By Brad Courtney

In July 1868, Albert Noyes, a transplanted New Englander, began circulating a rumor throughout Prescott. Noyes was the co-owner and operator of the four-year-old town’s first sawmill, the Quartz Mountain Sawmill, and he promised that he was going to build a house of business the likes of which early Prescottonians had never seen.

By the second week of August, Noyes was frequently seen working at the corner of Montezuma and Gurley Streets where Hotel St. Michael now stands. With sleeves rolled up, he measured out lumber and barked instructions to his crew. Locals were amazed not only by how quickly the frame was going up but by its size. They soon learned the finished structure was to be a sixty- by twenty-eight foot, two-story building, almost 3400 square feet: mammoth for its time—especially along the western frontier. The second story would be reserved for civic organizations such as the Masons and Odd Fellows. The first? A first-class saloon.

Although Noyes was an original 1864 Prescottonian, he apparently wasn’t completely familiar with the sometimes-unpredictable behavior of Arizona’s monsoon season. It wasn’t the best time to be building. On August 14, shortly after construction began, an especially heavy storm hit that set Granite Creek, next to which his sawmill was situated, on a bender. A flashflood washed away whole logs and ready-to-be-used lumber set aside for Noyes’s grand project.

Undaunted, Noyes restarted. Again townsfolk were astonished at how fast his building was being raised. The frame was completed, partly roofed and shingled when on the last day of August monsoon weather rudely interfered again. During a particularly violent storm, a gust of wind blustered in from the north that was so strong that it toppled Noyes’s work into a giant pile.

The next day, the dismayed but still undefeated sawmill operator assembled his crew and immediately began rebuilding. By Friday, the entire two-story frame was back in place. The Miner proudly reported: “So we go, building and improving in spite of obstacles.”

Good fortune finally shone on Noyes throughout September. In early October, his prized edifice was finished. Prescott knew something special was now standing on the southwest corner of Montezuma and Gurley, and wonderful things were predicted. Although still unnamed, locals believed it would prove “an ornament to the town” and “some jolly old times inside its glittering walls” were anticipated.

The saloon section of the new building was originally expected to be run by Cal Jackson. Albert Noyes, however, either changed his mind about renting his masterpiece, or he was made an offer he couldn’t refuse by an ambitious Andrew Moeller.

“Doc” Moeller ventured west from Pennsylvania to California during the Argonaut days of 1849 like so many other future original Prescottonians. When Arizona became a U.S. territory in 1863, Moeller headed there and initially landed in what would later become Mohave County. However, in 1864, greater opportunities became available in a newly established settlement that speedily became the capital of Arizona Territory: Prescott.

In November 1864, Moeller accepted a job that would change the direction of his life. He became one of two bartenders at Prescott’s first significant saloon, the Quartz Rock on Granite Street. He must’ve earned ample tips, because on September 9, 1867, Moeller bought the place for $6600. A year later, he also purchased Noyes’s landmark structure on Montezuma Street for $8500.

Initially, it was simply called “Moeller’s building.” On the Thanksgiving evening of 1868, it was the site of Prescott’s first ball, which was attended by 200 souls, only forty of which were female. The opening night for the saloon, still unnamed, was December 5. The Miner declared that Moeller had made his “new billiard and drinking saloon [the] best finished and furnished in the Territory.” It wasn’t until 1869 that the bar’s name appeared in the Miner: the Diana Saloon.

Although the roots of Whiskey Row can be traced all the way back to 1864, the Diana was the first giant step in the row’s evolution; it was its cornerstone for fifteen years. For six of them it was Prescott’s top saloon. Indeed, countless “jolly old times” were had. Unfortunately, being constantly and heavily peopled also insured tragedy; the Diana hosted some of early Prescott’s bloodiest nights.

There is so much more. Join Brad Courtney, author of Prescott’s Original Whiskey Row, on Saturday, March 19, at 2 PM at the Sharlot Hall Museum where he will be presenting the fuller story entitled “The Origins of Whiskey Row.”

“Days Past” is a collaborative project of the Sharlot Hall Museum and the Prescott Corral of Westerners International (www.prescottcorral.org). This and other Days Past articles are also available at www.sharlot.org/library-archives/days-past. The public is encouraged to submit proposed articles to dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com.Please contact SHM Library & Archives reference desk at 928-445-3122 Ext. 14, or via email at dayspastshmcourier@gmail.com for information.