Fort Verde State Historic Park will stage an old-fashioned Victorian Christmas all through the month of December, with decorations mimicking those the soldiers and their families put up in the late 1800s, when the fort served as the staging ground for General George Crook’s campaign against the Tonto Apache and Yavapai. Trees and fireplace mantels will be adorned with unique Victorian decorations, pine wreaths and garlands will add to the festive programs at the park.
This weekend, Fort Verde will also host candlelight tours from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Re-enactors dressed in period clothing will provide guided tours, along Officer’s Row with hot chocolate and light refreshments to follow.
Last weekend, three Payson volunteers from Tonto Natural Bridge State Park showed up with armloads of pine branches to contribute to the wreath and ornament-making workshops. People all joined in to make authentic Christmas tree decorations, which include small cardboard boxes covered with cloth containing candy and nuts, said Park Manager Shelia Stubler.
She said volunteers dressed in authentic costumes of the period will lead visitors on a candle-lit tour of the three restored officers’ houses and the main building with the bulk of the exhibits, all decked out in seasonal finery. The park will continue the Victorian Christmas theme through the first week in January.
Fort Verde State Historic Park is the best-preserved example of an Indian Wars period fort in Arizona. Spanning from 1865 through 1890 Camp Lincoln, Camp Verde and finally Fort Verde were home to officers, doctors, families, enlisted men and scouts. Today, visitors can experience three historic house museums, the Commanding Officer’s Quarters, Bachelors’ Quarters and Doctor’s Quarters on Officer’s Row, all furnished in the 1880s period and holiday grace. Listed on the National and State Register of Historic Places, the park buildings will feature interpretive exhibits with period artifacts on military life, Indian scouts and Indian Wars history.
Like Tonto Natural Bridge State Park, Fort Verde narrowly survived the budget crisis. Local volunteers and the Town of Camp Verde chipped in to help keep the park open.
“I’m the only full-time ranger left,” said Stubler, “but everyone is working together and I’m just thankful we’re still open.”
Fort Verde State Park is located at 125 E. Holloman St. in Camp Verde.
The park entrance fee is $4 per person for those aged 14 and older; $2 for youth 6-13; and children 6 and under are admitted free.
For more information about the 30 state parks, statewide hiking opportunities, off-highway vehicle trails, and other outdoor recreational and cultural opportunities in Arizona, call (602) 542-4174 (outside of the Phoenix metro area call toll-free 800-285-3703) or visit AZStateParks.com.