Sunday, November 22, 2009

Forgotten gem of the Dells?

Historic preservation isn't faring well in the current recession. Sharlot Hall Museum is down to a skeleton crew, for example, as state funding rapidly dries up. Which is too damn bad. There's an important piece of Prescott history sitting over in the Granite Dells waiting to be available to the public, in one way or another. I'm referring, of course to the old Granite Dells swimming lake and attached facilities. I'm sure that there are others like me whose most poignant memory of Prescott is a memory of swimming and picnicking at the Dells.

All of which is by way of introduction to my recent adventure. Back in July, I posted pictures taken from the roadside of the remains, together with a bit of gossip about the site. A few weeks later, the current owner of the property made contact and invited me over to take a detailed look from the inside. Wow! Who wouldn't jump at the chance?

Friend Patty, who had also enjoyed swimming in the Dells as a child, drove me over to meet Mark Wirth, a Phoenician, for the guided tour.

I got a closer look at the remains of the pool... well as pictures from the old days. The lake, by the way, was filled by a ditch that connected with nearby Granite Creek.

The old bath house/concession stand had been brought up to date.

And we were invited into the pavilion, half of which has been updated to provide a summer getaway for Wirth and his family, with the other half remaining "as is". Or, to put it exactly, "as was".

The pavilion was built right around this granite boulder. Many of the signs, pictures and other memorabilia were given to Wirth by Mrs. Payne, one of the original owners of the facility.

Amazingly, even a few of the old booths remain.

However, Wirth had a motive in inviting me out to Granite Dells: he's interested in historic preservation and a future for the property. At one point, the city, which has bought up a fair amount of acreage in the Dells, showed an interest in buying, but then backed out. A plan (see the map above) for a private club was shot down by county P&Z after nearby residents let out a NIMBY shout. So just what does happen to this gem? A conference center? A youth hostel? Museum? City park? It would be a shame for the land to get parceled out as just one more subdivision.


OmegaMom said...

I can't wait to hear how you got inside!

Granny J said...

Hokay, kiddo -- I've got the story up!
(explaining to everyone else, I posted the pictures w.o. the story some hours earlier.)

Anonymous said...

You are performing an incredible public service, GJ.

Hey Prescott.... make great use of this heritage property!

Make your future generations proud of you by the actions you take today. (Meaning... not a subdivision.)

~Anon in AV.

Antipodean Curmudgeon said...

Did we ever swim there?? I know that we always were anxious to go to the Dells


OmegaMom said...

How excellent! Not quite as romantic as I had thought; I thought you & some friends had snuck in! ;-) Definitely something the city or county should invest in, if you ask me--what a grand piece of history!

Changes in the wind said...

This post sent my heart racing...I thought it had already been parceled out and am thrilled to hear that it might be restored. Took our kids there one day several years ago trying to show them this wonderful place and it was beyond their imagination..have to admit that it was even hard for me to bring it back to mind with the skeletons that were left. Please keep us updated with any new information.

azlaydey said...

I have 2 photos of my kids swimming in the pool in the late 60's. My mom used to take them there when she visited us in Skull Valley. It was the only place to swim besides the stock ponds.

Jarart said...

Great post! Hubby would swim there in the 1940's and have picnics. It would be so nice to have a park there so that the area, which is so beautiful, could be enjoyed by all. I would have thought the neighbors would rather have a park than a subdivision.
I envy you, getting invited inside.

thatchmo said...

a true trip back in time. Priceless stuff.

Kate said...

Cool photos! Can you lead the charge on this one? I'd join! Let's start an online Save Granite Dells movement. To be able to Dance, Swim, AND Boat? What more could we want out of life?

Anonymous said...

I learned to swim here, and spent nearly every summer day of my youth in this pool. Everyone will remember those huge inner tubes with the giant valve stems. We all still bear the scars! Lots of good memories.

Chickenbells said...

Thank you for the walk down memory lane...when my family moved here almost 30 years ago (good grief!) the swimming hole was still open and we got to go out there a few times and had a lot of fun! I wish that they could do something wonderful like this again...we could really use a good place to swim AND dance in town!

C. Marie Byars said...


diana said...

What a great adventure!!! lucky you to get to (re) visit!

Granny J said...

anon av -- I just hope that someone with authority gets the message.

bro -- yes indeedy, we swam there.

dotter -- it's too bad Sharlot Hall is going broke; this would be a wonderful addition!

windy -- so far, the property is safe, certainly as long as the real estate bust continues.

lady -- thanks for sending those pix; I will post them tonight.

jarart -- I was very, very lucky to get invited in! And, yes, a park there would be wonderful. My impression is that some of the folks in the Dells want no intrusion from the outside world.

thatchmo -- you are so right!

Granny J said...

kate -- hear! hear! BTW, no health department worth its salt would allow swimming in that lake that we all survived quite nicely, thank you.

anon #4 -- the inner tubes are news to me, but then my experience with the Dells hails back to the 30s...

bells -- you barely made it time time with your arrival in town! And you have reminded me -- what ever happened to night clubs and other places where one could dance? They've disappeared from this earth.

cmarie -- very!

diana -- a great adventure, especially since it was totally unexpected.

Avus said...

You seem to have really stirred something up here, Granny. there is obviously a lot of nostalgia for the place and i agree that it would be a shame to see it parcelled out.
Loved the granite boulder with the place just built around it!

Granny J said...

avus -- it would be good to stir up interest beyond my immediate group of regular readers!

Photo Blog Blog Top Sites Blog Directory for Prescott, AZ

Local Blogs - Blog Top Sites