Trackers Hike Through Historical Clarkdale
November 09, 2018
By Ernie and Lynn Pratt
Sedona Westerners’ Trackers hiking group admiring the historical brick storefronts in downtown Clarkdale. They recently enjoyed an historical tour there.
Going on a Trackers Hike with the Sedona Westerners Hiking Club is a bit different from our other hikes in the Sedona area. Trackers’ hikes focus more on learning about a particular field of interest, for example: botany, archaeology, history, or geology, with less emphasis on hiking. Our recent Trackers hike to Clarkdale was no exception, with its focus on history, as we toured the town, the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum, the Arizona Copper Art Museum, and the Clark Memorial Clubhouse, which made for a very full day.
Upon arrival, we were met by Chairman Cindy Emmit and longtime resident and Museum Historian Jerry Wombacher. Whereas Cindy is the Chairman for the Board of Directors of the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum and has exhaustively researched the history of a town she obviously cares for and is excited about, Jerry has lived that history. He was born just down the street from the Historical Society & Museum. Together, they formed an entertaining and educational team for our group, with Cindy detailing the history and Jerry regaling us with his real-life experiences and anecdotes.
Cindy took us down Clarkdale’s Main Street, pointing out what used to be the large, corner general store, the bank, pool hall, pharmacy, barbershop, movie theater, and more. It was a formidable street of brick buildings built over a hundred years ago, which are still standing solid to this day. W. A. Clark was the owner, visionary, and builder who insisted that each building front should be architecturally different. However, you can only do so much with bricks, so the bricks were colored differently, laid this way and that way and interspersed with other stonework in imaginative and skillful patterns, thus making our walk an interesting visual experience. Cindy gave us dates, history of occupancy, and names of renters while Jerry provided us with stories from his life around those same buildings.
Having walked Main Street as it exists to this day, it was most rewarding to see that history live again, through a study of the various photographs on the walls of the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum. Clarkdale started building in 1912 as a company smelter town by William A. Clark, to process the ore from his copper mine located in nearby Jerome. Clarkdale was one of the most modern mining towns in the world and its technology included telephone, telegraph, electrical, sewer, and spring water services. It was an early example of a planned community. Off Main Street, the town had brick homes, wide, paved streets, a large park, tennis courts, and a baseball field. The town center and business district were built in Spanish Colonial style, and feature the Clark Memorial Clubhouse and the Clark Memorial Library, both of which are still in use. The Clubhouse is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and boasted tennis courts, a swimming pool, a lounge, bowling alleys, and a very large ballroom with a stage.
W. M. Clark built this town for his workers. The history of the town is the history of the Clark family.
We had lunch on Main Street, by having an excellent meal at Scott’s, one of several good restaurants in the town. According to Cindy and as detailed on the website, ExperienceClarkdale.com, Clarkdale is a fun place to visit with a full calendar of events.
A visit to the Arizona Copper Art Museum is also a very worthwhile experience. The Museum has an incredible array of all things copper, and details the history, basic geology, weaponry, and both the practical and the imaginative uses of copper.
Although I am sure that Clarkdale has over time produced many fine citizens, it will always be best known as the town that electrified most of America through its production of copper for wiring, and later as the town that supplied all the cement used to build the Glen Canyon Dam. During the building of the Dam, truck after truck, traveled twenty-four hours a day down Main Street from the cement plant, which remains in operation to this day.
If you are interested in joining the club, please visit the Sedona Westerners website at www.sedonawesterners.org/membership. You are invited to our next monthly meeting at 7 p.m., Thursday, January 10, at the Sedona Methodist Church, 110 Indian Cliffs Road. Written by Ernie and Lynn Pratt.