August 8, 2021

The Plaza Gazebo: A Fixture Since 1895

(Courtesy Tim Gronek)

Originally the Plaza “gazebo,” (as many call it today,) was the Prescott Bandstand. It was constructed in 1895 and has enjoyed a rich and colorful history—even at its genesis. The June 26 issue of the Weekly Journal-Miner reported: “The construction of the bandstand on the Plaza has not had a very quieting effect on the nerves of Loske and Shultz who have been convicted of the murder of McNary. The other prisoners told them that it was the gallows scaffold which was being erected, right in plain view of them.”

As soon as it could hold the weight of the Prescott Municipal Band, they gave the first of what would become regular Sunday evening concerts on June 25, 1895. These open-air events would become a consistent thread in the social fabric of Prescott life for several decades to come. 

In the early years, the structure was known as belonging to the local municipal band. “Beginning next Sunday evening ,” the paper wrote the following year, “the Prescott Brass Band will give their delightful open air concerts in their bandstand on the Plaza…” 

The municipal band was not the only one to perform in the bandstand. Many guest bands played there as well. In May, 1904, the renowned Coronado Tent City Band “composed of musicians from some of the leading musical organizations in the country” gave a free evening concert there. It was “greatly appreciated” by a crowd which numbered in the hundreds.

Another source of frequent guests at the bandstand included the Ft. Whipple band. When other military bands were at Whipple, they were often invited to play there as well. 

The bandstand was wired for electric lights in late September, 1896 making it one of the first buildings in downtown to be illuminated this way. This was in preparation for another use that was common for the bandstand: political oration. In this case, it was the Yavapai County Republicans who used it for campaigning, but it was also used by Democrats in equal proportion.

In 1912, the pro-republican Journal-Miner couldn’t help but poke fun at the democratic county gathering at the bandstand: “Chairman O’Sullivan arose and lifting his hand for silence attempted to introduce the next attraction. [However,] the leader of the band, failing to see the speaker hidden behind the kitchen table which served as rostrum, struck up ‘Oh! You Beautiful Doll’…while the chairman made faces at the leader of Prescott’s Best Brass Band.”

ALSO ENJOY: 1867: Squatters Try to Purloin the Plaza

The story of a group of squatters who tried to take ownership of Prescott, AZ's public Plaza in 1867.

The bandstand would also serve as the centerpiece for events during most holidays and celebrations in town. The newspaper account of the 4th of July celebration during Frontier Days in 1908 described that for the “literary exercises” in the morning, “nearly one-thousand people” crowded around the bandstand.

At the Labor Day celebration in 1908, the bandstand was the scene of a pie-eating contest in which 31 boys competed with hands tied behind their backs. The winner was James “Little Pat” Farley who consumed “half of one of Shumates’ [pies], including the crust, in less than ten seconds.” He won $3 in prize money, (about $85 today.) “They were loudly cheered during the contest by their fellow schoolmates,” the paper related, “and [by] hundreds of men and women on the Plaza.”

Another unique use of the bandstand was in relating the results of a popular boxing match from the telegraph in 1910. The fight was held in Reno and pitted Jeffries (an ex-champion,) vs. Johnson. “A crowd began to gather as early as 2pm”—hours before the fight. When the telegraph started clicking away, the news was related by two men using a megaphone. “It was clearly a Jeffries crowd,” the paper wrote; “When the flash came announcing the victory of Johnson, there was only mild applause… [As] a great deal of local money changed hands on the result.” 

In August, 1911, County Supervisors approved $20.10 for curtains to be placed in the bandstand; (about $575 today.)

One spontaneous celebration surrounding the bandstand involved Arizona’s statehood. It did not occur on February 14, 1912 when admission to the Union actually took place, but instead on August 21, 1911 when President Taft signed the legislation for admittance. “The secretary of the Chamber of Commerce hastened to the office of the mayor and obtained his permission to hold a non-partisan jollification on the Plaza at 7:30,” the paper described. “The public buildings, stores, hotels, theaters, factories and clubs were soon bedecked in the grand old red, white, and blue and within the hour everyone was rejoicing…” Several proud and patriotic words were spoken by the mayor and other local VIPs.

The Sunday evening concerts came to an abrupt, yet temporary halt in 1913 when some discord struck the municipal band. “From what can be gleaned,” the paper stated, “the quarrel only concerns a portion of the band.” Ultimately, the result was the formation of a second band.

“Matters were brought to a climax [the following June] when William Linden, leader of the Linden band and A. Emanuel, one of the…Laudenslager band…were upon the point of coming to blows on the street when County Attorney PW O’Sullivan” separated the two. “While the squabble has its bad features, it has as well its advantages,” the paper observed. “For the first time in the history of the city, there are two concert bands… The Linden band has been engaged by the Frontier Day committee…while the Laudenslager band has been declared by the city council, the ‘official city band.’”

In 1918, the Head Lumber company supplied some wood to the county for the bandstand, but it’s unclear whether this was used for renovation, repairs, or both. For several years it held a nativity scene during the holidays.

The exciting, new-fangled invention of radio had a detrimental effect on the popularity of the Sunday evening concerts and today use of the Old Bandstand is limited. Yet it is older than most of the buildings in downtown, particularly west of Cortez St.  The bandstand was there when the Rough Rider monument was unveiled. It survived the Great Fire. It saw the demolition of the Old Courthouse and the construction of the new. We should always remember how that “gazebo on the Plaza”—the Old Bandstand, played such a central role in Prescott’s community activities and events.


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Weekly Journal-Miner, 6/26/1895; Pg. 5, Col. 1.

IBID, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 6/24/1896; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 5/25/1904; Pg. 1, Col. 6.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 9/30/1986; Pg. 3, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/7/1912; Pg. 8, Col. 2.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/8/1908; Pg. 3, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 9/9/1908; Pg. 5, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 7/6/1910; Pg. 8, Col. 4.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/2/1911; Pg. 4, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/23/1911; Pg. 1.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 9/3/1913; Pg. 7, Col. 3.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 6/24/1914; Pg. 5, Col. 5.

Weekly Journal-Miner, 8/28/1918; Pg. 5, Col. 4.


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