1929 Historic Jail House in Old Town Cottonwood Arizona
BUILDER:Elmer Breeman or Carl Brennan
KNOWN SOURCE: VCN 10/25/1929. P4; 11/8/1929, p4
Construction Date: Late 1929
WORKMANSHIP: Distinctive elements are the larger river cobbles used at the corners of the building in quoin-like manner.
1929 Historic Jail House
In September 1929, town fathers purchased this lot from Alonzo Mason. It was then donated to the county. The county built the jailhouse, using a Prescott contractor for the work.
The building of the jail was the first known use of river cobbles in Cottonwood as a major construction material.
The Jail was first occupied in early 1930, by the Yavapai County Justice of the Peace. ***During the prohibition, there was an overflow of bootleggers and criminal and illicit acts associated with bootlegging. The Yavapai County Justice System in Prescott decided to put the jailhouse sub-station in Cottonwood, since Cottonwood had a big percentage of these illicit crimes.
Arizona bootlegger king Joe Hall and his wife Minnie.
Joe Hall, known across the state as one of Arizona's Bootlegger King and was the 1st to be jailed in the new jail house in 1930. Hall eventually moved to San Diego, still running booze between Cottonwood, Arizona, California and Mexico borders?
Was there a Joe Hall, Al Capone connection? Al Capone was hiding out in Arizona sometime after the St. Valentine's Day Massacre. He stayed at the Irving-Childs Hot Springs Resort and came into town looking for Arizona bootleggers to help run illicit alcohol from California over to Mexico. Who more famous then the Arizona Bootlegger King!!! There were more then a few coinsidences... Al Capone was here around the same time that Joe Hall was in the Upper Verde Presinct Jail. Al Capone's name was found carved on the outside of the jail cell.
Al Capone FBI case record history can be read here.
Al Capone's name on jail cell
Inside Cottonwood Jail Cell
February 6th, 1932
Sheriff Jesse Hood was killed on the corner of Mason (today's Pinal St) and N. Main. He was stepping off the curb when he was struck down by a drunk driver, that carried him 75ft and dropped him at the rear door of the Cottonwood Hotel.
Jess E. Hood was one of the first deputies associated with this jail house. Hood was a well-known contractor who built several commercial structures, including the Cottonwood Hotel. He also erected the spa at Verde Hot Springs. He also created the special brick which many of the Main Street properties were rebuilt with after the 1925 town fire.
Coincidentally, this was about the time Al Capone was staying and hiding out at the Irving-Childs Verde Hot Springs Resort. This could very well be the connection to Capone’s carving of his name on the outside wall of the jailhouse cell. Capone was also looking for Arizona bootleggers and former saloon owners to help run booze across the Mexico borders.
HOOD, JESSE EDWARD (child of MARY JANE YATES (mother) and ROBERT AUSTIN HOOD who was born in MS) was born 28 Jan 1881 in ATLAS, TX;; died 6 Feb 1932 in YAVAPAI COUNTY, ARIZONA, U.S.A..
The jail was in the 1946 filming of the movie “Desert Fury” starring Burt Lancastor, ‘Lizabeth Scott, John Hodiac. (both outside and inside scenes)
To see more about movies filmed in Cottonwood Arizona click HERE.
Burt Lancaster~ (1946) Desert Fury ~ Cottonwood old jail
One of America’s “MOST WANTED” was found locked up in the old Cottonwood Arizona jail by sheriff Everick "Buck" Snoody. The suspect was then picked up by Los Angeles PD, taken back to California and sentenced to death...The 1967 Dragnet series “The Hammer”(was based on this true story)...
An elderly, widowed apartment manager had been beaten to death with a hammer by a 19-year-old tenant who robs him of his wedding ring and life savings – all $6.58 of it.
***See more on sheriff Buck Snoddy below...
The jail was in the 1967 filming of the movie “Stay Away, Joe”, starring Elvis Presley.
Cottonwood AZ Jail
Verde Valley Justice Court Cottonwood, AZ
Historic mural by Clyde Randolph Pyne on the north wall of the jail "Ezplaing the Law" see more
Explaining the Law
After the town of Cottonwood was incorporated in 1960, the jail was still the Verde Valley Justice Court, Cottonwood, AZ, as you can see in the above photo in the Elvis movie.
I am not sure when the city of Cottonwood changed the sign and ran as just the city ofCottonwood Police Department, as the photo to the right. It was sometime after the 1967 Elvis Presley's movie, "Stay Away, Joe" and before 1970. The Police Department in the early 1970's moved up the street to the old bank location, across from the present day city hall in the 800 block of N. Main. ***Today's city of Cottonwood Finance Department...
c1970s: After the police department moved up the street to the old bank location, the jail housed the Humane Society. The Lions Club helped raise money for the 1970s brick addition. A few years later, they needed and moved to a larger location. The Big Brothers-Big Sisters Not-For-Profit Group then moved into the jail house for awhile.
1993- Present: Visitor Center ~ Old Town Association (group supporting Old Town Merchants)
The picture to the right is one of the first photos found with the brick addition on the west side of the jail.
1960's Bob Bradshaw photo of Old Town Jail
June 2-3, 2001
I (Karen J. Leff of the Cottonwood Hotel) invited actor, Ermal Williamson, John Wayne impersonator to perform at the Cottonwood River Walk Celebration, for National Trail's Day and Grand Opening of the Jail Trail, part of the Verde River Greenway Riparian Habitat. He autographed for fans inside and outside the jail.
