In late March, a new Rim Country Museum exhibit described by museum director Sharesse Von Strauss as 'phenomenal" will begin paying homage to one of the area's most notable historic landmarks: Roosevelt Dam.
Complete with old photographs, artifacts, core samples and other chunks of the structure's past, the exhibit will likely be funded by the Salt River Project.
"I should be receiving the grant application from SRP within the next week," Von Strauss said. "The exhibit isn't dependent on the grant, but it sure would help, because it could go up to $3,000 and (would help to cover) advertising and all kinds of good stuff. So I'm really excited about it."
Von Strauss' excitement is not merely limited to funding possibilities, however. If there is a part of the area's history truly worth honoring and remembering, she said, the creation of Roosevelt Dam is it.
Reflection of the past
Located on Roosevelt Lake in the Tonto Basin, the dam was the first water storage facility built for SRP. At 3.4 million acre feet, its reservoir has the greatest water storage capacity of the six SRP lakes. It was originally constructed between 1905 and 1911 to control the erratic flow of the Salt River and to harness the water for irrigation. The dam turned the Arizona desert into land that could be farmed.
Once the world's tallest masonry dam (it is now covered by concrete), this structure is named after President Theodore Roosevelt, who was instrumental in approval of the Federal Reclamation Act of 1902, and who dedicated the original dam in March 1911.
Originally, it was the world's largest "cyclopean-masonry" dam, a Greco-Roman style of building that uses huge, irregular blocks.
In 1996 a $430 million modification project was completed that raised the height of the dam to 357 feet and expanded the lake's storage capacity by 20 percent enough for 1 million more people. This 77-foot increase offers six Valley cities 304,729 new acre-feet of water storage to the dam and, for the first time, provides SRP with substantial amounts of flood control and storage space. The dam has hydrogeneration capacity of 36,000 kilowatts.
The new dam is strong enough to hold more than twice the water of the old dam during a flood, and is strong enough to withstand an earthquake.
Opening a floodgate of ideas
If the Rim Country Museum's Roosevelt Dam exhibit is only half as successful as its most recent offering the permanent Payson Dew exhibit, which takes visitors back to the color-drenched glory days of local bootleggers it will be "a resounding success," Von Strauss said.
But the arrival of other attractions are on the museum's calendar, too.
In mid-February, Von Strauss and Co. will start rebuilding what's become known as the "Sam Haught storage cabin," a 1905 structure recently donated to the museum.
"It's very unique, especially to Payson history, in that instead of a root cellar, this was a 'meat cellar,' quote, unquote," she said. "It has a ceiling made of about 8 inches of mud. It was so well constructed with the chinking that gooey stuff they put between logs to keep the weather out that it won't require any kind of restoration on our part.
"It was going to be torn down ... but, thank heavens, we managed to get hold of it and, weather permitting, we will soon start to rebuild it on (the town-owned) museum grounds in Green Valley Park," Von Strauss said.
Additionally, for the month of March, Von Strauss is planning a day program for 'kidlets' (children between the ages of eight and 14) on history and preservation, which will include a Main Street walk.
All of this comes in the midst of a myriad of new projects undertaken by the museum, including its recent purchase of archeologically-valuable Risser Ranch Ruins, three-quarters of an acre in Alpine Heights; a plan to construct a replica of the Zane Grey cabin near the museum; the title purchase of the Arizona Cowboy Hall of Fame; and the board of directors' efforts to become accredited by the American Association of Museums, which would open doors to grants from major U.S. corporations.
To learn more about these specific projects and the museum's current evolution in general, attend the organization's 4th-year celebration to be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16 at the Rim Country Museum, 700 Green Valley Parkway in Payson.
Beverages and hors d'oeuvres will be served. RSVP by calling 474-3483 or 474-8392 on or before Feb. 13.
Did you know?
Renovations at Roosevelt Dam used 444,000 cubic yards of concrete enough to pave a two-lane road from Phoenix to Tucson.
The quantity of reinforcing steel used in the dam's renovation 6.7 million pounds would be 849 miles long if placed end to end. This is the distance from Phoenix to Denver.
The five-year, $430 million reconstruction project is the largest of its kind in the nation.