Grace Marian Sparkes  (b. 1893, d. 1963)
Grace M. Sparkes Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center, 824 E. Gurley Street, Prescott Grace M. Sparkes Activity Center sign
Grace Marian Sparkes spent her life promoting Yavapai County, overseeing the Prescott Frontier Days Association, the local chamber of commerce, and working to establish many historic and commercial establishments that define the region. Her work with local business and political leaders was vital to promoting tourism in the area.

Region: North Central Arizona
Theme: Women and Community Building, Women at Work

Graces Sparkes was born in Lead, South Dakota, in 1893, and moved to Arizona with her family in 1907. She graduated from St. Joseph's Academy in 1910 and attended Lamson Business College in Phoenix. From 1911 until 1945, she served as the secretary of the Prescott Chamber of Commerce, later renamed the Yavapai County Chamber of Commerce. She was secretary of the Prescott Frontier Days Association for 30 years, establishing rodeo rules that are still used by professionals today, and she is credited with creating Prescott's slogan, "Cowboy Capital of the World."

Sparkes understood the need for first class accommodations to cater to tourists and to put Prescott on the map, so in 1919 she approached local business leaders and Mayor Morris Goldwater to raise the money to build the Hassayampa Inn. Opening in 1927, the hotel hosted such notables as Will Rogers, Greta Garbo, Clark Gable and Tom Mix. She also saw the need for a retirement facility for early settlers, and worked with local residents to establish the Arizona Pioneers' Home.

She played a crucial role in preserving the region's unique history and, as a result of her efforts, numerous sites benefited: the Coronado National Memorial was created in the Huachuca Mountains, land was added to the Montezuma Castle National Monument, the Tuzigoot Indian Ruins near Clarkdale were renovated, and the Old Governor's Mansion in Prescott was restored. During the Great Depression she worked with Sharlot Hall and the New Deal Civil Works Administration to establish the "House of a Thousand Hands," the stone house now called the Sharlot Hall Building at the Sharlot Hall Museum. Through her efforts, the Veterans' Administration Hospital was founded at Fort Whipple. In 1935, she worked with Sharlot Hall and Yavapai-Prescott Indian leaders, Sam and Viola Jimulla, to convince the federal government to set aside 75 acres of land for the Yavapai Reservation. This was the first reservation established solely for the Yavapai Indians in the state. In addition to her work securing funding and support for these projects, she wrote articles for publications that promoted northern Arizona and still managed to find time to hike and tend to her mining interests in the Texas Canyon area near Benson.

Sparkes never married. She served on the Arizona State Board of Welfare and worked on the Arizona Exhibit at the Chicago World's Fair in 1934. After her death in 1963, the Grace Sparkes Activity Center at 824 E. Gurley St. was named in memory of the vital contributions she made to the City of Prescott.

For further information see the Grace Sparkes Collection at the Arizona Historical Foundation.

Photo Credits:
Grace M. Sparkes - Courtesy of the Sharlot Hall Museum


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