Prescott History Tour: Explore Iconic Buildings & Landmarks

1949 Prescott Frontier Days Parade Float at NW Corner of Gurley & Cortez. ©2023PrescottVoice

Embark on a fascinating Prescott History Tour and discover the rich heritage of this charming Arizona town. The journey will take you through time, showcasing the transformation of Prescott’s streets, iconic buildings, and businesses that have left their mark on history.

You will learn how Cortez Street shaped the town’s development. You’ll also see the bank buildings constructed after a devastating fire.

We’ll discuss some iconic landmarks, such as The Head Hotel on Cortez Street, where streetcar sightings were once common. When you take a walking tour, you won’t want to miss learning about “Bill the Elk,” who has been perched atop the Bank of Arizona building since 1905!

Finally, the Prescott History Tour will highlight prominent businesses across Gurley Plaza (the Courthouse Plaza), like Kastner’s Grocery Store, which later became the Piggly Wiggly Store location, and Bashford Burmister Company Store selling tokens for exclusive use among its customers.

The Wide Cortez Street and Its Significance

Cortez Street has always been one of Prescott’s most important thoroughfares. In 1916, it was wide enough to accommodate horse-drawn carriages and early automobiles. The street was lined with businesses, hotels, banks, and other establishments essential to daily life in this bustling Arizona town. A stroll down Cortez Street would take you past notable landmarks, such as The Head Hotel, which served travelers arriving by stagecoach or train.

Bank Buildings Under Construction After the Big Fire

In July 1900, a devastating fire swept through downtown Prescott destroying many structures, including several bank buildings on Gurley Plaza. However, resilient residents quickly began rebuilding efforts leading to new constructions emerging within just a few years after the disaster. One example is the Bank of Arizona building, completed in 1905, featuring Bill the Elk atop its roof – a symbol still present today.

The 1916 Photographic Tour of Prescott offers a unique glimpse into the history and development of this great city. Iconic Buildings and Landmarks will now be explored to gain further insight into the culture, people, and places that make up Prescott’s identity.

Iconic Buildings and Landmarks

As you explore Prescott’s past, take in the many iconic buildings and landmarks that have withstood the test of time, each representing an essential part of its history. These structures not only showcase the town’s rich history but also play a significant role in shaping its landscape. Let’s delve into some of these renowned landmarks and buildings that have withstood the test of time.

The Head Hotel on Cortez Street with streetcar sightings

Nestled along the bustling Cortez Street is The Head Hotel, a once impressive structure built in 1901 after surviving multiple fires that ravaged much of downtown Prescott. It is said by many to be haunted. No longer what it once was stood as one of the most prestigious establishments in Arizona and provided luxurious lodging for visitors from all backgrounds.

At the time, it was an architectural marvel. If you have the time to stroll down Cortez Street, don’t forget to keep an eye out for remnants of streetcar tracks embedded within the cobblestone streets – a testament to Prescott’s thriving public transportation system during that era.

Bill the Elk atop the Bank of Arizona building since 1905

No visit to Prescott would be complete without paying homage to Bill the Elk, a beloved mascot perched high above the Bank of Arizona building. Since its installation in 1905, Bill the Elk has become synonymous with the Bank of Arizona financial institution and constantly reminds us of its enduring presence within our community. As you pass by this iconic landmark, make sure to snap a photo or two.

montezuma-gurley-plaza-d. levy-co-dry-goods-grocery-the-palace-saloon
The Palace Saloon, D. Levy & Co. Dry Goods and Groceries, Montezuma Street. ©2023PrescottVoice

In addition to these well-known structures, countless other historic sites are scattered throughout downtown Prescott waiting for you to explore. From the ornate facades of banks and businesses that rose from the ashes after devastating fires to quaint storefronts housing modern-day shops and eateries, each building has a unique story to tell. So why wait? Embark on your own Prescott history tour today and uncover the fascinating tales hidden within these architectural treasures.

Moving onto Gurley Plaza, businesses such as Kastner’s Grocery Store and Bashford Burmister Company Store offer a glimpse into the past with their unique tokens for exclusive use.

Key Takeaway: Take a journey back in time and explore the iconic buildings that have made Prescott’s history so unique. Admire The Head Hotel on Cortez Street, take pictures of Bill the Elk atop the Bank of Arizona building since 1905, or uncover fascinating tales hidden within other historic sites scattered throughout downtown. There are plenty of architectural treasures to discover as you embark on your own Prescott history tour today.

Businesses Across Gurley Plaza

In the early 20th century, various businesses were established across Gurley Plaza or Courthouse Plaza, contributing to Prescott’s thriving commerce. These establishments played a crucial role in shaping the town’s economy and lifestyle, from grocery stores to jewelry shops. Let us explore some of these prominent businesses that once stood proudly around Gurley Plaza.

Kastner’s Grocery Store turned Piggly Wiggly Store location.

One such business was Kastern’s Grocery Store, which later became the site for a Piggly Wiggly store. Kastner’s was well-known for offering fresh produce, meats, and other essential items at affordable prices. The establishment eventually transitioned into one of America’s first self-service grocery chains – Piggly Wiggly. This innovative concept allowed customers to browse aisles freely and pick out their desired products instead of relying on clerks behind counters – an idea that revolutionized modern-day shopping experiences.

Bashford Burmister Company Store selling tokens for exclusive use

Another influential business during this era was the Bashford Burmister Company (BBC) Store. Established in 1864 by R.H. Burmister and William C Bashford as a general merchandise store, it soon became one of Prescott’s most successful enterprises due to its extensive range of goods catering to various needs within the community. Bashford-Burmister Company was also known for its unique system of selling tokens that could only be used within the store.

Taken post-1900 devastating Prescott fire. Al and Peet’s Restaurant in the background.

The tokens, made from brass or aluminum, were issued in various denominations and often given as change to customers. This practice not only encouraged customer loyalty but also helped maintain a steady cash flow during times when the currency was scarce.

In addition to these businesses, several other establishments contributed significantly to Prescott’s growth and development during this period. The bustling activity around Gurley (Courthouse) Plaza showcased the town’s resilience and adaptability despite challenges such as fires or economic downturns. By learning about these historic businesses, we can gain valuable insights into how they shaped Prescott’s unique lifestyle throughout history.

Key Takeaway: This article provides an overview of the historical businesses around Gurley Plaza, essential to Prescott’s development and growth in the early 20th century. From Kastner’s Grocery Store to Bashford Burmester Company issuing tokens as change, these establishments impacted Prescott’s unique lifestyle. Learning about them can help us gain valuable insights into our town’s past.


Touring Prescott offers a unique opportunity to explore the city’s past.

From iconic buildings and landmarks to businesses surrounding the Courthouse Plaza, there is much to see and learn. Prescott has become such an attractive destination because of the fascinating culture, storied past, and spectacular views of the local scenery.

Don’t miss out on experiencing all that Prescott has to offer with a memorable trip through its historical sites on your next visit here.

About the author

Hi, I'm Teri Franks, the voice behind Prescott Voice. I've spent years immersing myself in all that Prescott has to offer, and I love sharing the unique stories and experiences I've discovered. When I'm not writing, you'll find me exploring Prescott's trails or tasting our local cuisine. I believe that the vibrant lifestyle here in Prescott inspires us to live a healthier, happier life. Come join me on this exciting journey as we explore Prescott together.

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