Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (2024)

Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (2)

PRESCOTT – It may well have the best story of any block in Arizona, if not one of the best locations, forming one side of a charmingvillage square.

And it certainly has the most evocative name.

Now a collection of galleries, boutiques and bars, Whiskey Row earned its moniker in the late 1800s when saloons comprised its length. It catered to the cowboys and miners who descended from the surrounding hills for shots and socializing.

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But its legend was born July 14, 1900, when, in an empty hotel room, a lit candle fell onto a mattress. Hours later much of downtown Prescott was a charred ruin, yet fire didn’t stop the drinking. Across the street from the blazing Whiskey Row, men bellied up to the 24-foot-long carved oak bar they’d pulled from the Palace Saloon as flames bore down.

A year later, Whiskey Row was back open for business, this time in brick and stone buildings designed to withstand flames as well as time.

That indomitable spirit lingers along the Row (officially, the 100 block of South Montezuma Street). The crowds of cowboys and miners have long since been replaced by tourists, and no one pays with gold dust anymore.

But history still imbues the block with a vibe found almost nowhere else, from the colorful canvases in the Ian Russell Gallery of Fine Art to the dark recesses of the Birdcage Saloon.

Palace Restaurant and Saloon

Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (3)

It makes sense that at the center of Whiskey Row is its heart: thePalace Restaurant and Saloon. The establishment was the grandest of its kind in Prescott, its opening in 1901 signaling the rebirth of the Row.

With hardwood floors, a lofty pressed-tin ceiling and the oak bar now back in its rightful place, the Palace was just that when it opened to drinkers, gamblers and anyone looking to escape life for an hour or two.

Itprospered for more than three quarters of a century before timefinally caught up to it.When a new owner purchased the saloonin 1996, he closed it for four months as he worked from historic blueprints and photos to restore its grandeur. Today the interior looks much as it did in 1901, without the card tables and roulette wheels.

The second-floor hotel is long gone, replaced by offices as well as the cozy and elegant Jersey Lilly Saloon. Take a seat at the bar or enjoy a co*cktail on Whiskey Row’s only balcony.

Details: 120 S. Montezuma St.www.historicpalace.com

Hotel St. Michael

Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (4)

If the Palace is the heart of the Row, Hotel St. Michael is the cornerstone. Once hosting such luminaries as Teddy Roosevelt and Barry Goldwater, the red-brick hotel is nowknown for its permanent residents of the paranormal persuasion. People have reported a woman in white gliding along the staircase, and mysterious shadows in the haunted elevator.

The most unusual aspect of the hotel is often unnoticed. Note the small concrete discs embedded along the top of the third floor. Each one captures a twisted face that would make a gargoyle look dateable.

Legend has it that the owner of the lot wanted to build a four-story grand hotel. City officials told him three stories was the limit, thus his architectural payback.

Despite the faces, the hotel’s classic charm is seen throughout, especially in the brass-and-wood bistro on the groundfloor. It evolves from a bright and airy breakfast nook in the morning to a dimly lit and romantic co*cktail lounge at night.

Details:205 W. Gurley St.www.stmichaelhotel.com.

Matt's Saloon

Those who prefer to drink in darker, dive-ier environs may head to Matt’s Saloon, which closely adheres to vision conjured by the term “Whiskey Row.”

From the cow skull above the front door to a dimly lit, flag-draped interior that invites day drinking, Matt’s Saloon is more hideaway than tourist destination.

It also claimswhat would be one of the Row's most dubious stories —rock ‘n’ roll star stops in for a beer, jams onstage, sends bartender substantial "tip"— save for one fact.

It's all true.

On Sept. 29, 1989, Bruce Springsteen rolled into Prescott aboard a motorcycle and wound up in Matt’s Saloon. After speaking with bartender “Bubbles” Pechanec, who shared with the Boss her eight marriages and recent cancer diagnosis, Springsteen hit the stage for a 40-minute jam session before vanishing into the night.

It wasn’t long before Pechanec received a $100,000 check signed by Springsteen to help pay her expenses. The photos and newspaper stories from that night are still tacked to the wall of the biker bar, the bartender happy to point them out.

Details: 112 S. Montezuma St.www.mattssaloon.com.

Bird Cage Saloon

Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (5)

A similar vibe is found at the Bird Cage Saloon. Like Matt’s Saloon, the long, narrow drinking establishment features a dominant bar that almost demands you lean up against it and down a shot of whiskey.

You’d never know that this is the Bird Cage’s second location along the Row. In May 2012, a fire swept through the saloon, flames spreading to a food store and barbecue joint.

Unlike the fire of 1900, when water was unavailable and firefighters resorted to dynamite to clear buildings and create a fire line, these flames were quickly contained. But many of the taxidermied birds for which the saloon was namedwere lost.

And while no one risked their lives to pull the bar to safety, owners were able to salvage the ornate back bar.

Details: 160 S. Montezuma St.www.facebook.com/Birdcage-Saloon-160291187328475.

Morenotable stops onWhiskey Row

Treat Center on Courthouse Square:The perfect spot to take a break from whiskey along Whiskey Row (particularly if you have kids with you). The candy shop has roots back to a popcorn stand in Dewey. It still serves gourmet popcorn as well as ice cream, fudge, nut brittleand more.

Details:156 S. Montezuma St. www.treatcenter.com.

St. Michael’s Alley:Browsing this mini-mall next to the hotel is like checking out an arts and crafts festival. A dozen shops, ranging from a bakery to an art gallery and bookstore, share space in the center, which features individual storefronts erected along an exposed-brick hallway meant to mimic an alley.

Details:205 W. Gurley St. www.stmichaelhotel.com/st-michaels-shops.

Whiskey Row Pub:A generous happy hour separates this bar from the rest of the pack. Get 2-for-1 drafts from 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays and 8 a.m.-10 p.m. Saturdays. Not that this is meant to encourage two-fisted drinking as early as 8 a.m.

Details:144 S. Montezuma St. www.facebook.com/WhiskeyRowPub.

Devil’s Pantry:No need to wait for the county fair in order to enjoy fried foods. The cooking oil is always hot at Devil’s Pantry, where workers deep-fry Oreos, Twinkies, a fine selection of Girl Scout cookies and more. Enjoy it all without fear of your kids dragging you onto the Tilt-A-Whirl and other stomach-tossing rides.

Details:126 S. Montezuma St. www.facebook.com/Devils.Pantry.

Grand Highland Hotel:Fires have played a large role in the hotel’s history. In 1903, the two-story Grand Saloon and Hotel opened after flames wiped out Whiskey Row. The saloon evolved into a curio shop, but the hotel survived and was renamed the Highland Hotel. In 2012, fire again destroyed the hotel. Owners took it as an opportunity to construct a larger, more luxurious hotel in the building they owned next door, now the Grand Highland.

Details:154 S. Montezuma St. www.grandhighlandhotel.com.

Whiskey Row in Prescott: Arizona's most legendary block (2024)


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