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BULLETeditor's letter
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Editor Robert Stieve
© Paul Markow
No Horses Allowed

You won’t see many horses in the saloons of Prescott. It’s against the law. Porches, sidewalks and private homes are off-limits, too. It’s been that way since 1873, when the city fathers passed Ordinance 2. Here’s what it says:

“Any person who shall willfully and maliciously ride or drive any horse, mule or other riding animal, upon any porch, or sidewalk, or under any awning in front of any private dwelling or place of business, or into any dwelling, store, saloon, or other business house, thereby terrifying the occupants thereof, and endangering life and property, or who shall drive or ride through the plazas, streets, lanes, or alleys within the village limits in a careless and reckless manner liable to cause injury to life or property, shall, upon conviction before the Recorder, be fined in any sum not exceeding $100, in the discretion of the Court.”

Like most young towns in the Old West, Prescott was attempting to bring some degree of civility to a place where, apparently, it wasn’t unusual for residents to be terrified by what was going on around them. Of course, that’s not what the founders had in mind when they got together on May 30, 1864, and mapped out their new town. On that day, 150 years ago this month, they were envisioning what we think of today as a scene from Norman Rockwell. Not the debauchery of Whiskey Row, which must have played a role in Ordinance 2.

That law, although archaic, is still on the books. It’s not necessary, though. These days, there’s nothing terrifying about Prescott. In fact, with its courthouse square surrounded by mom-and-pop shops, the town’s downtown is the closest thing Arizona has to a Rockwell illustration. That’s how we ended up with this month’s cover.

When we started putting the issue together, the first thing we did was pull our April 1964 issue, which was dedicated to Prescott’s centennial. The cover photo in ’64 was a wide shot looking down on the city. It’s a nice image, but we wanted something different, something that reflected the city’s historic charm, something worthy of Prescott’s sesquicentennial. Well, one thing led to another, and we eventually ended up on the phone with Douglas Smith.

As illustrators go, Doug is one of the best, and we’re excited to have his artwork on our cover — it’s that “something different” we were looking for. The illustration was created from an 1890s photo we have of Gurley Street. If you’re familiar with Prescott, Gurley is the street that runs in front of the courthouse. The large building on the left is the Hotel Burke, which was billed as the city’s only “fireproof” hotel. A few years after that declaration, the Burke burned to the ground. Irony. In its place is the Hotel St. Michael, which has hosted some heavy hitters over the years, including Teddy Roosevelt. That’s one of the things you’ll learn in this month’s cover story. You’ll also learn that Prescott’s first “Christmas Celebration” took place in 1954, that Junior Bonner starring Steve McQueen was filmed around the square, and that Whiskey Row’s most popular saloon was Bob Brow’s Palace. Although it was popular, it wasn’t the first.

“They built the first one out of logs, down on Granite Creek, and called it the Quartz Rock Saloon,” Charles C. Niehuis wrote in the October 1938 issue of Arizona Highways. “They built the rest of ’em up on Montezuma Street and called it Whiskey Row.”

“By 1874,” Mr. Niehuis continues, “there was a full block of saloons and gambling halls, where, they say, the best ‘gambleers’ of the world took postgraduate courses in games of chance. That block became the epitome of the Old West.”

As part of our sesquicentennial tribute to Prescott, we’re resurrecting that story. It’s a double flashback of sorts. We’re flashing back to 1938, and in his story, Mr. Niehuis flashes back to the “middle eighties” — the 1880s. His is a dramatic story about a typical night on Whiskey Row. There’s so much drama that he needed 31 exclamation points to tell the tale.

About halfway through, a big fight breaks out and a hundred men are “swinging chairs, table legs, spittoons — anything that’ll knock a man out.” Eventually, Tom Hallahan walks into a bar called the Cabinet. He’s there to gun down Mike Hickey. I won’t tell you how it ends, but I will tell you that in spite of the barroom brawl and the pistol-waving, Ordinance 2 seemed to be working. At no point in the story do the characters maliciously ride their horses into any of the saloons on Whiskey Row. And it looks like they stayed off the porches, too..

Our annual Summer Hiking Guide. Plus, the unlikely story about a group of Hassidic Jews in Brooklyn who partner with a wheat farmer in Yumas.

Robert Stieve,Editor
Follow me on Twitter: @azhighways

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