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Cottonwood Arizona Revealed

October 6, 2014 , , , ,

The Verde Valley north of Phoenix has a very interesting history.  I had not visited the area for years and had read about the popular wine trail as a destination.  I decided to spend a night in the restored historic section of  Cottonwood.  It is charming and very laid back.  Folks are friendly, and most of the merchandise I saw on offer was of high quality.  There are several antique dealers with very large inventories of interesting items.  There are excellent restaurants and plenty of wine bars for tasting or evening entertainment.  The wineries are doing good business here selling mostly limited small batch varieties. I did a tasting at the Burning Tree Cellars that I enjoyed.  I liked all of the reds I tried, to my surprise.  The Arizona wine industry has vastly improved the quality of their products in recent years.  Some of the Burning Tree wines are made from California grapes, but made  and bottled in Camp Verde, AZ.  Arizona can be proud of our wine now.  It has come a long way, baby. The walkable downtown makes tasting here a breeze. There are four upscale wineries located in a two block area, all very popular.

I don’t drink much wine these days, but am always immersed in history.  I like to learn everything I can about places I visit.  Knowing what happened in the past brings the place to life for me.  I was unaware that Cottonwood had such a famous and checkered past.  This tiny town was the bootlegging capitol of the state in the 1920s.  There were tunnel systems below the streets leading from one storage place to others.  The typical establishment had a pool hall, a barber shop, or another small business in the front and liquor sales in the back of the building.  The tunnels were connected to homes and shops, as well as to automotive garages.  Cottonwood bootleggers were supercharging cars and filling them with liquor to transport out of the area.  It is said the garages had two tanks on the street out front, one with gasoline and another with hootch.  Al Capone was once held in the local jail and there is a carving of his name that still remains.  A still blew up and caused a very large fire that destroyed many wooden buildings in 1925. I learned all this and more when I took a short walking tour with Karen Leff, Cottonwood businesswoman and enthusiast.

I entered the lobby of the Cottonwood Hotel and found Karen, who is the owner, at the reception desk.  She has made a study of the town’s history by questioning old timers who remember, and looking up documents and newspapers from the past. Her knowledge is extensive.  She shares it by leading tours for interested groups by organizing Custom Cultural Heritage Tours. It was my lucky day because she had a short window of time to give me a quick version of her walking tour.  I had a wonderful time touring some of the rooms in her hotel before we walked around to see the places the bootleggers made famous.  Mae West did stay at the hotel, and a charming suite dedicated to her memory is one of the choices for accommodation.  The small former rooms have been updated and expanded for modern taste.  The balcony is a treat because it gives a full view of Main Street below.  The view came in handy for a group of bank robbers who checked in. I fully enjoyed my time learning about history and some present day ghost stories as well.  If you are in the area I fully recommend one of the tours Karen offers. She is in love with her town and it shows. You will get in touch with the spirit of the past by looking around historic Cottonwood.  Karen added greatly to my appreciation of the town.

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comments

That sounds really cool, Pamela. I tend to give the 1920ies a touch of romance that it probably never had. And bootleggers sounds very adventurous 😉

I saw a lot of antique shops in the North and South Carolina as well as in Georgia. They sold very good furniture at fair prices.

Liked by 1 person

Brigitte Kobi

October 8, 2014

I think this place would be so fun to visit…. even to stay. I bet there’s a lot to see in the area… I think Cottonwood should be on the list of places to check out!!

Like

Stevie Wilson (@LAStory)

October 12, 2014

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