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.

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