly feel the experience and feel the journey of past meets present,” Meagan says.

Debbie’s book, Stories the Canyon Keeps, tells tales of life at the rim and shows what it was like to live in Arizona 100 years ago. Bass' wife, Ada — Meagan’s great-great-grandmother — wrote in a diary for much of her life and detailed life at the Canyon.

“She wrote in the diary how she would hold an umbrella over the stove when she was cooking, because rainwater would come through the cracks of the cave [they lived in],” Meagan says.

But when Ada wrote, it was to the point, Meagan says. She didn’t write with a lot of emotion, anguish or joy.

Meagan found inspiration for her album, 100 Years Away, in Ada’s diary.

“I was starting to read through the diary, and it was just so fascinating," she says. "There were so many clips and phrases that, as a songwriter, you can work with. All of a sudden, you have a splash of an entire story line. I started putting those pieces together and writing the album."

The unique aspect to Grand Canyon Project is the relationship between Debbie’s book and Meagan’s album. While writing the book, Debbie noted parts where Meagan’s songs work. For example, during one part of the story, when Bass is gazing over the Canyon watching a monsoon move in, readers will see a note about Meagan’s song Monsoon.

“Each piece enhances the other,” Meagan says.

For Meagan, who has synesthesia, the connection between song and text is special.

“It’s like this blending of everything, just like what my brain does with my every day," she says. "I think that heightens it, too, for me with the memories. I can just taste them; they’re right there. It makes it feel like I’m sitting there having coffee with Ada while I’m writing a song about her, or I’m talking with Bert and Edith about their love letters. We’re all present again.”

In the end, Meagan and Debbie hope Grand Canyon Project helps to bring the Bass family to light and share their voices again, as well as inspire others.

“The idea that Grand Canyon Project really speaks to is that everyone has family stories and how rich and wonderful that is, and taking pride in that, learning from your roots,” Meagan says.

— Kirsten Kraklio

To learn more about Grand Canyon Project, or to see more of the product line — which includes T-shirts, a kids book and other merchandise — visit the website or find it on Facebook.

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Sorry, You Can't Buy This Book From Us, But ...

This spread appears in our October 2016 issue. Sadly, we don't have any copies of this book to sell, but there are other places you might find it.

In the From the Archives section of our October issue, we featured a spread originally published in the September 1976 issue of Arizona Highways. Back then, we had reproduced a 1913 Arizona tour guide and were selling it for the low price of $8.75.

The issue just hit newsstands and mailboxes a few days ago, and we've already gotten a few inquiries from people hoping to purchase the book. Which is a problem, since we're not actually selling the book right now. We should have made that more clear on the page, and we apologize for the confusion.

Those looking to get their hands on a copy have a few options. Currently, there are several copies of the book available on Amazon. You might also find it at your local library (a quick Google search suggests that Phoenix's library system has one, as does Yuma's library).

Regardless, it's clear that "retro" stuff resonates with Arizona Highways readers. For those who are disappointed they can't buy this book from us, might we suggest these diner mugs from our new George Avey Collection? And we'll have another Avey-inspired product to tell you about soon, so stay tuned.

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Book on Park Service's Chief Photographer Wins National Award

George Alexander Grant likely made this photo of Mission San Xavier del Bac in the 1940s — not 1935, as eagle-eyed readers of Arizona Highways noted. | National Park Service Historic Photo Collection

In the September issue of Arizona Highways, we told you about George Alexander Grant, the first chief photographer of the National Park Service. He's the subject of Landscapes for the People, a book by Ren and Helen Davis that was published last year — and recently won a national award.

We spoke with the Davises via email and learned that Landscapes for the People received the American Library Association's INDIEFAB Gold Medal for the best photography book published in 2015 by an independent or academic press. You can read more about that award and other honorees at this link.

Arizona Highways published four of Grant's photos from the book in the September issue. Those were among 3,000 contact prints that the Davises reviewed, 700 of which were scanned for the project.

We also spoke with the Davises about an apparent discrepancy with one of the photos we published. While the Park Service indicates that Grant's photo of Mission San Xavier del Bac near Tucson was made during an expedition to the area in 1935, the cars in the photo appear to be from the late 1930s and early 1940s. Several Arizona Highways readers emailed us to point out the discrepancy.

The Davises say Grant traveled to the area again in 1941 to document Arizona missions, so the photo may have been made then and erroneously catalogued with his earlier work. They say they'll update the photo's caption for future editions of the book.

To learn more about Ren and Helen Davis, visit their website.

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From a Reader: The Tucson Pressed Brick Co. Today

Finished bricks exit the Tucson Pressed Brick Co. plant in an undated photo. | Courtesy of Madera Veterinary Hospital

Our September issue features Kathy Montgomery's story on the Tucson Pressed Brick Co., and that prompted Tim Johnson to write us an email.

"The name sounded familiar, and when I saw its final location was on Houghton Road, it dawned on me," Johnson said. "That site is now the Madera Veterinary Hospital, where we've been taking our cats for years. Their website has a page that shows the history, including photos."

We got in touch with the veterinary hospital, and they graciously agreed to let us use one of their photos on our website. The site notes that the photos are from the family of the late James L. Edel, the brick company's general manager.

