Tuesday, February 24, 2015

That Big, White Pyramid

    That big, white pyramid of Papago Park, right next to the zoo’s big horned sheep exhibit and which new comers to Phoenix always ask, “What is that?” is one of Phoenix’s best known landmarks.
     Papago Park is a great place for springtime family outings and has a long history of serving the people of Arizona.  In 1879 the area served as an Indian reservation for the Maricopa and Pima tribes. In 1914 the beautiful desert area was proclaimed the Papago Saguaro National Monument.
     During World War II a German prisoner of war camp was located here, once holding over 400 prisoners. In 1959 it became the Phoenix city park we know today.
     Papago Park covers 1,200 acres and is home to the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Gardens, a fire museum, a municipal golf course, fishing lagoons, picnic ramadas and miles of hiking and bike trails near Hole-in-the Rock.  It is also home to that big, white pyramid, the tombstone of Arizona’s 1st, 3rd, 5th and 7th governor, George W.P. Hunt. 
     George Wylie Paul Hunt would have been a hard sell for the image conscious political world of today.  With his walrus mustache, thick-rimmed glasses, totally bald head and always dressed in a white linen suit, he probably wouldn’t have made it far in today’s television world.
    When the telegraph clattered at  8:55 a.m. on February 14, 1912 confirming that Arizona was now the 48th state of the United States, it was George W.P. Hunt who led the Statehood Parade down Washington Street to the capital building. There he stood on the second floor balcony celebrating with his fellow citizens Arizona’s statehood.
     So next time family or friends are visiting one of the many wonderful attractions of Papago Park, follow that road by the lagoons, go up the hill by the big horned sheep exhibit and visit the final resting place of an Arizona legend, George W.P. Hunt.  It’s right at that big, white pyramid of Papago Park. 

That famous pyramid is actually a tombstone.

View from Hunt's tomb
Hole-In-The-Rock of Papago Park

Sunday, February 8, 2015

An Arizona Connection To The Movie "Selma"

     One of the most moving scenes in the movie, Selma, which is now playing in movie theaters across the Valley is of the tragic event that occurred on September 15, 1963 at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, AL.  At 10:22 am a case of dynamite hidden by four members of the United Klan of America exploded under a stairwell resulting in the deaths of four young, African American girls ages 11 – 14 who were attending Sunday school.
    The death of these four innocent children was a turning point in American’s public opinion concerning the 1960s Civil Rights Movement led by the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  The response to this tragedy rippled across America including the Tempe home of artist John Henry Waddell, who in 1963 was an art professor at Arizona State University.
    John Waddell’s favorite art form is sculpture.  The death of the four young girls in Birmingham motivated him to create a monument to their memory. He entitled his finished sculpture “That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963”.      Waddell’s sculpture depicts the four girls, as they might have been if they were to have grown to adulthood.  They were sculptured as nudes since putting clothing on them would have dated the statues to a particular period of time and not a representation of the ongoing struggle for human rights.
    “The total group stands as a prayer of atonement and symbolizes the unfulfilled maturity of the four Black girls…” wrote Waddell, and “implies nobility, hope and perseverance.”
    The four sculptured girls each strike a different poise.  The figure which faces north is the youngest and “reflects hope and optimism”.  In her upraised hand is inscribed the word “prayer”.
    The south facing figure is “in the act of turning away or toward” a world that cut short her life.  The east-facing figure symbolizes motherhood and her children that will never be born.  The west-facing figure contemplating death and acceptance of “all that is and will come.’
    Two sets of the sculpture “What Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963” were casts and lucky for us, both sets can be visited in the Valley.  The first cast can be seen in the Memorial Garden of the Unitarian Universalist Church in Paradise Valley.  The second casting can be seen in the internal patio of the George Washington Carver High School Museum and Cultural Center near downtown Phoenix.
    John Waddell and his wife live and still work in their home studio near Sedona.  He has been a key part of Arizona’s art world for nearly 60 years.  His bronze sculptures of female nudes in motion are on display in 14 public venues across Phoenix including the Phoenix Civic Plaza, the Phoenix Art Museum and the Herberger Theater. Additional works can be found in Napa Valley, New York City, San Diego, as well as the Sedona Cultural Center.   The movie, Selma, created an ideal time to get out and discover for yourself Arizona’s connection to this award winning movie and the artistry of John Henry Waddell. 

“That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963” @ the Unitarian Universalist Church
Address:  4027 E. Lincoln Drive, Paradise Valley, AZ

“That Which Might Have Been, Birmingham, 1963” @ George Washington Carver High School Museum & Cultural Center
Address:  415 E. Grant Street, Phoenix

"That Which Might Have Been" - George Washington
Carver Museum & Cultural Center

Friday, February 6, 2015

Pinnacle Peak Park

    In the northeast part of the Valley of the Sun stands a 4.1 billion year old pre-Cambrian, granite monolith, rising some 600 feet above the desert floor.  Pinnacle Peak is the name of this famous landmark.
    For centuries Pinnacle Peak has stood as a directional beacon for those who traveled across the harsh, Sonoran Desert landscape.  The Hohokam once established a village nearby whose purpose it was to provide salt for all their villages of the Valley.  Passengers in the 1880s, riding the ol’ concord stage from Prescott and Fort McDowell, gazed up at the boulder, covered summit as their “cradle on wheels” bounced by heading down the desert trail to the small farming community of Phoenix.
    As the Valley began to grow in the late 1960s, new homes began to move toward the ancient peak for the first time.  Concerned citizens started planning to preserve this special Valley landmark for all people.  Their efforts became a reality when Pinnacle Peak Park opened on April 20, 2002.
    A 3.5 roundtrip one-way hiking trail is the main attraction to this 150 acre desert park.  Interpretive signs are posted along the way to educate park visitors to the many Sonoran Desert plants found along the trail.  Rock climbing is allowed in three specific areas of the part, each having a different level of climbing difficulty. Grandview and Owls Rest lookouts provide resting areas for hikers with views that can only be described as spectacular!
Pinnacle Peak Park is located at 26802 North 102nd  Way in north Scottsdale some 17 miles from Anthem.  The GPS Coordinates of the park is N33 43.695 W111 51,611.  For information about the Pinnacle Peak Park visit their web site at http://pinnaclepeaklocal.com/hike.htm.

Pinnacle Peak

Visitor Center