VERDE HERITAGE 1925: CHOKREE GOBINS BUILDING
Chokree Gobins, a Cottonwood merchant, purchased lot 4 in block 1 of Cottonwood Addition on August 18, 1924.
"AWAITING THE BIDS: The building to be erected by Chokree Gobins for the Verde Valley Stage company has been all put on paper by Architect A. L. Gilford, and the specifications have been drawn and the construction of the building is now up for bids. Several contractors are bidding and it is expected some time early next week that work on the structure will be commenced. It will be built on one lot and will cover the full length of the lot and be 38 feet in width overall. The contractors will have to rush the work and undoubtedly a large force of men will be put on." (Verde Copper News; Monday, October 12, 1925; page 3.)
"GOBINS BUILDING: Yesterday morning George Barnett began the preliminary work on the new Gobins Building which is to be built on lot 4, block 1, facing Main Street and adjoining Jose Acuna's pool hall [now, Crema]. The building will have side walls and back of cement tile and a front of concrete. Barnett has the contract and architect Guilford is supervising the job. It is expected to rush the construction right through as the Verde Valley Stage company wants to get into it before the winter season is too far advanced. They are going to lease the building as soon as it is completed." (Verde Copper News; Tuesday, October 20, 1925; page 4.)
"POURING CEMENT: Contractor George Barnett began pouring the foundation of the Gobins Building yesterday afternoon and by quitting time that evening had practically poured the entire foundation. As soon as it has sufficiently settled he will begin laying the tile walls." (Verde Copper News; October 24, 1925; page 4.)
"FINISHED POURING CEMENT: Contractor George Barnett finished pouring the concrete in the front elevation of the new Chokree Gobins Building in Cottonwood a week ago today and several hundreds of cement tile have been laid in the walls. The walls will go up in record time from now on." (Verde Copper News; Tuesday, November 10, 1925; page 5.)
"WORK RESUMED: After a period of waiting for material, work has been resumed on the Gobins Building on South Main Street. The floor space has all been filled in, loads of tile have been brought to the job and Mounts Brothers are once more at work placing the blocks in the walls. With fine weather and lots of material George Barnett expects to make up for much of the delay." (Verde Copper News; Friday, November 20, 1925; page 5.)
Melvin Thomas Mounts worked as a brick mason for the United Verde Copper Company (and for Phelps Dodge after 1935) at Clarkdale. He built his home at 611 N. 11th Street using bricks from the smelter. His younger brother, John A. Mounts, worked for the mines. The Mounts Brothers worked on several other building projects at Cottonwood.
"PROGRESSING RAPIDLY: George Barnett, of Clarkdale, is now making rapid progress on the new Chokree Gobins Building on Main Street. He is able now to secure plenty of cured cement tile from Gavin and Kranso's plant above Pugh's Lumber Yard. They are turning out the tile for the new Mason Building [now, Cottonwood Café] also and will soon have enough of the product to finish the job." (Verde Copper News; Friday, November 27, 1925; page 4.) From the alley, the unpainted and weathered block are still visible on both sides of the Chokree Gobins Building, along with a newer addition at the back of the building.
"PUTTING ON ROOF: Contractor Barnett is busily putting on the roof of the Gobins Building. The trusses were all put in place in the last few days and the sheeting for the roof is all down and in 2 or 3 days the composition roofing will have been laid. The work of putting in the floor and doing the painting and some little wood work will not occupy more than about 2 weeks if the contractor continues as rapidly as he is working now." (Verde Copper News; Friday, December 4, 1925; page 4.)
"FLOOR ABOUT FINISHED: The floor of the Chokree Gobins Building on Main Street is about poured and with the exception of plastering and putting in of windows, doors, and office, the work is done. the sidewalk in front is poured together with the cement dip leading from the street into the building and the placing of the equipment will be the next big item after the cement is hard enough to permit the work to proceed." (Verde Copper News; December 15, 1925; page 2.)
"NEW YEAR, NEW HOME: The Verde Valley Stage company will enter the new year with a new home. For several weeks Contractor George Barnett has been building a fire proof structure 40 feet by 90 to accommodate the stage company. Chokree Gobins is the owner of the new building and built it expressly for the stage company and to conform to its needs. They will occupy the building beginning with January 1, and have already moved much of their equipment into it." (Verde Copper News; Friday, January 1, 1926; page 5.)
"DANCE A SUCCESS: The housewarming given Saturday night in the new Verde Valley Stage company garage and office building recently completed for them by Chokree Gobins, was well attended. A record crowd of about 150 couples tripped the light fantastic until the small hours of the morning. The dance was given under the auspices of the famous Verde Four of which Ernest Ochoa is the most rotund member. The floor was in first class condition, there was lots of good music, a good lively crowd, well assorted, and they had all night to get tired in. W. G. Lysons had girls selling favors in the way of comical little pasteboard hats, with a feather through them, that added to the hilarity of the occasion. Manager Harrell states that it is very likely that once a month he will give a dance in the building and will give the dancers a chance to get used to some of the old time dances such as reflect in the early Bungalow affairs. All went home danced down and satisfied that they had a good time." (Verde Copper News; Tuesday, January 5, 1926; page 6.)
