The Zane Grey cabin, which is now open for business, is a must-see Rim Country experience.
In fact, it was the hottest ticket in town on Saturday when a long line formed following the official dedication ceremony for a long-awaited first glimpse inside.
"It took two and a half hours for them to file through the cabin," Zane Grey Cabin Foundation President Dick Wolfe said.
The dedication, held in conjunction with the Sixth Annual Rim Country Western Heritage Festival, attracted about 1,000 people, according to several estimates.
Those who waited in line weren't disappointed.
"I stayed there for almost two hours," Wolfe said. "It was really funny to watch their faces when they came in -- they just sort of stopped and looked and they were so surprised by what they saw."
One who was surprised was veteran Channel 3 newscaster Steve Bodinet who came to Payson last week to do a story on the cabin. Wolfe explained:
"He interviewed me and I said, ‘What did you think?' He said, ‘Quite honestly, I almost didn't come because I thought being a little town it would be sort of tacky. When I walked in I took a couple steps and I got a lump in my throat.' He had been at the original cabin."
Wolfe's vision was to make the cabin less a museum and more an experience -- like walking in on Zane Grey at work back in the 1920s.
"It's the overall impression of the inside that really affects people," Wolfe said. "The fireplace is so accurate, the Morris chair where he sat and wrote stories -- all those things sort of come together and grab people and spirit them back to those days."
The Morris chair in the cabin came from an extensive Zane Grey collection owned by Larry and Elaine Oliver. It was purportedly one of 12 chairs Grey's wife Dolly bought for him.
"He had quite a few houses and a little fishing cabin in Oregon, and Dolly bought them so anywhere he went he had one of those chairs," Wolfe said.
Fifteen years after being destroyed by the Dude Fire, the cabin once again provides visitors a look at how "the father of the Western novel" lived during his frequent visits to the Rim Country.
Grey spent each October at the cabin as he hunted for game and collected material for stories. Of his 62 Western novels, 24 are set in Arizona and 13 in the Rim Country.
Grey abandoned the cabin in 1929 following a spat with Arizona Game and Fish and it fell into serious disrepair. In 1962, Valley air conditioning magnate William Goettl had the structure restored.
It became a major tourist attraction and was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974.
The new cabin in Green Valley Park is a full-size, historically accurate replica.
Admission to the cabin also includes admission to the Rim Country Museum, where a special Zane Grey exhibit provides yet another glimpse into the life and times of the famous author.
Besides dozens of photographs, the exhibit also includes artifacts pulled from the original cabin site after the fire, including a gold-plated pistol, melted glass from the cabin's windows, foundation rocks, nails and what appears to be a metal switch plate. It also has Zane Grey movies, comic books, magazines and first-edition books.
"When people come down here, even the non-Zane Grey fans are going to become fans once they see the story," Wolfe said. "It shows the history of Zane Grey right up to the cabin stage. Then right outside here about 100 yards away is the actual cabin."
The Zane Grey cabin, located at Green Valley Park adjacent to the Rim Country Museum, is open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily except Tuesday. Admission is $5, which includes both the cabin and museum.