Prescott 101

Buckey O'Neill Statue on Prescott Courthouse Plaza (Source: Buckey O'Neill Statue on Prescott Courthouse Plaza (Source:

Established in 1864, Prescott was Arizona's second capital, replacing the temporary capital of Fort Whipple.

The territorial capital might have been called Audubon, Goodwin City or Aztlan. While those were three of the early suggestions to name the fledgling city, Prescott was chosen in honor of historian William Hickling Prescott, who wrote "The History of the Conquest of Mexico," among other works. According to the Arizona Miner, the name won because Prescott was "a good citizen, a true patriot, with industry, perseverance under difficulty, amiability of character and love of country."

Also, the county seat of Yavapai County, Prescott was the capital of the Arizona Territory until 1867. That's when the capital was relocated to Tucson for 10 years. In 1877, Prescott once again became the capital of the territory, but only remained so until 1889, when the capital permanently moved to Phoenix.

Two streets in downtown Prescott are named for its first two governors, John A. Gurley, who was appointed by Abraham Lincoln but died before taking office, and John Noble Goodwin.

Mining activity was a major influence on the city during the 1880s. A major slump in 1885 shuttered several local businesses. With the completion of the Arizona Central Railway in 1886, Prescott was connected with the Atlantic and Pacific. The line was later replaced by a branch of the Santa Fe, which eventually linked the mining area with the Southern Pacific Line.

The railroad was good for Prescott, boosting its economy and leading to the creation of several new businesses.

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On July 14, 1900, a massive fire leveled 4.5 blocks of downtown Prescott, including the famous Whiskey Row. In all, 12 hotels and 20 mercantile businesses were destroyed.

When reconstruction began, wood was abandoned as a building material in favor of brick, concrete and stone.

Although Prescott struggled through a postwar depression after World War I and the pre-World War II depression, building picked up again in 1946. The city saw major growth in the 1980s and continues to flourish today.

Known for its Victorian-style homes, Prescott has more than 800 buildings on the National Register of Historic Places. 

The city boasts three private and one public golf course, and is something of a mecca for the outdoorsy.

Prescott is part of the Quad-City area along with neighboring Prescott Valley, Chino Valley and Dewey-Humboldt, as well as the center of the Prescott Metropolitan Area. Prescott is the third largest metro area in the state behind Phoenix and Tucson.

In more recent history, Prescott was designated as a Preserve America Community, and in 2006 was named one of the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Dozen Distinctive Destinations

The city was hit hard in its heart when 19 of its firefighters, members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots, were killed in the Yarnell Hill Fire two years ago. The fire was Arizona's deadliest.

"This is as dark a day as I can remember," then Gov. Jan Brewer said.

More than 3,000 people attended a public memorial for the Yarnell 19 at an indoor stadium in Prescott. Earlier this week, the city paused once again to honor its fallen.

But Prescott is nothing if not resilient. The community is close-knit in bad times and good times. And they make sure there are a lot of good times.

Known for celebrating its inherent Westerness, Prescott hosts several annual events, including Frontier Days and The World's Oldest Rodeo (which has been running since 1888), as well as the Bluegrass Festival, the Prescott Film Festival, the Cowboy Poets Gathering, the Whiskey Off Road and Ragnar Relay Del Sol, and a huge July 4 Celebration. It's also home to the World's Largest Gingerbread Village, which is a sight to see at the Prescott Resort & Conference Center.

As of 2013, more than 40,500 called Prescott home.

Prescott is a little less than two hours north and slightly west of Phoenix via Interstate 17 and state Route 69. Taking state Route 89, the drive is about 30 or so minutes longer.

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