Ermal Williamson, recognized internationally as the JOHN WAYNE look-alike, has been impersonating The Duke professionally for years. Ermal is the actor who has made five national Coors Light Beer commercials as John Wayne. He has riden several times in the Festival of Roses Parade, and has patriotically performed at the Pre-Bowl events.
NOTE:If you ever need a John Wayne impersonator, get the best!!! Click on the photo to the right to go directly to Ermal Williamson's webSite...
Ermal appeared as John Wayne with members of the Duke's family, actors, and stuntmen at the John Wayne Convention in Akron Ohio, June of 1994, paying tribute to Duke in honor of his passing away. see more
Ermal stayed at the Cottonwood Hotel in the John Wayne Suite at the time of the grand opening of the "JAIL TRAIL"... see more HERE.
I also invited Bob Bradshaw, famous photographer of the Verde Valley, actor & owner of Bradshaw Ranch Movie Location to the Grand Opening of the Jail Trail. On this day he sat in the jail, where he autographed and shared his stories of the 144 movies that were filmed on his property between Cottonwood & Sedona on 525 at the Loy Rd. turn off.
Style shows Colonial Revival & Bungalow influences, 1 story. Roof form was originally pyramidal; now hip. Other character defining features of its massing, size and scale: Small cobblestone, jailhouse erected from stock plans provided by county; strongly resembles the Camp Verde Jailhouse, built by the WPA a few years later.
INTEGRITY… Original Site
DESIGN. In modern times, floor-plan expanded 50% by adding to west side. Roof changed from pyramidal to hip to accommodate the expansion. Fascia board added, covering original exposed rafter ends.
a)Walls: (structure) River cobble and c. brick
b)Walls: (sheathing) Unsheathed
c)Windows: Paired, wooden-sash, double hung, one over one windows
d)Roof: Hip, w/composition shingles
DESCRIPTION of the natural and/or built environment around the property...
At North end of N. Main St. is ***riparian vegetation to north of the Verde River; parking area to S/SE
How has the environment changed since the property was constructed? The riparian vegetation has grown back tremendously since the building was constructed.
***this Verde River riparian area is one of the world’s rarest of its kind. There are ONLY 20 left like it in the world. We have 5 here in the state of Arizona. This particular riparian is one of the five. The vegetation died off due to the smelter smoke…Reason why there was none around the jailhouse at the time of its construction.
Verde River Greenway Riparian Jail Trail
A Little History about Sheriff BUCK SNODDY
Buck Snoddy (yes, pronounced like you think) was a rural town Arizona cop back in the 1940s and 1950s (Buck caught the FBI's #1 Most Wanted one year, and was featured in a Dragnet episode a few years later after catching a fugitive from LAPD). Legend has it that Buck never issued a traffic ticket -- if you had been dangerous, he'd just arrest you, otherwise, you got a Buck Talk, during which he explained in excruciating detail the depths of your error. Few people wanted to chance another roadside chat!
An insight into his character are stories such as the time a kid came out of a dance after drinking a few more beers than he should have. Buck sees him weaving through the lot, comes up behind him, and as the kid digs his car keys out, shouts "Hey, how you doing, Mike?" and slaps the kid on the back. Of course, the keys fall to the ground. Buck kicks them under the car, then helps Mike look for them. He says "I have to go check the doors on Main Street, but I'll bring a flashlight back with me. Have a seat in your car, and I'll be back in a few minutes."
Mike, of course, sits down. Next think he knows, Buck is slamming his hand several times on the car roof to wake him up, and the sun is rising. Buck says "Enjoying the hangover? Your keys are under the car, now get the hell home and be smarter next week."
It would have been easier for him to arrest Mike for public drunkenness, or driving under the influence (the car doesn't have to move -- if the engine is running and a drunk is behind the wheel, that completes the crime). Instead, Buck cut a good kid some slack and gave him a lesson that was remembered 50 years later, not only by Mike, but by the guy who first told me the story and by others who had similar stories. Even people who weren't alive when he was there had their Buck stories, handed down from parents or grandparents.
When he died, many of the letters of mourning came from men he had put in prison.
2011 Letter: Fond memories of the old Cottonwood jail
Please don’t alter the jail in Cottonwood. I have fond memories of that jail as I spent an afternoon there as a guest of Cottonwood in the late 1930s. Highway Patrol Officer Vadrini (who lived in a house behind the community center) caught several of us kids being naughty by trying to pick locks off of garages (which we failed to do) and hustled us off to jail saying “you guys and gal will stay here until your parents ask me to release you.”
Our parents evidently thought it would be a good lesson and so we sweltered in jail until late afternoon when we were released.
I have just returned to my home town (Cottonwood) after 73 years. My family settled here in 1934. Losing the jail would not be a good thing for Old Town or old guys like me that have memories we cannot afford to lose.
Don’t know where the rest of our “gang” is today, but I am sure they were as scared as I was sitting in the Old Town Jail.
Due to the recent renovations of the old jail (summer of 2012), the historic integrity of the exterior of the jail has been lost and will not qualify to be listed indivually as a landmark on the National Register.
The city rents the jail house and it is now the Wild Rose Tea House. One of the jail cells is still available to tour. Please visit.
***Around the end of May, first part of June 2013 I was walking my dogs down the Jail Trail. A couple asked me, " where is the old jail? We can't seem to find it. Someone said it slid down the hill!!!"
My comment "OMG!!!" Why would someone say that!!! So much for history...