By Ken Edwards

Before the “Great Fire” of 1900 in downtown Prescott, a three-story stone and brick hotel stood on the southwest corner of Montezuma and Goodwin streets.  Generally known as the Scopel Hotel, it was officially the Grand View House.

Builder of the Grand View was Ferdinand Scopel, an Italian immigrant who arrived in the Prescott area in 1882 at the age of 24. 

Ferdinand knew enough about mining to venture into prospecting and mining in Arizona.  Reportedly down to his last dollar, he made a discovery of gold in Crook Canyon in the Hassayampa district, about thirteen miles from Prescott.  He struck a rich vein, and began working it with a single mule and an arrastra.  He named his claim the Venezia.

After selling his mining interests at a goodly profit in 1894, Scopel began a new career as a real estate entrepreneur in town.  In 1895 he broke ground on his hotel across from the Courthouse Plaza.  The building was reported the following January to be the finest business building constructed in Prescott up to that time.

In December 1896, Ferdinand married a Swiss miss by the name of Louisa Hierholzer.  The new Mrs. Scopel became quite active in operation of the hotel and management of other properties.

On July 14, 1900, a fire was started by a neglected miner's candle in a wood frame building adjoining the Scopel Hotel.  The town reservoir on Mt. Vernon St. had gone dry because of over-usage while the pumping station was down for repairs.  With a strong breeze from the south blowing the flames toward the Scopel/Grand View hotel, the fire chief had to decide whether to dynamite the hotel to stop the fire's progress or hope that the brick structure would prevent the fire from spreading.  He chose the latter. The hotel was rapidly consumed by the fire, and soon most of downtown Prescott also went up in flames. The fire chief was heavily criticized for his decision.

Almost immediately, Scopel began construction of a new lodging house on the site of the former Grand View.  By October, 1900, three months after the fire, Scopel opened a new temporary lodging house and saloon on the site of his former Grand View hotel.  The lodging house was newly outfitted and advertised as the Scopel House, “fine rooms, everything new.

By late 1903, Scopel had yet another new hotel under construction at the corner site where his first hotel had burned down.  The Arizona Miner reported “... Scopel has commenced work on his building on the corner of Montezuma and Goodwin streets...The new sand stone brick will be used.  This will make one of the handsomest buildings in the city when done.”

The new Scopel hotel was even larger and more impressive than the first.  Ferdinand operated it until 1921, selling it abruptly less than a month after his wife's death.  During the early 1900s, Scopel was involved in many real estate transactions and built additional houses in town.  He bought and sold mortgages as well as residential and commercial properties. He also occasionally ran afoul of the law.

In 1910, Scopel was convicted of stealing water from the city of Prescott by bypassing the water meter for part of his hotel.  He received a fine but no jail time.  Five years later, he was convicted of bootlegging and was given jail time.  Not much later, he pled guilty to allowing gambling in the lobby of the Scopel hotel and was fined $100.  The wealthy entrepreneur was not entirely free of vices.

F. A. Meyer of San Diego bought the Scopel Hotel in 1921.  Meyer made some improvements to the building, changed the name to the Highland Hotel, and sold it a year later.  The Highland was eventually torn down in 1938.

Three years after his wife's death, Scopel married her younger sister, Emma.  Like Louisa, Emma took an active part in operation of his various enterprises.  On March 11, 1931, Ferdinand died in his apartment on South Cortez St.  He was 72 years old.  He was buried in Mountain View Cemetery (as were his two wives).  There were no Scopel children.

“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.