Relive Arizona history Saturday at ghost town’s festival

Fairbank's schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

Fairbank’s schoolhouse, restored in 2007, will be open Saturday for Fairbank Day

It’s festival time in Arizona! Late winter and early spring bring some kind of event to every town all around the state. There’s a festival, show or fair for just about anything and everything — gem shows, coin shows, gun shows, car shows, horse shows and RV shows. There’s a fest for science and technology, beer, wine, pecans and gourds. Chandler — my own hometown — alone claims several this time of year: a science spectacular, a classic car show and fests for barbecue and beer, jazz, ostriches, Easter and St. Patrick’s Day. It would be possible to travel from town to town around Arizona for weeks on end celebrating one festival after another.

You have another option for this Saturday. For a change of pace, consider a road trip to ghost town to celebrate and learn more about Arizona history in one day. Pack up the family and head to southeastern Arizona for Fairbank Day.

Fairbank is a ghost town north of Sierra Vista along Highway 82, 10 miles east of Highway 90. It was primarily known as a railroad stop for trains transporting silver ore from Tombstone to the mill works in Charleston, Contention City and Millville. At its peak, Fairbank recorded 100 residents, several stores, houses, saloon, stagecoach station, and of course, the depot.  River flooding and a rare Arizona earthquake caused the decline of the mines and mills, which trickled down to a decreased necessity for the railroad stop at Fairbank.

f3By the 1940s only a few buildings remained but it wasn’t until about 1974 that Fairbank bid farewell to the last businesses and residents. A few structures from Fairbank’s 1880’s heyday still can be viewed at the site, including the Adobe Mercantile Building, a couple of houses, stable and schoolhouse. Most of these aren’t accessible to the public however. The school building which was constructed in the 1920s to replace one destroyed by fire, has been restored and operates now as a visitor’s center, gift shop and museum.

Fairbank Day observes the long history of the town plus the local area around the San Pedro River. Activities include: townsite tours, guided hikes to the nearby ruins of Presidio Santa Cruz de Terrenate, train robbery reenactments, Spanish settlement recreations, prehistoric settlement archeology presentations, U.S. Calvary demonstrations, book signings and discussions by local authors, plus music and food. Donations from the event will benefit the Friends of the San Pedro River organization, which provides support for conservation efforts, advocacy and education in coordination with the Bureau of Land Management.

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

One of the standing house structures at Fairbank ghost town

There's obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

There’s obviously a history of snakes at Fairbank

Vistors can take a short "hike to history" on one of the nearby trails

Visitors can take a short “hike to history” on one of the nearby trails

 

How Fairbank looked about 1890 (From Wikimedia Commons. Image in public domain - copyright expired.)

How Fairbank looked about 1890

 

Fairbank ghost town has its 'day' this Saturday

Fairbank ghost town has its ‘day’ this Saturday

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Mall shopping in Chandler? Stop by city’s historic home

Fountain at Chandler's McCullough-Price House

If you’re shopping at or near Chandler Fashion Center this holiday season, you may want to take a break from the busy stores and stop by the McCullough-Price House, one of Chandler’s historic homes.

Now a museum, the McCullough-Price House may offer a calm change of pace for the hurried holiday shopping scene. Huge shade trees surround the home, originally built for Michigan winter visitor William D. McCullough. The house was owned by the Price family from 1950 to 2001 at which time it was donated to the City of Chandler. It was opened as a museum in 2007.

Your out-of-town holiday visitors will enjoy learning about Chandler’s history at the home, which now houses archives of official documents, digitized images of The Chandler Arizonan newspaper, many photos and family records. The archives are made available for research on an appointment basis. Tuesdays through Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. visitors may stroll through the interior rooms, examining the displays and spend some quiet time around the the lush, park-like grounds. You’d never know this little corner of history and serene surroundings is immediately adjacent one of Arizona’s largest shopping districts.

Front door designs copy the motifs from Native America petroglyphsThe most interesting item on the property is the house itself. Built in 1938 in the pueblo-revival style of architecture, the house has many fascinating design features. The front door frame is made from granite with petroglyph replicas. Like the front door, the garage doors on the north side of the house have a geometric design in wood, in an Art Deco style. I found it interesting that a house built in 1938 would have a three-car garage, although the ‘garage doors’ have been permanently sealed. The center door has been remodeled into an alternate exit. Massive interior and exterior beams, large square columns and plaster are defining elements of this popular style of Southwest-style architecture. Some of the house’s features, such as the light fixtures, were added recently as part of the renovation, but are still noteworthy. These were reconstructed from the original plans.

Best advantages about visiting Price-McCullough House in between mall shopping trips? Located at 300 South Chandler Village Drive, it’s literally right next to Chandler Fashion Center. There are no waiting lines. And it’s easy on the wallet — free!

