Hello Friends and Family,

Pioneer Living History Museum, Part 1

Link to this year's index by clicking here.

In the far northern reaches of Phoenix, lies a delightful, historic place — the Pioneer Living History Museum. This 90-acre destination contains historic and reconstructed buildings from the latter part of the 19th century through the early part of the 20th century. Additionally, as it says on their website, "costumed interpreters including cowboys, lawmen, and lovely Victorian ladies – await you at Pioneer Living History Village, Arizona’s most authentic Old West town."

The first three photos are of the Opera House.

It was originally constructed in Prescott, AZ in 1876 and used as a general store. In 1882, a second-floor stage was built seating some 200 to 250 patrons. At about the same time, the first floor was converted to an ice-skating rink. In 1891, the building was gutted and the theater moved to the ground floor. Near the end of the century, the Opera House was determined to be unsafe and the building converted to a second-hand store.

In 1904, the city of Prescott purchased the building and converted it into a firehouse. The city later built a new fire station and used this building for office space. In 1959, the building was torn down and Pioneer Arizona obtained the bricks which were then used in this accurate reconstruction of the old Opera House.

Incidentally, the hay bales in the foreground mark the sides of the horseshoe pitch. Lacking iPhone and video games, people at that time found this a favorite activity.

I draw your attention to the mannequin on the second-story balcony which appears in the first two photos with a closeup here. It looks like his hat was the target for birds trying to get him to leave their domain.

Inside, I found an antique foot-pump organ which took me back to the days when my grandmother used to play a less-elaborate one in her church. Beautiful woodwork makes this a real gem. I wondered if it could still be played but was not about to try it myself for fear of being kicked out (or breaking it and being forced to pay for repairs).

Scattered about the Museum are period vehicles — here a buckboard wagon. Drawn by two horses, this would have been the pickup truck of its day. Interesting that the museum had to put a "KEEP OFF" sign on the side — I would have thought to be self-evident — but I guess I would have been wrong.

Here is another view of the same buckboard wagon showing the shaft used to harness the horses to the wagon (which I believe is called a tongue). BTW, I do not know what a typical buckboard would have cost — probably, many were handmade by the farmer with iron or steel parts fabricated by the town blacksmith. However, I did stumble across a website offering vintage buckboards for sale — with the first one offered at a price of $12,500. Wow!

The covered wagon played a big role in the western expansion by the European settlers as they sought prairie farmland to own and cultivate. The fact that Native Americans occupied this same land did not seem to deter the settlers since they could obtain a paper that documented their ownership of the land while the original inhabitants had no such paper.

It would be a tough journey sitting in the wagon pulled by a couple of oxen. I assume they may have begun their journey with a spare or two — no guarantee that one pair of oxen could last the full trip. Wikipedia suggests that the travel time was four to six months from Missouri to Oregon on the Oregon Trail. The wagons could carry supplies but the settlers would have to supplement those with hunting and gathering.

Here stands the General Store and the Barbershop which are reconstructions based on actual buildings elsewhere.

I loved the signs over many of the business establishments which I suspect are replicas of real vintage signs. Tonsorial Parlor actually denotes a barbershop, however barbers used to provide other services such dentistry, blood letting, and minor surgery.

Here we can see the interior of Smith & Dodds Tonsorial Parlor. Prominent in the center of the photo is the barber chair complete with the leather strop (or strap) used to sharpen the straight-edge razors of the day. I noticed the ceramic dental sink in the lower right-hand corner. I am old enough to remember them from visiting the dentist in my youth.

Just outside, a few steps from the barbershop, I found this inquisitive ground squirrel. He/She looks right at home here.

To be continued...

Life is good.

B. David

P. S., All photos and text © B. David Cathell Photography, Inc. — www.bdavidcathell.com