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The McClarty House

The McClarty home on Central Avenue.

The McClarty home on Central Avenue.

This Queen Anne-style home, large, but not a mansion, was typical of the residential housing that once lined downtown Phoenix, but was razed in the 1960s and 1970s, when the central city seemed to be suited for nothing better than parking.

The address was 621 S. Central Ave., and it stood right on the corner of Central and Grant Street, in an area that is now dominated by warehouses.

Large for its era, with two stories and an attic, it was the third home of Phoenix pioneer George William McClarty, a long-time Arizona lawman and miner.

When McClarty came to Phoenix in the late 1880s, Maricopa County abounded in wildlife, and people ate elk and deer nearly as much as beef and fowl. South Mountain, which did not become a park until the 1920s, was rich in wildlife, and, as it turned out, minerals.

At the turn of the century, McClarty, who was prospecting south of town, hit pay dirt deep in what is now South Mountain Park. He named his mine the Max Delta and founded the Max Delta Mining Co., eventually selling it for the sum of $10,000, a small fortune at the time.

With the proceeds, he built this house, where he lived with his family until dying from complications of a scorpion sting in 1924.

Besides the dormers and gingerbread emblematic of the Queen Anne style, the house sported two outdoor porches, which were essential in Phoenix before the 1930s, when swamp coolers and residential air conditioning first came to Arizona.

The front porch is the one on the left, beside the brick bay. The upstairs held four bedrooms; the downstairs had two bedrooms on either side of a bath, as well as a parlor, a living room, a dining room and a kitchen, plus a large service area.

Carved red cherry wood framed the doorways and ran along the walls. A wooden sideboard was built into one of the dining room walls, and carved pocket doors that slid from carved wood casements connected the parlor to the living and dining rooms.

A large white stone fireplace stood in the living room. To reach the upstairs, guests walked through a spacious hallway that led to a large wooden staircase, the richly carved railing of which ended in a curl at the bottom of the stairs.

Life-long resident Mickey Hegg remembers that curl well, because at the age of three, after sliding down the railing, she got caught in the curl long enough for her mother to catch her.

By then, it was 1943, and the owner was Mickey’s grandmother and George William’s widow, Norah McNamara McClarty.

Norah McClarty (nicknamed Ginty) was herself a pioneer, having come to Arizona in 1883. By 1943, she seemed to her granddaughter a leftover from the Victorian Age, still was wearing long dresses – by then completely out of style, raising turkeys and chickens and maintaining a kitchen garden.

And she reserved the parlor for formal company only, which meant that young Mickey didn’t really get to see what it looked like.

According to family tradition, Ginty’s husband, George William, once saved one of Geronimo’s sons from drowning. That led to a special relationship between their families, both during and after the Apache wars.

The details are lost to history, but Mickey remembers that an Apache sometimes came calling on her Aunt Ginty, and that others in the family seemed to know what was going on.

The man always looked the same, wearing white trousers, a red velvet shirt, brown leather moccasins and a red band that held his lightly silvered dark hair in place.

Unlike a Navajo, he wore no heavy jewelry. He always carried a small bundle, wrapped in white paper and tied with a string, which Mickey’s mother told her was mutton.

Ginty would usher the unknown Apache into the parlor, where they would talk for a little while; then he would leave. He stopped coming when she died in November of 1943.

The house passed to Ginty’s oldest daughter, Gracey Matilda McClarty Bunn, but upon her death it was sold to the First National Bank (now Wells Fargo) and the family association with it ended.

It looked much like the Rosson House, which today is an attraction in Heritage Square. But unlike the Rosson House, the McClarty house was not saved. The bank tore it down to build a much-needed parking lot.

— Gary K. Weiand. Photo courtesy Mickey Hegg.

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