Archive for November, 2010

The San Pedro Valley Arts & Historical Museum

November 15, 2010


In 1983, the San Pedro valley Arts & Crafts League and the local Historical Society merged to form the San Pedro Valley Arts and Historical Society in Benson. Today’s museum is housed in a 1920’s store building once owned by W. D. Martinez, a local grocer. The grocery display is part of the original store. William D. Martinez, born in Magdalena, Sonora, Mexico sold the store to the Steinfeld family who used it as a laundry, grocery store, and promoted it as a place to make soap, but that never materialized. The Ivey family purchased the building in 1937 and from that time until 1983 it was used for storage. The Ivey’s also owned a drugstore and a Phillips gasoline service station in Tombstone. A separate building on the museum premises houses an art display and interactive quilting experience. Museum quilters are available to teach quilting history and give the visitor a chance to help with the quilting. The visitor can also see historic quilts from the area.

            The visitor registration desk, the bookkeeper’s desk and filing cabinet came from the old Cochise County Bank. Harold Edson donated the roll top desk.  It belonged to the Lewis Brothers who had a garage at 4th and Huachuca Streets, current location of the Circle K. The green safe which once served the Benson school, was donated by the school. The black safe was donated by the City of Benson.

            The lovely large museum doors are original to the building. The optometric chair and equipment belonged to Dr. Robert Friske who was Benson’s optometrist for many years. His daughter Tammy took over and operated the business until she left in 1994. The portable sewing machine belonged to Winn Bundy’s mother and the treadle to Merlin Rose. Winn Bundy runs the unique Singing Wind book shop from her ranch just outside of Benson. Anyone at  the museum can direct the visitor to Winn’s “must see” book shop.

            The pot-bellied stove in the grocery store rode the Southern Pacific mail train for many years. Also on exhibit is Benson’s first refrigerator which was used at the Hi-Wo Grocery and Mercantile on the corner of 4th and Gila Streets. Hi Wo, born in China, operated the mercantile for almost a century. The mercantile is still owned by his descendants and is on the National Historic register. The metates and mano were found locally. Vay Fenn found the millstone in Sinaloa, Mexico, near an old Spanish mine. It probably dates to the 1600’s.

            The museum gift shop has local handcrafted items, greeting cards, Benson items, cookbooks, and Arizona history books. Every year the museum hosts a month long series of art classes for students from the surrounding area. A variety of projects are available to fit the children’s interests.

            The museum’s research library consists of hundreds of files on subjects pertaining to the area. It includes old newspapers, photographs, journals, directories and oral history collection from local residents. Contact the museum for terms of usage.

            Don’t miss the horse drawn school bus which carried many a Benson child to school. The museum had to provide a special building to house this vehicle.

Tel. No. 520-586-3070 Web Site: The San Pedro Valley Arts & Historical Museum San Pedro & 5th  PO Box 1090

Benson AZ 85602

Kartchner Caverns

November 2, 2010

It all began with a drop of water. More than 330 million years ago, a shallow inland sea covered part of Southern Arizona and deposited layers of sediment that eventually hardened into limestone. This limestone, along with other rock layers, rose up to form southern Arizona’s Whetstone Mountains. Kartchner Caverns’ modern story began in 1974 when two cave explorers barely out of their teens, Randy Tufts and Gary Tenen explored the Whetstone Mountains. When they felt warm moist air rise from a tiny sinkhole, they knew they had found a cave.

Tufts and Tenen climbed down the hole through tunnels and discovered a series of amazing caverns. Four years later they shared their secret with the property owners, James and Lois Kartchner. Tufts and Tenen spent the next two years exploring the caverns which they called Xanadu, a place of great beauty, was taken from Coleridge’s poem Kubla Khan. They knew that Kartchner Caverns required protection and for twelve years they kept their secret from the public. Both the owners and the discoverers realized that they could not develop and preserve the caverns on their own.

They needed the Arizona government. They lowered Arizona Governor Bruce Babbitt down into the rattlesnake infested sinkhole. During several clandestine tours, trusted government employees were blindfolded and taken into the caverns. Through quiet legislative work, Arizona State Parks purchased property and Kartchner Caverns State Park development began in 1988.

