CLARKDALE - The Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum held a Grand Opening in July 2008 to celebrate moving into its current location at 900 First North St. It sits among a complex of other historic buildings that make up the center of the town’s government and many of its community activities.
Construction began on the building in 1918, and it was completed in 1920. Designed by Los Angeles architect, Arthur R. Kelly, the building was constructed as a medical clinic. It also served as an adjunct to the hospital next door (which is now the Clarkdale Police Department).
According to a memorandum from the former Heritage Conservancy Board to the Town Council Jan. 17, 2003, the clinic dispensed medicine and treated small injures. At one time, a resident nurse lived downstairs.
Another document prepared for a lecture in December 2009, states that the upstairs of the Clinic had a waiting room, doctor’s office and drug room. That document states that the Clinic was used for treating smelter workers and their families and other residents on a 24-hour basis.
The Clinic was in use until the early 1950s when the smelter eventually closed. After Clarkdale incorporated in 1957, the building was used as the Clarkdale Town Hall with the Clarkdale Police Department downstairs. After the building’s boiler was removed in the late 1950s, a jail from 1916 was moved into the downstairs. That jail, with its original door, two bunks and a toilet is still in the building.
Dates aren’t clear, but during the 1980s the building housed the Clark Memorial Library, and later it was used as the Department of Motor Vehicles office until 2003 when that office moved to 12th Street in Cottonwood.
Not all of the building’s uses have been documented and dated.
“The downstairs at one time was the Civil Air Patrol office,” said Cindy Emmett, member of the Society.
A document provided by the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum states that the Society applied for a $50,000 grant in 2006 from the Arizona Office of Tourism. That grant allowed renovation work on the building to get under way. Following renovation, the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum moved into the top floor of the building.
In 2011, the Town Council dissolved the Heritage Conservancy Board and allowed the Clarkdale Historical Society & Museum to be responsible for all of the documents, photographs, ledgers, maps, blueprints and floor plans that the Conservancy used to handle. The town also allowed the Historical Society and Museum to take over the downstairs of the building.
“We keep everything from the Conservancy Board separate as the Town Collection,” Emmett said.
Mary Lou Estlick, vice chair of the society, said having all of the archived records under the same roof with the society and museum has been a blessing.
“By having the whole building we have more storage,” said Estlick. “The storage is awesome.
“We have access to research material,” she said. That makes it easier to obtain information much quicker than in the past. She said it also helps the public do archive research.
“The storage and access to material is the top advantage,” Estlick explained about having everything under one roof.
“It was an absolute mess when we took over because no one was taking care of it,” she said. She said many of the valuable historical documents and items were scattered in different locations, including the Clark Memorial Clubhouse.
Now, the Historical Society and Museum volunteers are doing inventory on all the documents. Estlick said they still have a long way to go before having everything done. But she and other members of the society are grateful that all of the items are now safe and in one location.
“The downside is we have to pay utilities on the whole building now,” Estlick said.
She explained that they have a long way to go before all of the archival work is completed. “Volunteers and funding are our biggest needs now,” she said.
Estlick said the Society recently received a $1,000 donation from a former resident. But the need for more funding, and for more volunteers, is still great.