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Old Governor’s Mansion

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Territorial Governor’s Mansion; Gubernatorial Mansion; Old Capitol and Grounds
1864, Samuel Blair; 1899–1903 remodel, Joseph Dougherty; 1927–1930 restoration; 1963–1980, structural restoration. 415 W. Gurley St.
  • (Photograph by Heather McMahon)

When Congress established the Territory of Arizona on February 24, 1863, a delegation led by John Nobel Goodwin, the first territorial governor, settled on the present site of central Prescott as the new territorial capital. One of the first edifices built was a log house that served as the governor’s residence and office as well as the chamber for the territorial legislature. The Old Governor’s Mansion, as it is now called, was completed in 1864 and is considered the oldest building in situ associated with the founding of the Arizona Territory.

On a parcel along the main thoroughfare, two blocks west from the present Courthouse Plaza, Samuel Blair directed laborers (Hatz and Raible) in the construction of the two-story, two-bay, rectangular building. Blair bid $6,000 for the project but he underestimated the cost of transporting materials to the sparsely populated territory and claimed a $1,500 debt once the building was completed. The eight-room residence was constructed of rough-hewn, squared logs chinked with mud, and the building featured a gabled roof with no dormers, a central chimney, and a small porch that projected over the main entrance on the east elevation. The original fenestration consisted of mere gun ports and peep holes, but eventually these were enlarged and replaced by double-hung windows with six-over-six lights. By 1865, wood planking was laid over the cabin’s dirt floors and one room was paneled with painted wood boards. Before 1870, a one-story kitchen addition with a transverse gable roof was built on the house’s southwest corner, creating an L-shaped floorplan. Sometime later, a similar-sized room was added to the northwest corner, creating a U-shaped plan.

The territorial capital was moved to Tucson between 1867 and 1877, relocated to Prescott once again, then finally settled in Phoenix in 1889. After its brief tenure as capitol, the Old Governor’s Mansion passed through various hands, including the McCormick family, Henry Fleury, and Chief Justice C.G.W. French. For a time, it served as the Congregational Church of Prescott. In 1899, Joseph Dougherty purchased the property and extensively remodeled it through 1903. First, he enclosed the courtyard on the west elevation, returning the floorplan to a rectangle. On the exterior, he concealed the logs with clapboard siding; installed larger, double-hung windows with one-over-one lights; added a sleeping porch on the north end; and created a dormer room with two double-hung windows above the main entrance on the east elevation. Most significantly, Dougherty enlarged the small entry porch to extend across the full width of the facade and the north elevation, creating a curved veranda with a flat roof and balustrade supported by ribbed columns. By the end of his renovations, Dougherty had updated the frontier log cabin into a Late Victorian–era residence that shared architectural elements (and a deep horizontal emphasis) with contemporary Arts and Crafts bungalows.

Following unsuccessful efforts by the Arizona State legislature in 1917 to acquire the old mansion and open it as a state historic site, Sharlot M. Hall purchased the building and its grounds in 1927. Hall, who came from an Arizona homesteading family, was the first woman to be appointed to an Arizona territorial position when she was named Territorial Historian in 1909. Residing in Prescott, Hall spent her life amassing artifacts from Arizona’s frontier culture and early pioneering days, and used the Old Governor’s Mansion to house her collection. She opened her museum to the public in 1929, all the while preserving and restoring the “mansion” by removing the circa 1903 clapboards, enclosing the north porch, and replacing the flat roof of the veranda with a sloped roof. In 1930, with the assistance of the Monday Club, the gable roof was clad in shakes and the mud chinking between the logs replaced with a cement-mortar mixture. Between 1963 and 1980, a number of structural repairs were made to the aging edifice. Concealed steel I-beams were installed to help the structure bear the roof and ceiling weights. The beams are supported by pipe columns measuring three inches in diameter, which are visible in the second-story rooms. The rotting log foundation was removed and replaced by a modern foundation composed of poured concrete and cinder blocks faced with granite.

Hall greatly changed the former capitol’s landscape, first by building a wood stockade fence around the grounds, which were then bounded by Beach Avenue, West Gurley Street, the undeveloped half of Block 5, and Capitol Drive to the east. In 1930, she planted a memorial rose garden directly south of the mansion, which was relocated to the north in the 1950s. In 1934, Hall had an 1863 log trading post moved to the northwest corner of the property, and had two new buildings erected west of the mansion in 1936. Three additional small exhibition buildings lined the rear property line, and, after Hall’s death, the administrators of the Sharlot Hall Museum expanded the property across Capitol Drive (which they closed in order to do so) and added more historic buildings and new construction to the parcel through 1980. Today the Old Governor’s Mansion acts as the focal point to an open-air collection of historic buildings.

References

Fink, Robert, “Old Governor’s Mansion,” Yavapai County, Arizona. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1971. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.

Miller, Raymond E. Prescott. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2010.

“Sharlot Hall Museum.” Sharlot Hall Museum. Accessed July 28, 2015. https://sharlot.org/.

Wildfang, Frederic B. Prescott. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2006.

Writing Credits

Author: 
Heather N. McMahon
Coordinator: 
R. Brooks Jeffery
Jason Tippeconnic Fox

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