Zane Grey Cabin Groundbreaking Saturday

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Don't expect your typical gilded-shovel ceremony when the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation breaks ground for a full-scale replica of the cabin where the legendary western novelist wrote many of his stories of the Old West.

Zane Grey's novels reflect the adventure and excitement of the Old West, and you can expect some of that same flavor at the groundbreaking, scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. Saturday adjacent to the Rim Country Museum at Green Valley Park.

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Zane Grey Cabin Foundation President Dick Wolfe holds a rare pistol that was in the cabin when it was destroyed by the Dude Fire. Now charred black, the pistol is a gold-plated Bisley model Colt that was typically used for world shooting competitions.

Foundation President Dick Wolfe won't reveal all the details, but he did provide a hint of what attendees can expect.

"We're going to have some ladies in costume and some cowboys on horses to add a little flavor," Wolfe said.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, refreshments will be served at the museum, which will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. with free admission.

Grey's cabin, originally built on three acres near Kohl's Ranch, was destroyed in 1990 by the Dude Fire. The novelist, who produced more than 60 westerns, spent each fall at the cabin during the 1920s. He set 24 of his westerns in Arizona and half of those in the Rim country.

"It's going to be an exact replica of that cabin on the grassy knoll just to the east of the Rim Country Museum, and it will house genuine artifacts from Zane Grey and his era, and the whole building itself will be an exhibit," Wolfe said.

Local architect Gary Spragins has already completed the blueprints from which the cabin will be built.

"We spent hours and hours with magnifying glasses looking at photos from Beth Counseller's files," Wolfe said. "I feel confident that it's a good replication."

For many members of the foundation, the project is a labor of love. Bill Furman, a Zane Grey fan and owner of WRF Management Consulting in the Valley, is typical.

"I have been a member of the Zane Grey West Society since the mid-80s, and it's been very much a long-term interest of mine," Furman said. "I have a very good collection of first editions of his novels."

Furman visited the cabin just before it was destroyed in the Dude Fire.

"I was very fortunate to have been near the original Zane Grey cabin location out near Kohl's Ranch in April of 1990," Furman recalled. "I met with Mel Counseller, then the curator, and two months later, it burned down."

Furman is a licensed building contractor and real estate broker whose company does project coordination. He has donated his services to coordinate the entire project.

Along with its historical importance and educational value, the cabin also should be a boost for local tourism, Wolfe said.

"If it was attracting 20,000 people 13 years ago and it was so hard to get to, we feel it's not only going to be a building to house some very valuable artifacts, but it's going to be a real economic engine for the town," he said.

So far enough money has been raised to complete the foundation and floor of the cabin.

"We'll do the rest as the money and materials become available, and we think it'll be pretty quick," Wolfe said.

The foundation wants to complete the project in the spring of 2005, and Furman said donations of labor, materials and money are needed to make that happen.

"Right after the groundbreaking, we're doing a very aggressive and informative campaign to get more contractors and suppliers on board," he said. "A lot have already expressed interest."

Foundation honorary chairpersons are former Arizona Governor Rose Mofford, State Historian Marshall Trimble and longtime Valley news anchor Bill Close.

To join the foundation or learn more about ways to contribute to construction of the cabin, contact the foundation by e-mail at fox@cybertrails.com; by mail at P.O. Box 3188, Payson, AZ 85547; or by phone at (928) 474-6115.

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