VERDE HERITAGE 1939: COTTONWOOD COMMUNITY CLUB HOUSE
"In October of 1935, a small group of local women were upset with the fact that Cottonwood had no large community building. The women [eventually] formed the Community Civic Club and their first goal was to build a club house in which meetings, dances and special events could be held." (Verde View; March 19, 1981; p. 8.) According to an outline about the history of the Community Civic Club presented during the May meeting in 1970, "Mrs. Ethel Barker, a charter member and past president of the club," recalled that 1935 and 1936 were the formative years "when wives of local businessmen met and planned to organize." (Verde Independent; July 23, 1970; p. 27.)
"Mrs. Catherine (Giordano) Robinson called a group of women to a meeting at her home to discuss the possibility of forming a women's service club on November 19, 1937. Those present at the first meeting were: Catherine Robinson, Nanda Valazza, Ordna Hansohn, Laura Valazza, Marie Moore, A. S. Herzberg, Mary (Giordano) Snyder, Amelia Doty, Parmelia Braley, Mattie (Edens) Medigovich, Mrs. John Langdon, Elizabeth Jones, Ethel Barker, Avant Garrett, Velma Edwards, and Millie Schwab. There was so much enthusiasm and interest that a club was formed that afternoon. Catherine Robinson was appointed to be the temporary chairman of the civic club." (Verde Independent; March 13, 1952; p. 6.)
"Cottonwood, November 30. --- The Cottonwood service club, recently organized by the business women of Cottonwood, will meet at 7:30 o'clock tonight in the American Legion Hall here, it was announced today. All women who are interested in joining the organization are invited to attend." (Prescott Evening Courier; Tuesday, November 30, 1937; p. 3.)
Mrs. Ethel Barker said, "the Cottonwood Community Civic Club was organized in 1937, with Mrs. Bob (Catherine) Robinson as the first" chairman. When she was elected "president in 1938, we had 105 charter members and our first objective was to provide a meeting place and our second was to take part in the care of the cemetery. ... Our meeting places were the American Legion Hall, the Salvation Army building, the jailhouse, and members' homes, but we were faithful and met regularly. The club's emblem was a red heart with a gold key and the motto was, 'Work from the heart is the key to achievement.'" (Verde Independent; July 23, 1970.)
The regular meeting of the Community Civic Club was held on January 13, 1938, at the American Legion Hall. According to the minutes of the meeting, "a motion was made by Mrs. John Langdon that all funds with the exception of dues should constitute the building fund. ... The motion was seconded and carried. ... A motion was made by Mrs. Barker that the club proceed with plans to build a club house in Cottonwood. The motion was seconded and carried. ... Mrs. Peggy Arnold suggested that the club hold a White Elephant Sale on Trade Day. Following the adoption of this suggestion, all embers were asked to donate white elephants for this sale to be held at the Trade Day, February 7," 1938. (Community Civic Club records; January 13, 1938.)
"HOW THE COTTONWOOD COMMUNITY CLUB HOUSE WAS BUILT IS A STORY OF DETERMINED WOMEN"
"Civic Club: Mrs. M. G. Barker and other business women of Cottonwood are laying plans for a community club house to cost $20,000 which they wish to have built with WPA [Works Progress Administration] money. Plans are not yet completed and whether the project would be feasible would depend, according to Arthur J. Kline [of the WPA], on the amount of funds the women can raise privately for the structure, to match any WPA funds that might be secured." (Prescott Evening Courier; February 7, 1938.) According to a 1952 article written by Helen Commiskey, President of the Cottonwood Community Civic Club: "Immediately plans for a community club house began to formulate in the minds of that group and by February, 1938, the first approach was made to the WPA as funds were available for use in the area. The Park Committee was made up of John MacIntyre, Charles Willard, and Charles C. Stemmer," who requested a deed for part of the town park from the UVX. (Verde Independent; March 13, 1952; p. 6.)
THE LAND: The United Verde Extension Mining Company (UVX) had purchased part of the land claimed by David Strahan in 1875, known as "Cottonwood Ranch," from Clarence V. and Anna Hopkins during 1916, as a possible site for their smelter. Plans changed, and their smelter was built south of Cottonwood. After the new smelter began operating during July of 1918, the area population continued to grow. The west end of the Hopkins property was south of what is now Pima and east of Main Street, where there had been a ball park for many years. The UVX built a school on this property in 1919, which was closed when the new Clemenceau School was completed in 1924. On August 9, 1935, the UVX, by a "Gift Deed" had granted the large parcel of land to "the Parks Committee of the unincorporated Town of Cottonwood ... and the residents thereof, for public park purposes or non-profit civic enterprises only. (Book 163 of Deeds, pages 425-426.) In order to help qualify for financial and construction assistance, the UVX provided an additional deed granting the old school site (and building) included in the 1935 Gift Deed, to School District No. 6 on September 24, 1938. (Book 172 of Deeds, pages 411-412.) This land transaction met the qualification for the construction of the building by the Works Progress Administration (WPA), which also provided two-thirds of the money.
