|History of Clarkdale
In the early 1900’s much of what is now Clarkdale was farms and orchards. The original Jordan Family homestead which became an important piece of Sedona’s history was actually located where the slag pile now sits. That piece of property, along with other adjacent parcels of land, was bought up by William A. Clark of Montana, owner of the United Verde Copper Company. His company was already operating mines on Cleopatra Hill in Jerome, and the location down hill from there and along the river provided a perfect spot for their smelting operations.
In 1912 William Clark founded Clarkdale and construction of the United Verde’s smelter began. That project took 3 years to complete and in order to facilitate it, William Clark personally financed construction of the standard gauge Verde Valley Railroad, the connection to the new smelter.
By 1920 the Clarkdale smelter was one of the largest in the world with a rated capacity of 4.5 million pounds of copper ore per month.
Clarkdale carries the distinction for being the first town in the state of Arizona to have been designed and built from a unified master plan. The main town site was located on a ridge overlooking the industrial smelter complex and was developed with residential homes, including upper and lower-income housing, a commercial area, an administrative center, schools, recreational and parks. The cultural facility that was built for the town residents is the Clubhouse we treasure today.
Clarkdale’s peak population period was in 1929 when both the mining and smelter operations were in top production. The effects of the Great Depression significantly affected these activities and in 1935 the entire operation, including the industrial site and the town site itself, was sold to Phelps dodge Mining Corp. Copper production and activity in the town picked up again in the early 1940’s in response to WW11, but that activity dropped immediately after the end of that war in 1945. All production ceased and the smelter was shut down in 1952.
The closing of the smelter in 1952 marked a low point in Clarkdale’s economy with many people transferring elsewhere for employment. In 1954, residential and business properties were subsequently made available for purchase by individuals, some for only a few thousand dollars.
In the spring of 1957, a group of Clarkdale property owners started developing support toward the processes of incorporating the town. A part of this endeavor included receiving cash donations made by community members in order to fund the hiring of Keith Quail’s law firm to initiate the process toward incorporation. As a result of their efforts, on July 1st, 1957 the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors granted a Certificate of Incorporation and accepted the results of an advisory election and the first Town Council was formed. From the beginning, the Town has always functioned under a Council-Manager form of government.
Beyond the original town site, Clarkdale now occupies approximately 10.1 square miles. The Verde River bisects the north portion of the town at a low elevation of around 3,300 feet. The west side of the town boundary is located along the foothills of Mingus Mountain at a high elevation of approximately 4,600 feet above sea level.
At the time of incorporation, businesses in downtown Clarkdale included the Texaco gas station, Black Hills/ Kings Restaurant, the Grand Theater, a drug store, Bank of Arizona, Snow-Cap Drive-In, and a grocery store.
Throughout the next 50 years several businesses made their home in Clarkdale. Phoenix Cement began operations in 1959. The Bank of Arizona became First Interstate Bank and finally Wells Fargo Bank, with that branch closing in the late 80’s. The last grocery store in downtown Clarkdale was Mingus Market which was located at 9th and Main Street.
When Phoenix Cement’s Salt Rivers Materials Group started operations here, that marked the beginning of a more active community. Eventually, news spread of Clarkdale’s desirability, and families and retirees started to return, or seek out the area as a place where they wanted to live.
The 10-12 Lounge opened in 1959 on Main Street and continues in operation today. Alcora Marble came to Clarkdale in 1979 and is still open for business in downtown Clarkdale. The gas station continued on – today it is Clarkdale Classic Gas Station. That structure is one of the very few remaining buildings made of copper. The Clarkdale Chamber of Commerce was formed in 1985 and the Verde Canyon Railroad began operations in 1990 with an excursion train through the Verde River Canyon. Clarkdale is home to the Yavapai College Verde Campus and Clarkdale-Jerome Elementary School. High School students attend Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood.
Today over 130 businesses and roughly 4,000 diverse citizens make Clarkdale their home. July 1, 2007 marked 50 years since the citizens of this community banded together to form a Township. We look forward to celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Town’s founding in 2012 – the same year that the state celebrates its 100th anniversary of founding.
Unique history – defining future.
Clarkdale is recognized as an Historic District on the National Register of Historic Place