History Plaques Placed On Main Street

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With the recent installation of the first of 23 plaques on or at the site of some of Main Street's oldest structures, locals and visitors alike can gain a better understanding of Payson's colorful history.

The cast bronze plaques are being paid for with an $8,800 grant from the Arizona Main Street Program.

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One of the first history plaques to be installed is located in front of Julia Randall Elementary School. Payson's first school buildings were erected on the site in 1900.

"It was a grant that (former Main Street Project Manager) Karen (Greenspoon) had applied for before I had even got here," Main Street Project Manager Carol McCauley said. "It kind of fell by the wayside during the transition, but when I started, I picked it up again."

Each plaque features brief text explaining the significance of the building or site based on the Main Street Walking Tour developed by former town historian Stan Brown, who recently moved to Prescott.

Some of the plaques, which come in several sizes depending on the amount of text, are being placed directly on the building or a wall in front of it. Others are being mounted on boulders in front of the site.

So far, plaques have been mounted on boulders in front of the Pieper Mansion at 505 W. Main Street, Sidles Mud House at 505A W. Main Street, Boardman's Rock Store at 608 W. Main Street, Community Presbyterian Church at 800 W. Main Street, Casterson's Home at 801 W. Main Street, and Pyle Family Home at 805 W. Main Street.

Plaques have been ordered for the Old Ranger's Station, Payson Womans Club, Pieper Saloon, Payson Lodge/Bar, Tammany Hall/Garage, Stewart Restaurant, Justice of the Peace, Ox Bow Inn, Lone Pine Hotel, Winchester Dance Hall, Hardt Home, Deming House, A.J. Franklin House, Julie Randall Elementary School, Lena Chilson House, Herron Hotel and Risser Home.

While the plaques represent a milestone for Main Street, town co-historian Jinx Pyle, whose great grandparents' home is slated to receive a plaque, says he has mixed emotions.

"I like the idea, but so many of the old places are gone," he said. "When you're a tourist from somewhere else and you go down there and see a rock with a plaque on it that says this building used to stand here, that doesn't mean much to you," he said. "Some of them aren't there any more and there's no picture of it, so you've got a plaque on a rock."

Pyle said he and co-historian Jayne Peace feel that some important houses in the area should have been included.

"Apparently they left Julia Randall's house out, and she taught three generations here," he said. "It's up McLane where the road turns to go up the hill."

Dick Wolfe, president of the Zane Grey Cabin Foundation and a Main Street proponent, believes the Randall house and others in the area will have plaques one day.

"The first go-around was focusing on Main Street because it was a Main Street project and some of the funding was from Main Street," he said. "But it's certainly not the end of this by any means, and as funding becomes available, we're certainly going to expand to include structures and locations within the historic district. Jinx is absolutely right."

Messinger Mortuary ordered the plaques and sold them to the town at cost, McIntyre Construction donated the boulders, and Deco Stone installed the plaques at no cost.

"It was really a community effort," McCauley said.

The walking tour, which has become a regular Main Street attraction, incorporates a site-by-site guidebook written by Brown that participants carry with them as they progress from the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce office at the Beeline Highway, down Main Street to Green Valley Park. The guidebooks can be picked up at the chamber office or the Rim Country Museum, and the self-guided tour can be taken at any time of the day.

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