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Three-entry garage on north side of McCullough-Price House

Front door shows Art Deco and pueblo revival style popular during the 1930s

Banners tell the history of Chandler's cotton farming

Pueblo revival style ceiling beams and lighting

Ornate vase on display at McCullough-Price House

Explore Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park in Safford

Discovery Park's shuttlecraft Polaris takes 'tours' to the planets

When I would think of Safford, the first thing that would come to mind is a small town in southeast Arizona, the center of Arizona’s patchwork of agricultural acreage. Now, after a visit last month to the Graham County seat, other images will appear: Safford — as the site of the world’s largest binocular telescope atop nearby Mount Graham, and as the location of Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park campus.

Discovery Park is several educational attractions in one. It’s more than just a community college campus, it’s the official visitor center for University of Arizona’s Mount Graham International Observatory, where travelers can embark for day-long tours to the top Mount Graham to view three world class telescopes: the Vatican Advanced Technology Telescope, the Heinrich Hertz Submillimeter (Radio) Telescope of the Arizona Radio Observatory, and the Large Binocular Telescope. The latter is reported to be the largest binocular telescope in the world.  Through advance reservations, visitors may book a 40-mile road trip up to the top of 10,720-feet high Mount Graham. They are treated to a sack lunch along with a tour of each of the telescope facilities. Trips are arranged through Discovery Park from May through October and spaces are limited, so those interested may want to call well ahead of time to reserve space for May 2013.

Old butter churn, paddle and mold: Discovery Park's also a temporary host for Graham County history

Discovery Park visitor center is also a historical museum. Portions of the Graham County Historical Society’s museum exhibit, originally housed in an aging school building in neighboring Thatcher, have been moved into the galleries at Discovery Park until the Historical Society can find a new home. Now Discovery Park visitors also will be able to get a glimpse into Graham County history. Here you can view artifacts, farm tools, cooking utensils and historic documents from the mid- and late19th century pioneers.

Learn about light and sound in Discovery Park's science gallery

And the Discovery Park visitor’s center also is a space science center, so it’s an especially great place to bring the kids. Families can learn about the planets, the Sun, and light and sound waves of space. Interactive exhibits allow visitors to “hear” space. The history of astronomy and contributions by important innovators of planetary, earth and physical sciences are described in the galleries. If you plan your visit on a clear Saturday evening, you’ll be able view the night sky through Governor Aker Observatory’s Tinsley 20” telescope.

A highlight of our visit to Discovery Park’s visitor center was the Space Shuttle Polaris, a flight motion simulator vehicle, which takes passengers on a 10-minute jostling, jolting tour of all the planets, lifting off from the top of Mount Graham and the Pinaleno Mountains. It’s reminiscent of Disney’s Star Tours ride attraction, with elevators, doors, long drops and fast swoops. Even though you’re only watching an on-screen video for the ride, you may want to hang on to the seat — some of those visual effects can be knuckle-whitening!

Walk through riparian wetland areas - part of Nature's Hideaway at Discovery Park

After my flight simulator ride, it was time to get a little fresh air. So, while I regained my composure, I learned that this multipurpose venue continues beyond the visitor center doors. Discovery Park is also a wildlife preserve. The riparian wetland area below the visitor center, called Nature’s Hideaway, includes several desert trails and walkways. During our visit, summer monsoon rains were preparing to refill the low-lying ponds, which attract migrating ducks and other waterfowl. Our visitor center host provided us with some snack crackers for Howard. (The duck, of course.) We walked down the sloping driveway to the grassy, reedy ponds looking for Howard. We didn’t see any ducks that afternoon, but we did find an excellent environment for watching wildlife.

It's snack time for Discovery Park's box turtle and tortoise

Just as we were leaving, we passed a miniature locomotive engine, the Discovery Park Express and its cars now sitting idle beyond a chain-linked fence. We were told that steep insurance costs now prevent the park from offering train rides. We hope — through private funding, grants or with a ‘Friends’ fundraising group — this train may once again may be chugging down Discovery Park’s narrow gauge track.

Eastern Arizona College’s Discovery Park campus, located at 1651 Discovery Park Blvd, is open Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. (no shuttle rides after 4:00 p.m.) and Saturdays from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Call 928-428-6260 for tours, special event reservations and more information.

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Start Jerome, Ariz. tour at historic state park

jero

Enjoy the views from Jerome Historic State Park

 

Visitors to Jerome, Arizona are smart to choose Jerome State Historic Park as their first stop when they come into town, to discover the town’s rich and colorful history. Stories of wealthy mining families, town fires, floods, gambling, prostitution and ghosts are circulated at Jerome State Historic Park.

