Where Is The Heritage Community When We Need Them?


This is round 2 with the Pieper Mansion and the Sidles Mud House. This is the second time that the property at 505 S. Main has been on our front page in less than four months.

When Greg Turturro of Phoenix first purchased the property in the spring of this year, we shrugged our shoulders and published an editorial on May 16 saying, "Lesson learned."

We plaintively wondered why there wasn't a system in place in Payson for historic preservation. We said, "It may be too late for the Pieper Mansion ..."

This time around we won't be so resigned. This time around we will honestly say that if the heritage community does not step forward, if no attempt is made and the Sidles Mud House on the property is destroyed, then those people have failed us.

First we must ask, where has the heritage community been until now? How many times was there an opportunity to save this property? Now there is a chance, but the private interests that must come together to save it will have to pay more than they would have only five months ago.

According to county records, Turturro purchased the property in April for $235,000 and is now selling it for $788,000.

It is not a beautiful or elegant building, but it has historic value. The house was built in 1882 and it is the oldest standing structure in Payson.

The historic building has survived the weather, development and 124 years of change. We do not want to see it disappear now because of apathy or lack of organization.

Considering the work that has already been done down the road with the Zane Grey cabin replica, and conversations that have already been started about the preservation of the Julia Randall Elementary rock building, we proposed that the Pieper property could become the third leg in a triangle and an anchor of Main Street.

Unfortunately, we do not have much hope. The fact that nothing has happened to date points to a weakness in Payson when it comes to historic preservation. Many people are working on separate projects, but it seems one organization does not always know what the other is doing.

This could be an acid test for groups like the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and the Main Street Project, who speak often of tourism and of the development of Main Street, and of the Northern Gila County Historical Society whose purpose it is to preserve the past.

One of those organizations needs to take the lead on this. Fund-raising must be done. Concrete plans must be put together. And the Town of Payson needs to provide incentives to make the money work in this effort.

Will the players come together? Is the willpower there?

The Pieper property could be rebuilt as a museum and people could be directed from the Payson Event Center, once it is built, down South McLane Road. The town-owned land behind the Pieper property on South McLane, or a portion of it, could be used for parking.

Until recently, when the trees were cut down around the mud house, it wasn't even visible from the road. But now, it is out in the open for everyone to see. We hope that this newfound attention raises the awareness of those who can make a difference in saving this piece of our history to do so.

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