"IN NEW HOME: Following the housewarming dance at the new home of the Verde Valley Stage company, the company finished moving from the post office building [now a City driveway] to the new building last Saturday. They have transferred their telephone and are now to be found there. The stages all stop there enroute to either Clarkdale or Clemenceau, and all patrons are directed in the future to their office opposite the Rialto Theater on Main Street in Cottonwood." (Verde Copper News; January 5, 1926; page 6.)
Chokree Gobins was a pioneer businessman at Cottonwood, opening his first store during 1917. Verde Valley Improvement Company sold him Lot 1 of Block 1 on September 6, 1917, (at the corner of Main and Pima, now the Red Rooster). His New York Store was not always located in buildings he owned. His patronage at the New York Store had grown to the point that he was thinking about moving into larger quarters by 1924. (Verde Copper News; March 18, 1924.) The New York Store had a "Closing Out Sale" advertising blankets, towels, silk and flannel cloth, shoes for women, jackets, shoes, work shirts, bib overalls and dress pants for men. After his merchandise was reduced during February of 1929, he may have moved to a new location. (Verde Copper News; February 4, 1929.)
Chokree Gobins was born in Jordan on August 28, 1887, and came to Arizona Territory about 1911. His wife, Fadwa Shamer Gobins, was born at Nablis, Palestine on April 16, 1894. While living at Cottonwood, at least 2 of their children were born. Their second child, a daughter, Zerifa Hannah Gobins, was born on July 8, 1922. Their third child, John Gobins was born on September 16, 1924. (Certificates of Death and Certificates of Birth.) The Chokree Gobins family eventually moved to the Phoenix area where he opened a similar store.
BLAZE AT COTTONWOOD, JUNE 26, 1933
"When the cook at the Eatmor restaurant in Cottonwood got up this morning and started the day's duties at 5 o'clock he did not dream his gasoline stove would explode and cause a $10,000 estimated loss, but that is what happened. ... For two and a half hours the Cottonwood fire Department battled the blaze, which attracted hundreds of curious citizens of the district, many of whom pitched in and helped fight the fire. Not only the building which housed the restaurant was destroyed, but the residence in the back belonging to B. I.[?] McDonald, the 2-story Martilona hotel next door, Chokree Gobins vacant store that was rented by Norton and Norton, attorneys [South 1/2 of Lot 1, Block 1], and a house in the back. Also, flames leaped the street to set fire to the Federated Cash Grocery" where "the heat from the burning buildings broke the plate glass windows." (Prescott Evening Courier; June 26, 1933; page 1.)
The local newspaper reported: "Flames which started from gasoline of the coffee urn in the Eatmor Sandwich Shop" burned "3 businesses and 2 small residences. ... Intense heat from the blaze [across Main Street] caused the Cut Rate Cash Grocery, owned by W. J. [Jess] Siler, to begin burning. Several times small fires on this building [part of the 1917 Bungalow, now a parking lot] were put out by the fire fighters. Windows of the Siler store and the Rialto Theater, next door [now, the Tavern], cracked when the heat was driven across the street. ... A garage next to the sandwich shop contained $4,000 worth of merchandise belonging to Mr. Siler, but only slight damage was reported in this huge stock." (Verde Copper News; Friday, June 30, 1933.)
Chokree Gobins conveyed the property, Lot 4, Block 1, to C. W. Durham on March 7, 1934. (Book 154 of Deeds, page 87.) C. W. Durham conveyed the property to W. J. Siler on June 6, 1934. (Book 159 of Deeds, page 113.)
After Prohibition ended, W. Jess Siler used the Chokree Gobins Building for his Verde Valley Distributing Company and painted the name in black letters across the top front of the building.
Later, the Chokree Gobins Building became a Sprouse Reitz Company store, with Reed Pollock as manager during the 1950's and 1960's. There were decorative horizontal stripes on the front of the building, and above the shade canopy the front was covered with light colored tile with the company name in red. By 1958, the front had been faced with flagstone. Above the shade canopy the entire front of the building was covered with a painted wood false front, with the name "Sprouse Reitz Co." (Photographs and advertisements in "The Recuerdos," Cottonwood High School, 1954 and 1958.) Michael Kane became the manager of Sprouse Reitz variety store during June of 1973. (Verde Independent; June 28, 1973.) Armin Kobilus came to manage Sprouse Reitz department store during May of 1974. (Verde Independent; May 28, 1974.)
The commercial architectural style popular during Prohibition (1915-1933 in Arizona) was gradually changed. As buildings were remodeled, an "Old West" theme was believed to appeal to tourists after the mid-1950's. This remodeling trend was encouraged after the town incorporated in 1960.
The Community Appearance Committee prepared a report for the town council during July of 1974. One of the suggestions was the development of an "appropriate common theme" for the area, such as the "western-front." The "old Southwest atmosphere" was already present in Cottonwood architecture. Because of the town's heritage, some people thought the Western theme could be exploited to provide an attractive atmosphere, especially downtown, for both tourists and residents. (See: The Verde Independent; December 5, 1974.)
During a recent remodeling of the 1925 Chokree Gobins Building for Sol West Gallery, at 913 North Main Street, the wood false front was removed to reveal the original arched parapet designed by Architect A. L. Gilford. A new awning was installed along with a new covering for most of the parapet. When the 1926 Joseph Becchetti Commercial Building was constructed across the street (924-926 N. Main) Architect A. L. Gilford designed a similar arched parapet. (See: The Verde Independent; November 16, 2013.) When that building was "modernized," instead of covering the parapet with a false front, the top part was removed.