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The Verde Independent | Cottonwood, Arizona

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6/25/2010 11:12:00 AM
Historic Clark Mansion fire called 'suspicious'
Flames from the two-story structure were reported about 4:30 a.m. Friday bringing out fire companies and crews from throughout the Verde Valley. VVN/Jon Hutchinson
Flames from the two-story structure were reported about 4:30 a.m. Friday bringing out fire companies and crews from throughout the Verde Valley. VVN/Jon Hutchinson
Clark Mansion built by William Clark III

Staff Reporter

CLARKDALE - The Clark Mansion, a Clarkdale landmark since the United Verde Copper Company heir William Clark III, grandson of Clarkdale's founder William Andrews Clark, built it in the late 1920s, was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.

Young Clark was gaining control over the Clarkdale holdings when he moved with his wife, Thelma, into the mansion built just above Peck's Lake. The family created a golf course alongside Peck's Lake with a clubhouse and dance pavilion.

On May 15, 1932 Bill Clark was flying over the mountains east of the home with Jack Lynch, Charles Lindberg's flying teacher. Clark's young wife was reported to have been sitting on the back deck of the home watching her husband fly. She reportedly saw the plane crash.

It was generally believed that Lynch was teaching Clark to fly blind on instruments only.

Local reports say that Thelma Clark did not live in the house long after her husband tragically died at the age of 29.

Since Thelma moved out, the home has been a residence, restaurant, golf clubhouse and even a barn. One story reports that a tenant was found by Phelps-Dodge agent John McMillan to be storing hay and livestock on the mansion's first floor.

The basement and two main floors of the home were constructed of brick, steel and cement. The mansion contained seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, with large rooms with high ceilings and oak floors. The home also had arched windows and standup sinks in the large bathrooms.

The mansion's kitchen had a wall of iceboxes lining the service entrance, and leaded glass windows highlighted the living and dining rooms.

(Thanks to the volunteers of the Clarkdale Heritage Center and Clarkdale Councilwoman Pat Williams for their help with the information in this story.)

Jon Hutchinson
Staff Reporter

CLARKDALE - Long boarded-up and prone to repeated vandalism, the historic Clark Mansion, towering over Peck's Lake for decades, succumbed to flames Friday morning. Cause of the fire has not yet been determined and an investigation is under way.

Only the walls, chimneys and fireplaces remain standing of the original structure, which was fully-gutted by the fire. That structure is so fragile that it was considered too dangerous to enter the building to investigate. Fire Marshal Rick Contreras from Cottonwood and Inspector Barbara Rice of Camp Verde called for Sedona's 100-foot tall ladder to allow them to look at the interior from above.

Initially, smoke was reported in the area, according to Clarkdale Fire Chief Joe Moore, "and then we began receiving calls of fire in the Clark Mansion. By that time, the structure was already fully involved." Flames from the two-story structure were reported about 4:30 a.m. Friday, bringing out fire companies and crews from throughout the Verde Valley.

Moore says once crews began arriving, a power concern slowed the attack. It was discovered a power cable to the house that fell electrified the fence surrounding the mansion. Crews could not use water until APS turned off power to the circuit, extending the suppression by another 20 minutes.

Moore sais it is "gut-wrenching to have such a cultural loss to the heritage of the community." At the same time, the chief said he is "very grateful, very appreciative of the quick response of fire companies from surrounding communities" to help extinguish the blaze. The fire brought out crews from Jerome, Cottonwood, Verde Valley, Camp Verde and Sedona. A total of 13 pieces of firefighting apparatus and 26 fire fighters staffed the blaze.

Though the investigation is not complete, Moore says the agency considers the blaze "suspicious" since there would not be any other source of heat or flame, unless someone was in the building.

He believes the structure is near collapse. The one-foot thick walls appear to be poured concrete and the structure is badly cracked from the heat of the fire.

Crews were not able to do the final mop-up operations until almost noon Friday.

The mansion was built over Peck's Lake in the 1930s by William "Tersius" Clark, the grandson of W. A. Clark who established the rich United Verde Mine. At one time, the mansion was adjacent to a nine-hole golf course, clubhouse and dance hall. The dance hall also burned by fire.

Sherry Bailey of the Clarkdale Community Development Department says Freeport McMoRan was in the process of transferring the mansion to Verde Exploration, which wanted to hold it for future restoration. That transfer was reportedly about one month away, when the mansion was destroyed by fire.

Related Stories:
• Clarkdale's historic Clark Mansion sent to scrap heap
• Clark Mansion fire probe continues
• The Architect of Clarkdale Part 2: Clark never bought a man who wasn't for sale
• The architect of Clarkdale

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Reader Comments

Posted: Monday, July 21, 2014
Article comment by: Gerald Gray

I have not revisited these pages since my 2010 note. I especially would like to reach Robin MacKey but have not been able to.

He and I have come to different conclusions about the family of my great-uncle, Tertius
Clark. I have understood he and his wife Thelma had two children, a boy and a girl.

I have traced Thelma Clark to her death in Butte, Montana. There was a court case she was involved in, in a dispute over money with a man some while after she was widowed. I have traced the children to
Phoenix, but do not know if they area live still.

If I have been tracing the correct family members, I would like to speak with the children or their descendants, because I can find no family members who knew Thelma or the children, or offered condolences.

The lawsuit suggests Tertius left a will, but I have no idea if the widow and children were
alright in any sense. My experience of the general Clark family is that it has been remote, one from another, until very recent years.

Is Robin MacKey still with us, or does anyone else know of Thelma and the children?

Gerald Clark Gray

Posted: Saturday, February 16, 2013
Article comment by: gerald clark gray

Robin Mackey re: Thelma Clark. Contact me.

Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012
Article comment by: Bad Gremlin

Must be the same drifter that torched the old catholic church. Seeing how the hospital was going to tear that building down anyway...

Posted: Monday, October 1, 2012
Article comment by: two cents

I certainly understand all the nostalgia surrounding the Clark Mansion, but we have to put everything in perspective and try to see the positive side.

At least now the Freeport McMoran mining company no longer has to worry about the mansion achieving historical status and being restored and possibly turned into a museum. That would just be a headache they don't want. I don't know what kind of strings were pulled to close Pecks lake, but they finally got it done. Why would they want to have to work around a museum? The less people hanging around out there the better. No its a good thing for the mining company, and its a good thing they can always fall back on transients when they need someone to blame it on.
just my two cents for what its worth

Posted: Sunday, September 30, 2012
Article comment by: Abe Maslow

You asked how Gerald Gray is related to Tersius. He is indeed related (he didn't say he was a descendant). Jerry's great-grandfather, Sen. W.A. Clark, was also the grandfather of Tertius. In other words, Jerry's grandfather, Charlie Clark, and Tertius's father, W.A. Clark Jr., were brothers, both sons of the senator, W.A. Clark.

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011
Article comment by: Robin Mackey

This comment is directed to Gerald Clark Gray. I have been researching the Clark family. According to all data. "Tersius" Clark was an only child and there are no direct decedents.He did not have siblings.His mother died from complications of his birth.His father remarried and she died young also.There is no mention of the second wife having any children.I have been trying to trace Thelma Clark without luck.She left the area after witnessing her husbands plane crash.Please explain how you are related.

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Article comment by: Gerald Clark Gray

If it is not out of place for a Clark relative unknown to you to send a sympathetic note, please accept my condolences. It is important that we look out for one another, and I hope you all get your wish to preserve and keep the residence (county records will show present ownership).

For the record, Tersius Clark was my great-uncle, though of course I never met him. His father was my great grandfather.
Though the Clarks left a legacy in your part of the country, I'm not sure it was unblemished. At any rate, this one wishes you as well as possible under the circumstances.

Posted: Friday, July 16, 2010
Article comment by: Paul Peck

My family and I are saddened by the loss of such a landmark here in Clarkdale. We can see it from our backyard, and now that it's gone it's just not the same. If it comes down to the current owners, whoever it is now, demolishing it, we at the Clarkdale Historical Society and Museum are hoping to get the arch around the front door in one piece to put at the Clubhouse, in town. But lets hope the current owner has enough pride in Clarkdale to release some funds to restore it, and put some security around it.

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Article comment by: Renee Ryan-Hatch

First our Jr. High and now the Mansion. What is next? The Mansion was literally in my back yard. I grew up on the Verde River, the old Tuzigoot Bridge is on our family land and every summer day we would cross it and head over to Pecks Lake where I learned to waterskii on. I also got to go in the Mansion my Jr. year to pick up Kris Kirby for Prom in which her family was living there at that time and they had it Beautiful in there. It is a shame that Phelps Dodge came in there and took away such a wonderful place, where we all use to go for 4th of July and go golfing, boating, swimming and had picnic's . If they had someone in these buildings, none of this would ever happen. Its hard to call Clarkdale when everything that was wonderful to us, is all going away. This is the pits. Come on people lets get control of our town again. Security Lights my behind.......

Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010
Article comment by: Dick Thompson

That is sad news for us here in Council, Idaho. We loved and still do love Clarkdale's heritage buildings, and its history. The previous and present commissions have done such wonderful work in maintaining the great buildings.

Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010
Article comment by: Corina Castro ( Velazquez)

I grew up on the Clarkdale golf course as a child my father was grounds keeper for many years. I have very many fond memories of the lake and the golf course and the beautiful mansion. As a child I dreamed of buy the home and make it my own.
And over the years watching it decay as if no one cared for it broke my heart. But knowing that the mansion had not been demolish yet, it gave me hope that some day it would be back to it grand and spectacular self.
To come to find out today that it now lay in ash and rubble, a big piece of my heart is now broken. How could someone destroy such a irreplaceable part of our communities history??

I hope that as a community that we can come together and try to salvage what we can of this historic home.

Posted: Monday, June 28, 2010
Article comment by: Lisa V

I am distraught and saddened when I heard the news about the loss of the Clark Mansion. I do not care for opinions about it being an "accident", or natural cause for a fire. I know that when they filmed a movie at the Mansion a few years back they had to bring in generators etc...there was NO utility sources in that place, not for years. It seems odd that there was fire. Does anyone know if that land is of value for another venture or building opportunity? Start looking at that first.

The Clark Mansion was a part of my childhood, a part of Clarkdale residents. It is a shame that the Mansion was not made an official historical building, renovated and made a spot for tourism. All that history, as well as memories for local residents is lost.

If ever a possibility that they will salvage the walls, and restore the building.... would be a dream come true.

I say, Clarkdale band together and let's fight to keep this and all.

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010
Article comment by: J Ray

Mr Loveless,
What is the title of your book and where can it be found? :)

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010
Article comment by: Carolyn Maynard

This is such a tragic loss. My family has personal history with Clark's Mansion. My great grandma and grandpa lived there and my mom, aunts, uncles and cousins played there when they were young. I used to daydream about living there and what it looked like when it was first built.

Posted: Sunday, June 27, 2010
Article comment by: clarkdale resident

This is so sad, I'm crying. I loved that building, boarded up and all. Now the beautiful house and glorious italian cypress that cradled it for years have been taken away. This was such a staple in the community even though it hasn't been used for years, it stood the test of time and with it held a wonderful history of how clarkdale started! So very sad, I will not soon get over this!

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