Saturday, December 23, 2017

White Spar Puzzles

The White Spar in 1924.
The White Spar highway is justifiably famous as one of old US 89's most iconic stretches.  No other portion of US 89 twists, turns and snakes around the crenelated landscape as dramatically as The White Spar. (US 89A over Mingus Mtn. is a close second but it's the White Spar For The Win.)

Over the past almost 100 years many myths have evolved about how the White Spar came to exist; who paid for its construction and even how far it goes.  We think it's time once and for all to dive deep into those myths and shine the light of facts and truth on what we're calling the "White Spar Puzzles."
Source: Page 89, "Postcard History Series - Yavapai County"
 Copyright  2016 by Rick Sprain ISBN 978-1-4671-2450-8

Let's take each of the puzzle pieces one at a time.  First, who wanted the White Spar? A common theme is expressed as a photo caption from Rick Sprain's fine book "Postcard History Series Yavapai County"  Sprain states, "After concluding that the Senator Highway was not the best route to Phoenix, a group from Prescott lobbied to have a road constructed from Prescott to the White Spar mine..."

Well, who were the members of this group?  Were they elected officials or business leaders or both? Was the newspaper involved?  Did ordinary citizens speak to the issue? Surely, there would be some clue in the archived newspapers of that era.
Source: Page 48's-transportation-history-in-its-entirety-.pdf

Second, who paid for the White Spar's construction?  James Cowlin from the US 89 Appreciation Society claims it was the first federally funded highway in Arizona.  Another writer claims the Forest Service paid for it.  An official ADOT highway history alludes to a $1.5-million Yavapai County bond issue.  It's highly unlikely that it was the first fed-funded Arizona highway.  It's also highly unlikely that the USFS paid for it.  Surely there is some factual historical information about the purported county bond issue.  A $1.5-million bond would have been a Big Deal in the early 1920's.

Third and lastly, how far did the White Spar go?   The record seems to indicate the original White Spar extended only to the White Spar mine just north of Wilhoit (34.4178032 -112.5446163).  Other sources indicate it was called the White Spar to the top of Yarnell Hill.  And even others claim it was White Spar all the way to Wickenburg.  Did the postcard publishers of that era conveniently extend the White Spar's name farther than the construction crews?  Did drivers of the day grow fond of bringing the name White Spar along for the ride?  We obviously know where the White Spar began on the south side of Prescott.  However, confusion reigns when determining where the White Spar officially ended, if indeed it ever even had an "official" terminus.

There's no doubt that the White Spar was constructed in 1923.  That much is certain.  We have bombproof evidence that the White Spar was still in the design phase in late 1922.  And there's also photographic evidence of a vehicle traveling the White Spar in 1924.  So, we can lay to rest the time frame of construction.
Unfortunately, the December 1922 issue of Arizona Highways shown above is the only edition from that era that  has been scanned and placed online. We suspect that prior and subsequent issues of our State's flagship magazine would shed some factual light on the White Spar Puzzles.

We hope, trust and believe that the history buffs and scholars of the wonderful "Celebrating Historic Prescott" Facebook Group will work together to solve once and for all the White Spar Puzzles.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Arches Across US 89

Three grand arches arc across US 89. A fourth was long ago torn down.
The oldest existing arch is in Brigham City, Utah.  It was built in 1928. Here is an excellent short description of the creation of the arch:

As the story goes, after attending a 1930's Peach Days celebration in Brigham City, where part of the festivities was lighting the welcome arch, Ogden Mayor Harmon Peery decided it was time for Ogden to get one of its own.

The arch was conceived by Mayor Peery in the middle of the Depression, when Ogden was reported to be the fastest growing city in America. Peery wanted the sign to say "Ogden, America's Fastest Growing City" in large letters outlined in bright neon.

The sign was dedicated Nov. 21, 1936. The south side read, "It Pays to Live in Ogden, America's Fastest Growing City." On the other side were the words, "We Welcome You to Ogden, Pioneer Days Week, July 24." Mayor Peery was also the mastermind behind Ogden's annual Pioneer Days Week.

The words on the south side of the sign were changed In 1939 to "Utah's Fastest Growing City."

In 1952, it was changed to "Ogden, Home of Weber College." Seven years later, the school became a four-year state college and the sign was changed again to read, "Home of Weber State College."

