Saturday, March 29, 2014

Local Tourist: Downtown Prescott, Arizona

A beautiful late March day in mile high Prescott, Arizona. 

Gurley Street, looking west toward Thumb Butte
I had most of the day to wander as I felt like, having dropped my vehicle off at a local auto repair shop for some good upgrade work to engine and brakes. I had intended to spend most of my time in the Sharlot Hall Museum, but to my delight some gorgeous, ever changing cumulus clouds had shown up. And the air was crisp and clear. A photographer's playground. Time to play "local tourist", exploring like a rubbernecking newcomer but with the familiarity of a resident. The best of both worlds.

Gurley Street, looking east from Courthouse Plaza ("the Square")

I like downtown Prescott because it has a number of old, historic buildings that are inhabited by local businesses. No chain stores or restaurants here. With the beautiful light and plenty of time on my hands I decided to wander the streets as a tourist would. I had only lived in the area a year, and so it would be a chance to visit some of the shops that I hadn't yet, as well as re-visit those I knew already, to see what had changed.

The beautiful Hassayampa Inn on Gurley Street
The downtown core is centered around the Yavapai County Courthouse, a stately granite building surrounded by the lawns and sidewalks and American elm trees of its plaza, universally called "Courthouse Square" or "the Square" by the locals even though the city maps and signs insist it's officially Courthouse Plaza. 

Whiskey Row (right), Montezuma Street across from the Courthouse Plaza (left).

On the north side of the Square is Gurley Street, which is Prescott's Main Street. Gurley Street comes down the hill from the east at the beautiful red-brick Hassayampa Inn and the Elks Theatre, and points west toward Thumb Butte, the iconic upthrust on the Prescott National Forest just west of downtown.

Gun lovers' signs for sale.
Prescott revels in its "Old West" cowboy, pioneer, and mining history. Also in being a mile high in elevation, making its climate about as perfect as you can get. With the iconic Arizona blue skies, low humidity, and moderate temperatures, Prescott is off the beaten path (Interstate 17) while being not that far from it, either. 

Alongside Courthouse Plaza to the south is Whiskey Row, that block of Montezuma Street with a very colorful (i.e., wild) past and is still the epicenter of downtown's night life. With a number of bars, art galleries, restaurants, and upscale shops, it's a great place to browse and spend an hour or three. And that's during the daylight hours! Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday are long gone from the scene, but downtown lives on as a mixture of historic and modern. 

Hotel St. Michael ("St. Mike's") building anchors the north corner of Whiskey Row

Mountain Spirit Co-Op art gallery and healing center on Cortez Street
However, Cortez Street just north of Gurley Street rivals Whiskey Row for having at least as many restaurants, and with even more shops. At any rate, all of historic downtown Prescott is within easy walking distance, and is very pedestrian-friendly.

Cortez Street Emporium (and mirror for lovely Arizona sky).

The Cortez Street Emporium makes it plain when it's open...and where the entrance is!

Visual collage of inside and outside, near and far, courtesy of the Cortez Street Emporium's front windows.
Along Cortez Street

North Cortez Street, Prescott, Arizona

Murphy's Restaurant, Cortez Street

Wandering "local tourist" photographer...

The former train station is now an upscale professional building.

Historic photo from the Sharlot Hall Museum archives shows the train station in its day.

Local businesses aren't shy about turning their walls into public art.
Streetside art on The Lone Spur Cafe, Gurley Street
Adams Specialty Automotive Repair shop, my beginning and ending point near historic downtown.
Granite Basin Lake and Granite Peak, on the Prescott National Forest a few miles west of downtown. Gotta take the vehicle for a little drive after being worked on!
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