From the “Ghosts of Cleopatra Hill” in Jerome to the presidio of Tubac, our first European settlement, it isn’t hard to find traces of Arizona’s Wild West past as you travel the state’s highways and byways.
Just the name Arizona conjures up images of a West too tough to die, where frontier justice prevailed and cowboys and Indians held center stage.
By 1912, Arizonans were in the throes of celebrating the ultimate prize after fighting long and hard for status as a separate state. The rolling capitol – which had been hopping between Prescott and Tucson – found a permanent home in Phoenix, and communities throughout the state were poised to step up to the promises offered by statehood.
Europeans Establish a Settlement at Tubac
Growing from a settlement torn by skirmishes between pioneers and the state’s native inhabitants into the present-day charming arts community, Tubac in Southern Arizona is well worth a visit.
The town’s Presidio San Ignacio de Tubac, established in 1752, is Arizona’s oldest Spanish fort. The presidio was raised to protect a fledgling settlement of European colonists – brought to expand Spain’s New World empire – against raids by the land’s native residents.
Be sure to visit Tubac Presidio State Historic Park, where you’ll see part of the original foundation, walls and plaza floor of the 1752 commandant’s quarters, an authentic 1885 schoolhouse and the first printing press used in Arizona.
Old & New Reside Side by Side in Tucson
Tucson, the Territorial Capitol of Arizona from 1867 to 1877 and the home of Arizona’s first university, is now Arizona’s second largest city.
You can still find glimpses of this modern city’s early history tucked away like hidden jewels, from the white sandstone facade of the 1866 St. Augustine Cathedral to the vibrantly colored adobe homes and businesses in the Barrio Historico neighborhood.
Prescott – Arizona’s Two-Time Territorial Capitol
The charm and beauty of Prescott – Arizona’s Territorial Capital from 1864 to 1867 and, again, from 1877 to 1889 – is enhanced by the rich Arizona history brought to life at the Sharlot Hall Museum.
The crown jewel of the museum is the Prescott’s Territorial governor’s mansion. Take the time to roam the museum’s parklike grounds, breathe in the fragrance of the rose garden and explore Fort Misery and the several period houses relocated to the property during the 1900s.
Another historic stop, the Yavapai County Courthouse played a part in Arizona politics for many years – the late Senator Barry M. Goldwater always kicked off his political campaigns on the building’s steps.
Don’t head out of town without a stroll down Whiskey Row. During the town’s Wild West heyday, saloons and gambling halls lined this now-historic block. Today, the area offers a variety of charming dining, lodging and shopping options.
The Roving Capitol Makes a Permanent Stop
Phoenix became the final site of Arizona Territorial government in 1889, and the first State Capitol in 1912.
Step back into this era at Historic Heritage Square in downtown Phoenix. Experience a taste of the late 1880s in the only remaining block of the city’s original town site.
Stroll amid Victorian houses along tree-lined sidewalks lit by period streetlights. Duck into the cozy Pizzeria Bianco – occupying one of the square’s historic buildings – for a creation from James Beard Award-winning chef Chris Bianco.
The Town Too Tough to Die
No visit to Southern Arizona would be complete without a stop at one of the state’s wildest of the Wild West towns – Tombstone.
See reenactors shoot it out at the OK Corral, and join other curious onlookers at the Bird Cage Theatre, now a museum, to eye its bullet-riddled interior. A visit to the Tombstone Courthouse State Park will provide you with an authentic history of this “Town Too Tough to Die”.
The Ghosts of Jerome
With streets so twisting they would give a rattlesnake a headache, Jerome looks out across the Verde Valley from its perch on Cleopatra Hill.
After the town’s mine closed in 1953, Jerome’s few remaining residents were determined not to let their town slip away. Instead they recreated its image, building it into a well-known arts community and tourist attraction.
Today the town offers thriving shops, museums, accommodations and restaurants. It was designated a National Historic District in 1967 by the federal government.