The sign was moved in 1992 to a location 30 feet north. And the wording on one side was also changed to "Home of Weber State University."
The final existing arch over US 89 (at least that we know of) is in Afton, a community in Wyoming's Star Valley.  It was constructed with 3,000 elk antlers in the late 1950's.  (Elk shed their antlers each year and these antlers were picked up in the Elk Refuge next to Jackson Hole, Wyoming.)  Here is a good short story about the Afton Antler Arch.
Our vote for The Best Arch on old US 89 is one that no longer exists.  It once graced the south entrance to Prescott, Arizona, back in the earliest years of US 89...which is that dirt roadway shown going under the arch and across Granite Creek beyond.
Unfortunately, we do not have a high resolution photo of The Prescott Arch so this enlarged screen clip will have to do.  One of the key design elements of this eye-pleasing arch are the twin tapered square support columns.  The proportion and tapering of the columns gives them a "Doric column flair" especially since they are both topped with an architectural cap of modest design.  Adding to the arch's ambiance is the fact that both columns were constructed with hand laid masonry rock.  Even though this is pure speculation, we'd bet the rocks in both columns were handsome specimens especially chosen from some of the many nearby colorful geologic strata and mine tailing piles. Whoever designed the arc of the arch itself did a masterful job proportioning it to the columns.  Set together with the classic bridge railings beyond, The Prescott Arch was a highly personable gateway greeting to US 89 travelers leaving The White Spar highway to enter the inviting community ahead.

(Editor's Note:  We have an inquiry pending as to the construction and demolition dates of this arch.)

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Spotlight on Miracle Mile

Tucson's Miracle Mile on old US 89 was listed in the National Register of Historic Places honoring mid-century modern highway architecture.  The listing became official December 11.

According to Demion Clinco, Executive Director of the Tucson Historic Preservation Foundation, and lead author of the nomination, “The designation of Tucson’s northern historic highway corridor represent years of community advocacy and a long term commitment and investment form the City of Tucson to support the revitalization of of the Oracle Area.” He continued, “This part of our city reflects early and mid-century automotive culture and is marked by an outstanding collection of now historic motels, service stations and colorful neon signs.”

Here's the best article about the National register  listing:

Tucson News Now did an article, too:

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

US 89 Team Store

We're delighted and proud to partner with Queensboro from Wilmington, North Carolina, to offer Team US 89 logo apparel.  We received our first polo shirts and hat December 20 and are very leased with the quality and fit of the items.  Queensboro's Customer Service is some of the best we've ever worked with online.  The company did first class work converting the Team US 89 logo into an a piece of top notch embroidery on each shirt and the hat.

It's going to be great to wear these items when we're out on the highway doing our field work on US 89 or visiting a library or government archive.  The shirts and hat really stand out.

Monday, December 18, 2017

1935 Arizona Highway Map

ADOT makes available free an official Arizona Highway Department 1935 road map of the state.  The map shows all of the original US numbered highways that were created in 1926.  It's also easy to see the network of numbered Arizona State Routes. It is an invaluable resource for any Arizona history buff.

The map is free and can easily be downloaded as a PDF file.

Since you can't easily make a photo print from a PDF file, we converted the PDF to a JPG file in two sizes, 21 megs and 9.4 megs.  We took the 21 meg to Sam's club and it printed out great in the 12 by 16 inch format for $4.   We presume the 9.4 meg file would work well, too, but haven 't tried it.
We uploaded both files to our US 89 Team Google Drive and shortened the links.  Simply click either link and then download the free map.  The map is public domain and not copyrighted.

Link for the 9.4 meg file:

Link for the 21 meg file:

Here's a look at the level of detail you can expect from this map.  It shows the Prescott-Flagstaff highway back when it was State Route 79 and not US 89A.  (The change to US 89A happened in 1940, 14 years after the main US 89 route through Arizona was designated and numbered.)

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Arizona's State Route Swastika Signs

Believe it or not, all Arizona State Route highway signs once included a swastika.  No, Arizona was not a fascist state!  Swastikas were once considered "good luck" symbols.  When World War II broke out, all swastikas were removed and undoubtedly will never return.

As US 89 made its way through Arizona, it encountered many State Routes.  Undoubtedly, some of the State Route swastika signs showed up on US 89 at junctions, crossings and when US 89 and a State Route shared the same roadway.

Imagine the shock, indignation and downright anger such a symbol would generate today if it remained a part of Arizona road signage!

State Route 84 was known in Tucson as The Casa Grande Highway.  It "T'd" into US 80-89 at the north end of the famous (and ultimately infamous) Miracle Mile on what's now Oracle Road.  Undoubtedly, there would have been signs on US 89 north and south of that "T" intersection indicating SR 84 ahead.  Here is a comprehensive compilation of all Arizona highway signs, including every single swastika sign ever used . Scroll to the bottom to see the list of original 1927 signs that used the offensive symbol.

Above is a screen clip from an official Arizona Highway Department 1937 map showing where SR84's west end terminated at the north end of Miracle Mile on US80-89.  The small circles denote the traffic roundabouts at either end of the Miracle Mile.
There is quite a lot of discussion and documentation online regarding both the use of the swastika on Arizona's road signs as well as in other local and regional cultural contexts.  The above graphics were obtained from such a discussion written in 2010 prior to the Arizona 2012 Centennial.


So far, we have not yet found any original Arizona swastika road signs.  Who knows?  They might even be banned from sale on eBay. One entrepreneur offers to make reproductions of the signs but charges well over $300 for each sign!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Early Road Building

Men have worked together to build better roads since The Roman Days.