By Parker Anderson
On October 15, 1962, the cornerstone for the new city hall building was laid. U.S. Senator Barry M. Goldwater spoke at the ceremony, which was attended by most of Prescott’s city officials, as well as Sam Steiger, then a State Senator. The ceremony was marred by the boycott of State Senator David Palmer, a Democrat, who denounced the gathering as “a political hack type presentation of the Republican party.”
A time capsule containing many mementos of 1962 Prescott was included in the ceremony. Nine schoolchildren were given keys and told to return 50 years later to open the capsule. The time capsule was recovered and opened in a presentation at the Elks Opera House in 2012. Most of the contents went to the Sharlot Hall Museum Research Center. Some original items, along with some new items, were added to the capsule, to be re-opened in 2062.
The city also commissioned Phoenix-based artist Paul Coze to provide artwork for the new building. Coze was a significant artist at the time who provided mural artwork for Mesa Verde National Monument in Colorado, as well as for Sky Harbor Airport in Phoenix. A few years ago, during remodeling of the terminals, Sky Harbor removed the sections of walls with Coze’s murals in order to preserve them and remounted them elsewhere in the airport.
The City of Prescott paid Coze $10,000 in 1963 to provide art for the new building, a significant amount of money then. He provided a portrait of Boston-based historian William H. Prescott, for whom our town is named, to be hung in the building’s hallway. Originally a container placed just below the painting contained an original copy of Prescott’s book “History of the Conquest of Mexico.” While the painting still hangs in City Hall, the fate and whereabouts of the book are unknown.
Coze also painted a large mural, still in the City Council chambers, depicting images of 19th century life in the area. Judging by the Courier’s description of Coze’s wall art in 1963, some of the art around the building is missing today. The newspaper article described panel art depicting miners, trappers, Whiskey Row and primitive tools. It must be assumed that, at some point over the years, an interior remodeling painted over these images. Only William H. Prescott’s portrait and the one mural have survived. Coze died in 1974.
On Christmas Eve 1963, the Prescott City Council, dressed in period 19th century clothing, met in their chambers in the newly completed building for the first time. But the official ribbon-cutting and dedication occurred the following Sunday. At a huge ceremony emceed by Budge Ruffner, Prescott’s new city hall was dedicated with bands, speeches and presentations by U.S. Senator Barry Goldwater and Arizona Governor Paul Fannin. Television crews from Phoenix covered the event, and the crowd was estimated at several thousand. That evening, a large celebratory ball was held at the National Guard Armory (today the Grace Sparkes Activity Center).
The city hall building has served Prescott well for nearly 60 years. With the city government moving to a new facility, this historic building has been placed up for sale. Its eventual fate remains to be seen.
“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at archives.sharlothallmuseum.org/articles/days-past-articles/1 The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles and inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org Please contact SHM Research Center reference desk at 928-277-2003, or via email at email@example.com for information or assistance with photo requests.
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