Not only did the underground need development but there had to be an above ground discovery center. The Kartchner Caverns’ Discovery Center features museum exhibits, a large gift shop, regional displays, theater, and educational information about the caverns and the surrounding landscape. There are also campgrounds, hiking trails, lockers, shaded picnic areas, a deli, an amphitheater, and a hummingbird garden. The exhibits describe the important paleontological finds including an 80,000 year old Shasta ground sloth, a 34,000 year old horse’s head and an 11,000 year old bear, but no human remains.

Inside the cave, two large galleries present the visitor with a kaleidoscope of color displaying 100-foot ceilings dripping with multi-hued stalactites and stalagmites jutting up from the floor. Kartchner Caverns is a “living” cave, whose formations are still growing. Dainty white helictites, translucent orange bacon, and shields of white calcite adorn this natural wonder. Rare quartz needles form “birds nests” nitrocalcite “cotton” these are two separate formations birdnest quartz needles and nitrocalcite cotton and array of (brushite moon milk always) during the cooler wet seasons. Kartchner Caverns has the -4th longest in the world is the recorded longest in the United States. This extraordinary thin stalactite hangs tenuously for twenty-one feet sand two inches from the cave’s ceiling. The soda straw grows one/64th of an inch in a year and it took 16,500 years to achieve its length. Besides the unique Xanadu and soda straw, Kartchner Caverns features the world’s most extensive formation of brushite moonmilk, this is located on the top of rock calcite moonmilk is on the ceiling (should a drop fall on you it is a fairy kiss and you will have good luck), the first –described by Carol Hill in Cave Minerals of the World occurrence of “turnip” shields, and the first cave occurrence of “birds nest” needle quartz formations

Then staff at the park developed a Natural History Curriculum in honor of its discoverers, with a view of children becoming stewards of the environment. Many exhibits in the Discovery Center will appeal to young people. A “caving wall” allows children to create the experience of crawling through narrow cave passages. Animal displays introduce kids to the unique creatures that live in and around the cave. Having their picture taken with the Giant Sloth is a favorite activity. Through activities and lessons, it is hoped that students in grades K through 6 will develop an appreciation of the geological and biological forces that have created such a magnificent cave as Kartchner Caverns. These lessons are also intended to promote an understanding of the relationship between humans and their environment. Students will be encouraged to think about their choices the consequences of their actions. 

There are two tours: the Rotunda/Throne Tour and the Big Room Tour. The Rotunda/Throne Room tour, opened in 1999, is available year-round.   During the tour the visitor learns about the role that water plays in creating the cavern, while seeing the discoverers’ original trail, 45,000 year-old bat guano, delicate formations and “Kubla Khan,” the magnificent fifty-eight-foot column.  The Big Room Tour, which opened in 2003, is available from mid-October to mid-April when there are no bats. During the summer months, the cave’s Big Room serves as a nursery for more than 1,000 female cave bats Myotis velifer. The pregnant females return to Kartchner Caverns around the end of April, where they give birth to a single pup in late June. The babies remain in the roost each evening while their mothers forage for insects in the surrounding countryside. During the summer the colony consumes about half a ton of insects, consisting of moths, flying ants, beetles, mosquitoes and termites. Mothers and their offspring will leave mid-September, to begin their migration for their winter hibernation roost.

After returning to the bat roost from their nightly forays, the bats excrete waste, forming large guano piles. Most life forms in the cave depend on these guano piles for their food. No items such as bags, purses, packs, bottled water, etc are allowed into the cave. The cave has an average temperature of -70° Fahrenheit (22° Celsius) and 99% humidity year-round, so it will feel very warm and – humid. Most areas are =-gently lit and some passages may pass through narrow or enclosed areas. 90% of the tour has handrails. All of  the trails are wheelchair, and scooter accessible and are barrier free. If a person has mobility issues we have wheelchairs available to accommodate them. This may be difficult for persons with mobility, respiratory or claustrophobia issues. Young children may become uncomfortable in the cave environment. In these instances, the child and parent will be allowed to leave the cave tour for their well being and safety. Extraordinary precautions have been taken during its development to conserve the cavern’s near-pristine condition

Kartchner Caverns State Park,,PO Box 1849, Benson AZ 85602, Tel No. 520- 586-4183, Web Site: