The Biggest Little City in Arizona
~ ~ Cottonwood ~ ~
What Do Mae West, John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, Elvis Presley, and Al
Capone Have In Common?
A Little Western HistoryIt was the 1800s, and the land rush was on in Northern Arizona. Farmers & ranchers were looking for land to start a new life. The Verde Valley looked promising, so many settled in the area. Other people were looking to establish businesses and homes in the area to support these settlers. They decided to establish the town we know as Cottonwood today. Cottonwood got its name from the (Cottonwood) trees that line the Verde River behind the old jail. By the way, Al Capone carved his name in the jail cell of the Cottonwood Jail. (Below) The Cottonwood Jail. The first "tenant" of the jail was Bootlegger Joe Hall.
The Old West With A New Twist!In the early 1900s, other more unsavory characters, who were driven out of the company (mining) towns, such as Clarkdale and Jerome, decided to give Cottonwood a go. The town developed a reputation of lawlessness even though there was a strong foundation of law-abiding families.
Prohibition and BootleggingThen Prohibition hit the nation, and Cottonwood was no exception other than the fact that they developed some of the best bootlegging around. The bootleggers in and around Cottonwood were infamous and were known far and wide. People came as far away as Phoenix and Los Angeles.
Enter Mae West!Before Mae West was famous, she spent much of her time on what is Main Street in Old Town Cottonwood. She was known in every Speak-Easy in the area. Her Hollywood character was developed here in Cottonwood long before she hit the silver screen.
Cottonwood Hotel - 930 N. Main St. Cottonwood, AZ 86326
Stage left...The oldest business in Cottonwood; enter "The Cottonwood Hotel." It continues to have the same name and location for 106 years. Initially, there were ten rooms for rent. In the 1950s, the rooms were converted into four suites of 2-3 rooms each. Arizona's bootlegger king (Joe Hall) stayed in this hotel in 1917.
The above image was taken in 1962 by a Sperry family member.
The image below is the Sedona West Subdivision as of 2009. Rick and I drove the area to get as close as we could to the 1962 image.
Another image shown below highlights the Telegraph Office and the rest of the set made famous by the movie "Johnny Guitar." It was created by Sally Hallermund of the Red Rock Ranch. Learn more below.
Johnny Guitar was one of over 100 movies made in and around Sedona. It was made in 1954 and starred Joan Crawford, Sterling Hayden, Ward Bond, and Mercedes McCambridge.
Others who spent their downtime during the making of Sedona/Cottonwood movies were stars such as John Wayne, Burt Lancaster, and Elvis Presley.
John Wayne's 1947 movie "Angel and the Badman" was filmed in Sedona. Wayne and his costar Gail Russel would sneak off to Cottonwood and enjoy romantic time alone. Interestingly, the Tavern Grille, just a few doors down from the hotel, was once the Rialto Theater. The "Angel and the Badman" had regular screenings at the Rialto.
John Wayne and Gail Russel - Angel and the Badman
Movie Prop Finds Home At The Sedona Heritage Museum
This "telegraph office" was constructed well over 100 years ago in Winona, AZ. Over 100 westerns were filmed in Sedona during the Golden Age of western movie-making. It was brought to Sedona for those movies and was featured in "The Angel and the Badman," when Gail Russel helped wounded John Wayne send a telegram.
The Sedona Heritage Museum has restored it to its former glory, and there are movie props inside the building from many of the westerns filmed in Sedona.
History of the Telegraph Depot
Elvis Presley and His Sedona/Cottonwood Connection"Stay Away Joe" was a 1968 Western comedy starring Elvis Presley. He filmed this in Sedona and Cottonwood. As you might suspect, Elvis also stayed in Cottonwood during the filming of the movie.
The Academy Award-Winning cinematographer Fred J Koenkamp worked on this movie. It takes a cinematographer to showcase Sedona, and he made the red rocks of Sedona shine like red rubies. Sedona remains a favorite location for the movie industry.
Here is a clip that shows the different locations where Elvis did filming. There is a National Bank of Arizona location in the clip below. That bank has moved from Uptown to West Sedona. You can imagine how different uptown looked fifty-five years ago! Enjoy the clip!
The Resurgence of CottonwoodThe city of Cottonwood took on a large project to refurbish the Old Town area and make it an attractive place with unique stores, great wine-tasting rooms, and eateries. Today it is a fun place to go to stroll Main Street and check out all the shops while tasting a little of the flavor of the Old West. Cottonwood is not far from Sedona, about a 20-minute drive, but it has a couple of the key big box storefronts; Super Wal-Mart and Home Depot are located kitty-corner to the main intersection of the 89A and the 260. There is also a central Regional (Verde Valley) Medical Center. This gives support to a lot of doctor offices and other medical facilities nearby.
A Look at Home Prices from 10 Years Ago (2013)The Cottonwood real estate market had an average listing price of $182,820 and 58 days on market. The distressed listings average is low at 8%.
Where Is The Cottonwood Market in 2023?This week the median list price for Cottonwood, AZ 86326 is $486,250, with the market action index hovering around 48. This is an increase over last month's market action index of 41. Inventory has decreased to 26. The average days on market is at 78 days. Home sales continue to outstrip supply, and the Market Action Index has been moving higher for several weeks. This is a Seller’s market, so watch for upward pricing pressure in the near future if the trend continues.
Other Old Town Cottonwood Pictures
Main Street Cottonwood Arizona
Many images courtesy of Sellsedona.com, ricksperry.com, and IMDb.