Rachel Verretto recalled, "My mother was a charter member. My father, Joe Becchetti, was a prominent businessman. ... He was instrumental in contacting Arizona congressmen to have the building constructed by the WPA." (Community Civic Club; 50 Years Celebration, 1989.) "The Works Progress Administration agreed to build the club house, but first we had to raise matching funds and to do this we called on dude ranches, cattlemen, and local businessmen," recalled Ethel Barker. (Verde Independent; July 23, 1970.)
Many letters were written appealing for donations. One stated: "We, the Women of the Community Civic Club with the aid of the Progressive Association and donations from individuals and concerns are now erecting a Community Civic Center. The town being unincorporated, the only means we have of doing this is by popular subscription. According to merchants here in Cottonwood, your company has been doing business here for quite a while and have received very good cooperation. During all this time you have never had to pay taxes or license. This being the case, we are asking you to help us toward this building by donating a portion of what you would have had to give the town had it been incorporated. We feel sure you will want to help us in this project and will mail us your check. Thanking you, we remain, yours very truly, Community Civic Club," and signed by "Mary Snyder, Secretary." (Community Civic Club records.)
"Cottonwood, November 7. --- Workmen are scheduled to start today on the construction of a community building in the town of Cottonwood, under the sponsorship of the trustees of School District No. 6, according to an announcement by Works Progress Administration officials. The structure will be built of concrete and rubble stone walls, with concrete footings and foundation, and with a 10-year built up roof. When completed it will contain 6,000 square feet of floor space. ... The building will be used as a town hall and for both public and private gatherings and is expected to be provided with light, water, and janitorial service through low rentals arranged for by the business women's club. The total cost of the structure is expected to approximate $30,696. Of this amount, $22,730 will be provided from WPA funds, of which $16,756 will be for labor. The community building will be situated in Cottonwood Park, adjacent to the American Legion home and the Salvation Army headquarters." (Prescott Evening Courier; Monday, November 7, 1938; p. 1.)
In 1952, Helen Commiskey wrote: "On November 7, 1938, the WPA arrived to start work, just 9 months from the original request. Two-thirds of the cost was borne by the government, leaving $5,000 to be raised by the club members. During the first year there was feverish activity in the fund raising department." (Verde Independent; March 13, 1952.)
February, 1939: "Twenty-five tables of bridge and several tables of Chinese checkers were in play at the public benefit party sponsored by the Community Civic Club and held at the Clemenceau School auditorium Tuesday evening. Mrs. M. K. Thelan was general chairman and was assisted by Mrs. H. G. Pieper, Mrs. Walter Shanahan, Mrs. John Burke, Mrs. D. E. Valazza, Mrs. E. H. Snyder, Mrs. W. J. Hansohn. Mrs. A. C. Schwab, and Mrs. J. Braley. Some 40 Clarkdale residents attended the benefit party. ... An. announcement was made at the party of a "Silver Tea" to be held at the home of Mrs. John Burke for the benefit of the Community Civic Club building fund." ... (Prescott Evening Courier; February 23, 1939.)
In 1952, Helen Commiskey wrote: "The club gave 2 silver teas, a white elephant sale, 2 food sales, 3 rummage sales, a spring carnival, a bazaar, sponsored the Burke show (a sort of traveling carnival), and raffled a rifle. One of the early presidents told me that before the year was over residents of Cottonwood purposefully avoided any Civic Club member on the street, so constant were the pleas for money for one project or another. Another source of income at this time was the serving of food at 'Trade Day,' when anyone might bring to town anything he wanted to swap from a pig to junior's outgrown baby bed. The building fund was augmented considerable by a contribution of $1,500 from the men of the Progressive Association, Ersel Garrison, chairman." (Verde Independent; March 13, 1952.)
"Months of construction found the Civic Club women not only raising money by all the ingenious methods they could conjure up but by using their talents to cut down the expenses in building. Since the government allowed 8 dollars per day for the use of a truck, our women bought a used one for $350, collected the 8 dollars a day for its use and at the completion of the work sold it, thereby being considerably ahead in the transaction. ... As river rock was easily available and free for the taking and as labor to haul it was donated, this served as the cheapest building material," according to Helen Commiskey. (Verde Independent; March 13, 1952.)
Vera Broughton recalled, "We did many things to raise money for the Civic Club. We had 'Come As You Are' breakfasts. ... One time a brand new Ford was raffled, a donation by Charles Ward. ... We did have fun!" (Community Civic Club; 50 Years Celebration, 1989.)
The "Laying of the Cornerstone" was a local event on April 9, 1939. "Among other things, a 1937 nickel, a copy of the 'Verde Shopping News,' and an 'Arizona Republic' were placed in the cornerstone." (Verde View; March 19, 1981; p. 8.) Rachel (Becchetti) Verretto recalled, "I played the accordion at the Laying of Corner Ceremony in 1939, and many programs since then." (Community Civic Club; 50 Years Celebration, 1989.)
The renovations of the Cottonwood Community Club House by the City of Cottonwood are continuing. The City of Cottonwood Historic Preservation Commission is fundraising for the building. Bricks for a memorial walkway, each with 3 lines (maximum of 20 characters per line)are being sold for $100 each. Contact Kathryn Turney: firstname.lastname@example.org, (520) 343-4510.