The park comprises the James Douglas family mansion, separate carriage house, and exterior exhibits of a stamp mill crusher and several mining cars. Jerome Historical Society maintains the Audrey Headframe Park, located just west of the mansion, also worth a visit.

gargoyle

Gargoyle greets visitors to the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

When arriving in Jerome with our out-of-state guests, Jerome State Historic Park usually is our first stop. The five-dollar admission fee is money well spent. The 28-minute video presentation seems much shorter, probably because it’s packed full of exciting tidbits about Jerome’s most notorious characters and earthshaking events. I highly recommend seeing that video first, before you tour the rest of the mansion. Everything you’ll be seeing behind the display glass will make more sense, plus you’ll really have a greater appreciation of your other stops in historic Jerome.

geologic exhibit

Rock specimens on display inside mansion rooms

 

At Jerome State Historic Park, you’ll learn about the Douglas family, the rise and fall of Jerome’s mining industry and other significant events, offering a deeper understanding of the town, its culture and colorful past. Plan to spend at least an hour at the park, if not more. Afterwards, you’ll want to take in all the panoramic views as you stroll around the grounds and exterior exhibits.

engineering instruments

Surveying instruments are part of Jerome Historic State Park railroad exhibit

 

Interesting side note: the Douglas family didn’t spend much time at this mansion. It was used more for entertaining guests, investors and mining company VIPs. The home was a model for opulence, complete with wine cellar, marble shower, even a central vacuum system — very innovative for that time! But the mansion also served as party hall, as mine officials hosted a huge Christmas party for the miners and their families each year.

study

One of the main living areas in the Douglas mansion at Jerome Historic State Park

 

Tips for visiting Jerome: When planning a walking tour of Jerome’s shops and cafes, first pick up a historic building and business map at the visitor center. Consider parking at the spacious lot located just past the Fire Station on Perkinsville Road. That way, you’ll have an easy walk to the shops, starting at the United Verde Apartment building, then making your way down to each street level. The first Saturday of each month is the Jerome Art Walk.

Kohl’s Ranch: Five reasons keep us returning

Autumn is one of our favorite times to visit Kohl’s Ranch. It’s a great time to see changing leaves and feel cooler temperatures of the Ponderosa pine forest at the foot of the Mogollon Rim. Kohl’s Ranch, nestled next to Tonto Creek along State Route 260, is a rustic guest ranch and Arizona historical landmark. We keep coming back to Kohl’s Ranch for these reasons:

1. Tonto Creek

Tonto Creek runs immediately in front of the Kohl’s Ranch’s lodge rooms, cabins and suites so each morning of our stay, we awake to hear the rustling water over the rocks as it makes its way into the Tonto Basin and on to Roosevelt Lake. On the National Forest land north of State Route 260, there’s plenty of space on the banks for fishing, picnicking or just listening to the wind in the pines. Farther up Forest Service Road 289 is Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery, a nice place to spend an afternoon with the kids to learn how trout are grown for stocking Arizona waterways.

Tonto Creek's occasional still waters in front of Kohl's Ranch

 

 

Feeding time at the Tonto Creek Fish Hatchery

  1. Pet-Friendly

Kohl’s Ranch has recently changed their pet policy and now allows pets in selected units. There are restrictions and since only a few such units exist, it’s recommended to call well in advance to reserve a pet-friendly unit. The resort provides a pet welcome kit with treats and blanket.

 

Chuck and Molly walking the fence near pet-friendly Kohl's Ranch

  1. The Lodge

As soon as we enter the building, we’re greeted with the scent of top grain leather sofas and wood, be it from cracking logs in the fireplace or the knotty pine walls. It’s like going back in time 70 years – to when the lodge was popular lodge among hunters and anglers. During the 1950’s and 60’s, the lodge a favorite stopover for vacationing families, with its dining room, ice cream parlor, post office and grocery store.  A gallery of old photographs tells the history. The main lodge building now comprises the front desk, lobby, dining room, saloon, fitness center, kid’s club, studio suites and resort offices.

 

  1. Zane Grey Dining Room

Despite some less than glorifying comments on those always-disputable hospitality review sites, we have always found the dining room at Kohl’s Ranch to exceed our expectations. For one recent meal, we ordered the daily dinner special: Cornish game hens with orange glaze — baked to perfection, with wild rice and steamed fresh vegetables. Our lunch the following day was equally as good. My husband said his onion rings was the best he has ever had — those huge rings of onion dipped in homemade batter. At each of our meals, our servers promptly arrived to our table with menus, drinks, meals and check.

Hiking Trail access

This is probably the most important reason we keep coming back to Kohl’s Ranch – the location. It’s nice to stay in a cabin right near your trailhead. We especially like Horton Creek Trail and other trails nearby. In fact, the Horton Trail is one of our favorites, for a rather easy-to-moderate day hike. This trail has everything: lush forest, lots of wildlife, waterfalls, plus an easy, gradual climb – nothing too steep. Plan to see a lot of hikers on weekends. Check out hikearizona.com or Arizonahikingtrails.com for more information and additional hiking opportunities in the area.

 

Waterfalls along the Horton Creek hiking trail

For anyone who wants to visit some of Arizona’s historical landmarks to commemorate the Arizona Centennial, we recommend putting Kohl’s Ranch on the list. It’s one of the few guest “ranches” still operating in our state – continuing to treat visitors to some western, rustic charm and authentic Arizona hospitality.