Sedona Westerners in the Red Rock News

February 1, 2013

Clarkdale: A Company Town

 


by Marcia Lee

Founded in 1912 by William Andrews Clark, owner of the United Verde Copper Company (UVCC) and one of America’s 10 richest men in that era, Clarkdale was the first planned community in the state of Arizona. In 2008, The Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum officially opened for business and is now open 7 days a week from 10 AM to 1 PM. Cindy Emmett, Museum Board Member, and Jerry Wombacher, a native of Clarkdale, recently led The Tracker group of the Sedona Westerners on a history tour of this special museum and downtown Clarkdale.

Finding that the UVCC Jerome smelter was sitting on a large amount of ore, the Clarkdale smelter was built to replace the one in Jerome. The first copper was produced there in 1915. The slag from that smelter continues to be part of Clarkdale history as a new company has begun building facilities and perfecting methods to reprocess and retrieve gold from the large slag pile left behind.


The Trackers gathered in front of the original tellers' windows at what was the Clarkdale Branch of the Bank of Arizona. This is the site of the June 21, 1928 bank robbery. The bandits, Willard Forrester and Earl Nelson faced a fusillade of bullets when they tried to speed away with more than $40,000. Forrester was killed and Nelson received a 20 year sentence.
Photo: Courtesy of Steve West.

Since Clarkdale did not exist prior to the decision to build a smelter there, a town was needed to house the smelter’s workers. Instead of the usual rough mining town, Clark envisioned and developed a town with a family community feel. The brothels and saloons of Jerome were not to be tolerated in this town! Clark hired a Los Angeles architect to design the town and construction commenced. Clarkdale was designed with distinct neighborhoods: Upper Town for the mine supervisors and white-collar workers, Lower Town was for the blue-collar workers, Patio Town was established for the Mexican smelter workers. The homes in Upper and Lower Town had telephone, electrical, sewer, and spring water services. Wide streets, sidewalks, a large park with bandstand, a company store (general store), women’s clothing store, furniture store, theatre, medical clinic, bank, post office, town hall, and recreation facilities were all part of the plan for this community that eventually counted over 4,000 residents.

Due to wide availability of Verde limestone, brick became the signature building material for Clarkdale. The Verde limestone again became a part of Clarkdale history as The Salt River Materials Plant went into production in 1961 providing work for Clarkdale residents. For three years the plant provided a cement truck every 8 minutes around the clock to drive to Page for building Glen Canyon Dam. In the mid-1930s, after the death of several members of the Clark family, Phelps Dodge Mining Corporation bought the UVCC and the Clarkdale Smelter and continued to run the company town. After the mine closed in 1952, several different companies bought and sold the smelter holdings that included all the homes and most other buildings. The citizens were dissatisfied with these companies and the changes that occurred. The Clarkdale Community Betterment Association was formed and the town incorporated in 1957. Last of the owners of the town was the Halliburton Corporation. Halliburton fixed up the homes and sold them to individuals.

Today, Clarkdale has 386 structures listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Dedicated and enthusiastic citizens keep the history alive. Plans for the future include the opening of a Copper Museum in the Old High School Building on Main Street (opening in March and not to be missed). Watch for more interesting changes coming along Main Street!

The Westerners always welcome new members. If you are interested in joining, visit www.sedonawesterners.org. You also may join at our monthly meetings. The next one is February 14th, 2013 7:00 PM, at the Jewish Community of Sedona and the Verde Valley, 100 Meadowlark Drive, Sedona.