Nostalgic visit to 113-year-old family home
Many of us have fond memories of people and places past, so when my wife and I arrived in Prescott during our recent driving trip through Arizona, her excitement mounted.
Ludie hadn’t been in Prescott for nearly 70 years, and she was eager to reacquaint herself with the white house on Mount Vernon Avenue that she had visited frequently as a child.
Traveling with her parents from Los Angeles by car or train, they had stayed at the two-story, Dutch-colonial home which was the residence of her great-aunt, Ida Haskell Brown and Ziba Olmstead Brown, her husband.
“There it is! It’s hardly changed over the years. The white picket fence is still there, but the house is now yellow,” exclaimed Ludie as I parked at the curb.
Set back from the sidewalk and half-hidden by a grove of trees, the house was built by Ziba Brown in 1904. It is located in the East Prescott Historic District, and affixed to the front porch is a bronze plaque denoting it is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Two other nearby houses of note are those of the first woman to serve in the Arizona State Senate and the first territorial governor of Arizona. (Arizona became a U.S. territory in 1863, with Prescott as its capital, and a state in 1912, with Phoenix as its capital.) A third house, down the street, was turned into a temporary birthing or delivery facility and nursery for new-born babies after the local hospital burned to the ground in 1940.
Just as we were planning to ring the doorbell and ask the occupants if we could have a look around, a car drove up and out jumped the house’s owners, a delightful couple named Dixie and Larry Eddy. Ludie told them of her family’s connections to the house, and they invited us inside.
“I remember everything. Just like the outside, little has changed on the inside, Wonderful memories of my childhood are flooding back,” said Ludie as the Eddys gave us the grand tour.
Downstairs are a central hall, large living room, formal dining room, kitchen and bathroom. Upstairs are four bedrooms and a huge bathroom that features a massive bathtub set on four clawed feet.
Ludie asked Dixie if one of the bedrooms still contained a tiny “secret” closet hidden inside a larger closet, where she played dolls with a neighbor girl. Dixie replied she didn’t think so, and after inspecting all the upstairs closets, she was proved correct. Minor renovations by a past owner, alas, had resulted in the removal of the girls’ private hideout. Ludie couldn’t stop reminiscing about her visits to the 113-year-old house and the fun she had with the neighbor girl and other local kids. Life was simpler then, and the children, without parental supervision, would walk to close-by downtown Prescott where they looked at department store windows and bought ice cream cones. Everybody knew everyone else in Prescott in those days. The town was safe. There were no gangs or drug addicts roaming the streets.
Aunt Ida, the sister of Ludie’s grandmother, Lu Antles, was childless, and she also delighted in Ludie’s visits. She dressed up her little grand-niece in fancy gowns brought downstairs from dusty attic trunks and they played board games and sewed doll clothes together.
After visiting the old house, we said goodbye to our hosts, the Eddys, and drove downtown to the famous Hassayampa Inn, where we had a late lunch and watched a wedding in progress in its cavernous lobby. The hotel, since its opening in 1927, has been Prescott’s prime place to greet, meet, sleep and eat, and Ludie remembers joining Aunt Ida, Uncle Ziba and her parents, Tom and Doris Lewis, at the Inn for Sunday dinners. Then we walked over to the Union Building, where Uncle Ziba, a Prescott attorney, maintained his law offices.
Born on an Illinois farm, he came to Prescott in 1898, passed the state bar, founded a title company and played the cornet in the city band, served as a volunteer fireman and was elected commander of Prescott’s Knight Templars. On Thanksgiving Day of 1901, he married his childhood sweetheart, Ida Haskell, who was from Clay Center, Kansas, and they made their home at the house on Mount Vernon Ave. until his death in 1944. A year or two later, Ida sold the house and moved to Los Angeles to be near Ludie’s family.
We also traveled to Flagstaff, Ariz., to attend the graduation of Zach Schaefer, our great-nephew, from Northern Arizona University. NAU has a beautiful and spacious campus set amongst towering pine trees, and its sport teams are called the “Lumberjacks.” When we were guests of the Eddys in Prescott, Larry Eddy told us that he, too, was a NAU graduate and staunch Lumberjack supporter.
I’ve known Zach all his life, and I’m convinced he’ll be successful in whatever career he chooses. He had a double academic major, political science and criminal justice. His graduation was held in the university’s mammoth indoors sports arena, and we joined many family members and friends at the graduation ceremony including his parents, Mindy and Steve Schaefer; his sister and brother, Vanessa and Jeremy; and his aunt, Cindy Lewis.
Our Arizona trip lasted a week, and we haven’t stopped talking about the wonderful times we had at the old family house in Prescott and Zach’s graduation from NAU. There was another upside regarding our trip. Gasoline prices in Arizona are lower than most states. On one occasion I paid only $2.12 for a gallon of unleaded gas. Most other times in Arizona, I paid about $2.18 per gallon.
David C. Henley is publisher emeritus of the Lahontan Valley News.