You can learn more about the site's history and see more photos on Madera Veterinary Hospital's page, or by picking up a copy of the September issue, which is on newsstands now.

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National Monument or National Park: What's in a Name?

Don Peters | Wupatki National Monument

Editor's note: In conjunction with our August issue on the National Park Service's centennial, we present this article by Park Service advocate Hilary Clark.

As I drove by Sunset Crater Volcano in Flagstaff, I was struck by the fiery, reddish color of the cinder cone contrasted against the snow-capped San Francisco Peaks. As I headed north on Loop Road 545 toward Wupatki National Monument, I saw the pastel colors of the Painted Desert in the distance. These were just some of the unique sites that national monuments protect. I have stood awestruck looking up at towering redwoods at Muir Woods National Monument in California, visited ghost towns, hiked desert trails, observed tide pools, and explored ancient archeological sites. Yet, with all that I have seen, I have visited less than 20 of the almost 150 national monuments across the country.

Whereas national parks require a variety of attributes — such as historic, natural and geologic — to be established, national monuments only require one. National monuments can become national parks through an act of Congress, as was the case with Grand Canyon, which was first established as a national monument in 1908. Although national parks are generally larger than national monuments, both play an important role in preserving the nation’s heritage and are deeply American. National monuments are unique, because both the president and Congress have the authority to establish them under the Antiquities Act of 1906. They can be administered by the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, or Bureau of Land Management. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt used the Antiquities Act to establish Devils Tower in Wyoming, which boasts unique geologic features, as the first national monument in the country. This act was established in response to the looting and vandalism of archeological sites across the country, particularly in the Southwest.

During the 1880s, the railroad brought an influx of tourists to Flagstaff, and scenic spots like Walnut Canyon became popular picnic areas. Visitors to the area would collect pottery shards and other archeological artifacts as souvenirs. In 1915, largely due to the advocacy of scientists and concerned citizens, President Woodrow Wilson established Walnut Canyon National Monument. Nine years later, in 1924, President Calvin Coolidge set aside Citadel and Wupatki pueblos as part of Wupatki National Monument. Today, more than 100 years later, visitors can hike and observe ancient cliff dwellings where Ancestral Puebloans eked out a living at Walnut Canyon, and explore different pueblos at Wupatki, which prehistorically served as a confluence of different cultural groups. As the railroad and later the automobile made travel more accessible, archaeological sites like Walnut Canyon and Wupatki became increasingly vulnerable, even to the most well-intentioned tourist. Community members are often some of the fiercest advocates for preserving these sites. This was the case with Sunset Crater Volcano, which a production company wanted to dynamite for a movie titled Avalanche in the late 1920s. Concerned community members joined forces with Harold Colton, archeologist and founder of the Museum of Northern Arizona, and successfully lobbied for the protection of Sunset Crater Volcano, which became a national monument in 1930 under President Herbert Hoover. 

Many monuments have moving stories of community members lobbying for the preservation of significant ecological, historic or archaeological sites. Around the same time period that Flagstaff citizens were fighting to protect Sunset Crater Volcano, Pasadena socialite Minerva Hoyt was traveling across the country, educating people about the unique-looking yucca plants, also known as Joshua trees, in Southern California. After suddenly losing her husband and son, Minerva sought escape and solace in the desert. She camped alone under the vivid stars and found comfort in the silence of the desert. She was smitten by the desolate landscape and the unique trees, which are often compared to something out of a Dr. Seuss book.  She met Teddy Roosevelt’s distant cousin, President Franklin Roosevelt, and lobbied for the protection of Joshua trees.  She was successful, and in the 1930s, both Joshua Tree and Death Valley became national monuments. Today, a mural of Minerva Hoyt adorns the wall of the Joshua Tree National Park Visitor Center. 

Over 60 years later, in 1994, these monuments became national parks with the passage of the California Desert Protection Act, which added more acreage to both sites and also established Mojave National Preserve. This past February, President Barack Obama added 1.8 million acres of land that serves as a buffer between Mojave National Preserve and Joshua Tree National Park, and extends to the San Bernardino National Forest. These new monuments — Castle Mountains, Mojave Trails, and Sand to Snow — provide critical habitat and wildlife corridors for animals that include bighorn sheep and mountain lions. Local citizens had lobbied for protection of these areas for several years, and it was largely due to their efforts that Obama used the authority of the Antiquities Act.

Many of the monuments we enjoy today were protected due to the foresight of those who wanted their children to experience these places as they had. In regard to preserving the Grand Canyon, Teddy Roosevelt emphasized the importance of protecting resources for the next generations. In his 1908 speech, he stated: “Let this great wonder of nature remain as it now is. You cannot improve on it. But what you can do is keep it for your children, your children’s children and all who come after you, as the one greatest sight which every American should see.”[i]

Today, millions of people visit Grand Canyon National Park and other natural wonders that have been preserved. Although many visitors are drawn to such iconic places, the variety and diversity of national monuments also has a lot to teach us about our history and the power of ordinary citizens to help protect extraordinary sites.

— Hilary Clark

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