Whiskey Row of Prescott, Arizona, is one of the true landmarks of the historic and present-day American West. Walking its sidewalks today feels like a refreshing step back in time. But it is more. It is what the West has become. It is where the West is going. The Whiskey Row of today is neither an anachronism nor a contradiction, but a symbol of the struggle to fuse the present to the past. Such is not an easy task. Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row is an attempt to assist that never-ending process along and help that union become more complete.
Whiskey Row’s history has been presented in random spurts over the years: a newspaper or magazine article here, a chapter or mention in a book there, the setting for a journal essay or popular history piece. Yet, until now, it had never been the sole subject of a book even though Whiskey Row is central to Prescott history and, in a sense, Arizona history. It served as the social center of the capital of Arizona Territory during two separate stretches—1864-67, and 1877-89. Whiskey Row was, and still is, the heart of Prescott.
It has been said that, except for a few battlefield exploits here and there, the history of the West was written in saloons. Indeed, much of Prescott’s history can be taught through its earliest saloons. What was once almost furtively called Whiskey Row was a world unto itself and had a culture of its own and, with its true events and real people, was a microcosm of the frontier west. Furthermore, Whiskey Row’s history is more than a frivolous journey into the romantic Wild West, although there is indeed more of that type of allure and excitement attached to it than most frontier locales.
Whiskey Row is nowadays famous throughout the Southwest, but its history demonstrates it should be even more so. This book covers its first thirty-six years. It begins with the first saloons of Prescott, which coincided with Prescott’s birth in 1864, and concludes with the onset of the Great Fire of 1900. Three and one-half years of extensive and intensive research and analysis went into Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row. Along the way, legends I hoped would prove true sometimes did. Sometimes they did not. The truths they were based on, however, did not disappoint, at least in terms of proving fascinating, as did the manner in which they became legends. Indeed, the unfermented truth is sometimes more flavorsome than the cocktailed legend—but there is no denying the let-down the rectified versions of history sometimes rendered. There are also several newly revealed historical events that transpired on Whiskey Row delineated herein that might have worked themselves into legends over time had there been exploitive writers in Prescott between 1864 and 1900. Dime novelists would have done very well on Whiskey Row.