Historic Clark Mansion destroyed; fire called 'suspicious'

CLARKDALE - Long boarded-up and prone to repeated vandalism, the historic Clark Mansion, towering over Peck's Lake for decades, succumbed to flames Friday morning. The cause of the fire has not yet been determined and an investigation is under way.

Only the walls, chimneys and fireplaces remain standing of the original structure, which was fully-gutted by the fire. That structure is so fragile that it was considered too dangerous to enter the building to investigate. Fire Marshal Rick Contreras from Cottonwood and Inspector Barbara Rice of Camp Verde called for Sedona's 100-foot tall ladder to allow them to look at the interior from above.

Initially, smoke was reported in the area, according to Clarkdale Fire Chief Joe Moore, "and then we began receiving calls of fire in the Clark Mansion. By that time, the structure was already fully involved." Flames from the two-story structure were reported about 4:30 a.m. Friday, bringing out fire companies and crews from throughout the Verde Valley.

Moore says once crews began arriving, a power concern slowed the attack. It was discovered a power cable to the house that fell electrified the fence surrounding the mansion. Crews could not use water until APS turned off power to the circuit, extending the suppression by another 20 minutes.

Moore sais it is "gut-wrenching to have such a cultural loss to the heritage of the community." At the same time, the chief said he is "very grateful, very appreciative of the quick response of fire companies from surrounding communities" to help extinguish the blaze. The fire brought out crews from Jerome, Cottonwood, Verde Valley, Camp Verde and Sedona. A total of 13 pieces of firefighting apparatus and 26 fire fighters staffed the blaze.

Though the investigation is not complete, Moore says the agency considers the blaze "suspicious" since there would not be any other source of heat or flame, unless someone was in the building.

He believes the structure is near collapse. The one-foot thick walls appear to be poured concrete and the structure is badly cracked from the heat of the fire.

Crews were not able to do the final mop-up operations until almost noon Friday.

The mansion was built over Peck's Lake in the 1930s by William "Tersius" Clark, the grandson of W. A. Clark who established the rich United Verde Mine. At one time, the mansion was adjacent to a nine-hole golf course, clubhouse and dance hall. The dance hall also burned by fire.

Sherry Bailey of the Clarkdale Community Development Department says Freeport McMoRan was in the process of transferring the mansion to Verde Exploration, which wanted to hold it for future restoration. That transfer was reportedly about one month away, when the mansion was destroyed by fire.

By PHILIP WRIGHT, Staff Reporter

CLARKDALE - The Clark Mansion, a Clarkdale landmark since the United Verde Copper Company heir William Clark III, grandson of Clarkdale's founder William Andrews Clark, built it in the late 1920s, was destroyed by fire early Friday morning.

Young Clark was gaining control over the Clarkdale holdings when he moved with his wife, Thelma, into the mansion built just above Peck's Lake. The family created a golf course alongside Peck's Lake with a clubhouse and dance pavilion.

On May 15, 1932 Bill Clark was flying over the mountains east of the home with Jack Lynch, Charles Lindberg's flying teacher. Clark's young wife was reported to have been sitting on the back deck of the home watching her husband fly. She reportedly saw the plane crash.

It was generally believed that Lynch was teaching Clark to fly blind on instruments only.

Local reports say that Thelma Clark did not live in the house long after her husband tragically died at the age of 29.

Since Thelma moved out, the home has been a residence, restaurant, golf clubhouse and even a barn. One story reports that a tenant was found by Phelps-Dodge agent John McMillan to be storing hay and livestock on the mansion's first floor.

The basement and two main floors of the home were constructed of brick, steel and cement. The mansion contained seven bedrooms and five bathrooms, with large rooms with high ceilings and oak floors. The home also had arched windows and standup sinks in the large bathrooms.

The mansion's kitchen had a wall of iceboxes lining the service entrance, and leaded glass windows highlighted the living and dining rooms.

(Thanks to the volunteers of the Clarkdale Heritage Center and Clarkdale Councilwoman Pat Williams for their help with the information in this story.)


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