My good friend called me midday Saturday afternoon and asked if we’d like to join the gang for dinner at The Palace Saloon on Whiskey Row at seven o’clock. I blurted out an enthusiastic, yes!
Here in Prescott, we always leave our calendars open on the weekends. We don’t make plans until we hear from the gang. Why?
Because whatever we plan to do together, I know it will be memorable. And Whiskey Row on a Saturday night? Well, get gussied up and throw on your boots. You know it’s going to be a good time.
And that’s what Prescott is all about. It’s the memories you make here. It’s the stories of so many that have gone before who have shaped this charming city into one of the most popular destinations in the U.S.
I love what the poet Charles Bukowski said about making memories, “Some moments are nice, some are nicer, some are even worth writing about.”
People dream about living here. There aren’t many beautiful rural places like Prescott where you can leave your house, walk a couple of blocks, and be in the heart of the city for a Saturday night out you’ll never forget. And it wasn’t any different in the days of the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday.
The Lively Palace Saloon
The Palace Saloon and Restaurant is more than just a bar and restaurant—it’s a historic piece of the American West.
The saloon has been serving Prescott since 1874 when it was called “The Cabinet” and owned by Daniel C. Thorne.
Thorne was considered one of the finest “saloonists” (yes, that’s what they were called) on the Pacific coast and was always dabbling in the business of public houses and gambling halls. In the 1870s and 1880s, he would buy or lease a lot, build and develop it into a thriving saloon and gambling hall, then sell it. Thorne was a business owner, developer, speculator, and saloon broker. He also had significant mining interests.
Thorne also had professional gamblers lodged at his hotel and more than likely recruited them to work for him. He was a shrewd businessman and knew how to make a saloon successful. This extraordinary Prescott pioneer was well-loved by those he employed at his establishments. It is almost certain that Dan Thorne rubbed elbows with the Earp boys and Doc Holliday.
In Prescott’s early days, there were over 40 saloons in operation. You never knew who was buying or selling a saloon or who owned it unless it was reported in the newspaper, like the following announcement from Thomas Farrell, owner of the Nifty Saloon:
The Palace Saloon, in one form or another, has been a permanent fixture on Whiskey Row for about 150 years and has survived all those that came before. I expect it will be there long after I’m gone.
It is said that the Earp brothers and Doc Holliday frequented The Palace Saloon and that they were involved in several gunfights there.
The Earps and Doc Holliday didn’t stay in Prescott long. They left for Tombstone in 1879. However, Virgil Earp did return to Yavapai County and was part of a Prescott posse that chased down and killed some bad outlaws. He was also nominated for sheriff.
The Palace Saloon has seen its fair share of wild characters right up to the present day. It is a tourist attraction, and things can get pretty spicey on Whiskey Row. People gather at The Palace to enjoy a great lunch or dinner while appreciating all the antique photographs and western trappings on display. Walking into The Palace Saloon, you are transported back to the old west.
It’s also a treasured meeting place for Prescott residents like my friends. You can count on seeing more than a few cowboys bellied up to the historic bar enjoying a beer as they rattle on about the day’s activities.
When Magic Happens
When my husband and I stepped through the saloon doors of The Palace, it was packed with people. The house was electric.
I can’t think of a better place to spend an evening with friends. Everyone was laughing and happy to be out.
The gang was already seated at a bar table, enjoying drinks and appetizers. Soon we were taken to our usual table in the center of the restaurant.
As we were ordering another round of drinks, to our amazement, country singer and actor Trace Adkins strode up to our table.
Get the scene here. It was quite a sight.
The group of us was standing in the middle of the restaurant orbiting around Trace Adkins. We created quite a commotion, and truth be told; we were probably just a bit boisterous and loud. But everyone (okay, maybe not all) expects The Palace patrons to be a bit lively and perhaps just a smidge obnoxious. C’mon, it’s The Palace Saloon, after all, and Trace Adkins was in the house.
He is a towering man with a big charismatic presence. All you need to do is watch the movie, The Virginian, and you’ll get the picture of how striking he is in person. Trace is also one of the nicest people you would ever want to meet—down to earth, just like us. And that voice of his—hmm, it’s as smooth as velvet, deep and rich.
Every lady in The Palace eyeballed him, and with good reason. Because “Ladies Love Country Boys.”
It wasn’t long before all the tables around us figured out who this man was.
The Palace has a certain energy that can’t be denied. I’m sure it was the same in the 1870s when the Earp brothers or Doc Holliday walked into The Palace. This same energy transfers to the present day. It’s the vibe, the history, the personalities, and the ghostly reminders from those that haunt this place that makes The Palace Saloon what it is today.
We said our goodbyes to Trace Adkins, ordered dinner, and had a fine meal. It would have been more than memorable if the evening had ended there. But the night was still young. So, we gathered up and went down a couple of doors to Matt’s Saloon, where the Zander Rodriquez band played some fine country music. We danced the night away with our friends, recounted our visit with Trace Adkins, and had a grand old time.
Yes, it was just another average Saturday night out with friends on historic Whiskey Row. Just like in the days of the Earp brothers, you never know what personality you will meet or what will happen next.
I swear, sometimes I can see apparitions of gamblers and cowboys of the past dashing in and out of the local saloons of Whiskey Row. They are there, I promise you. And one day, we will all be added to that guest list.
Shoot me a comment and let me know what extraordinary experience you have had on Whiskey Row.