Friday, January 8, 2016

Rocky Homes

Flagstaff to Marana, Arizona
March 3, 2010

Today, as I traveled from Flagstaff to Marana just north of Tucson, I visited a lot of homes and a lot of rocks. Here in central Arizona you don’t have many choices but to build right on the rocks, in the rocks, or as part of the rocks. Here are three rocky ways I discovered to have a home in Arizona.

Homes Built in a Rock

Montezuma Castle
Around 700 A.D. the Sinagua people were migrating and came upon the waters of Beaver Creek just north of Camp Verde and the Verde River. With plenty of water and fertile ground, the Sinagua put down roots although they decided to put their homes into the sky. Within the high limestone cliffs bordering Beaver Creek, the Sinagua became cliff-dwellers and built their homes into the cliffs for comfort and for protection. An area inhabited by the Sinagua with a spectacular example of one of their cliff-dwellings is protected by Montezuma Castle National Monument.

Also protected by the National Monument but several miles away from the main unit of the park is Montezuma Well. The Sinagua people abandoned central Arizona around 1425, but the Yavapai believe their people were brought into the world at the well which is a limestone sinkhole. The pond in the sinkhole has an outlet to Beaver Creek along with a canal system which delivered water further downstream. The well is coming under the assault of modern man with the spreading of Illinois Pondweed, but it is still a sight with small dwellings squeezed into the limestone walls surrounding the pond.

Montezuma Well

Homes Built on Top of a Rock

Tuziogoot Pueblo
Twenty miles northeast of Montezuma Castle near Clarkdale is Tuzigoot National Monument. Tuzigoot shares some traits with Montezuma Castle:  It is located near the Verde River and was built by the Sinagua people. It was built around 1100 on the summit of a limestone and sandstone ridge. It was a two- and three-story pueblo with over 100 rooms, and many features of the pueblo have been preserved and analyzed. It was abandoned at around the time the Sinagua left central Arizona, but with the preservation and restoration work that has been done, the pueblo can be seen from a distance as it could be seen when first built, perched on top of a ridge that stands above the river valley.

Homes Built on the Side of a Rock

To the southwest of Tuzigoot rises Mingus Mountain in the Black Hills range. US Route 89 Alt starts its climb up the mountain and at about 5,200 feet above sea level (and 1,500 above Tuzigoot), you come upon the mining town of Jerome. The town was founded around 1880 for the rich copper deposits in the area, and like many mining towns built near the mineral deposits, the town is built on the side of the side of a mountain. For Jerome, it is Cleopatra Hill. To get from the bottom of Jerome to the top, you have to drive through four 180 degree turns. Waiting for you at the top is the Jerome Grand Hotel.  Along this turny drive, you see old homes built of brick or wood that may be even up on top but are uneven and at a steep angle on the bottom. Here in Jerome back in the old days it was a whole lot easier to build an uneven bottom in the house to follow the hillside than to excavate the hillside to level out a building pad. Jerome has not abandoned like Montezuma Castle or Tuzigoot, but it has shrunk with the when the mines shut down. However, the town has a strong art and tourism sector which is supporting the preservation and restoration of the historic buildings even if they may be a little crooked.

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