Blanche Russell Rock Houses

A few years ago, after a visit to the Grand Canyon, we drove east on Hgw 64, then north on Hgws 89 and 89A. We crossed the Colorado River on the Navajo Bridge, and were on final approach to the Vermillion Cliffs when we were surprised to see some mushroom shaped rocks that looked like a group of Smurfs had built houses under them.

Arizona

We stopped to investigate  and quickly realized they really were ‘Tiny Houses’. A worn and badly damaged sign nearby told the story of  Blanche Russell  and her husband William (Bill), whose car broke down in the area in about 1927 (or maybe 1920)…

Arizona

The pair took shelter under the mushroom rocks over night. Blanche liked the area so much that she bought the property and built permanent structures. She lived there for about 10 years and operated a business.

Arizona

Arizona

Arizona

When I looked online for more information about the Blanche Russel Rock Houses, I found a number of  ‘folklore’ stories on several sites:

“Around 1927, Blanch Russell’s car broke down as she traveled through this area. Forced to camp overnight, she decided she liked the scenery so well that she bought the property and stayed. The stone buildings under these balanced rocks were built shortly after that in the 1930’s.”
http://arizona.untraveledroad.com/Coconino/HouseRock/56SSign.htm

“The Old Cliff Dwellers’ Lodge (Blanche Russell Rock House) is located on 89-A in Marble Canyon, AZ…  Blanche built a meager lean-to against the largest rock of many… and gradually built a life by serving food to passer-bys visiting the Grand Canyon. Guests of particular interest included Mormons traveling the nearby Honeymoon Trail to the temple in St. George, Utah.”
– zdziarski –

“Blanche Russell was a successful dancer in a series of sophisticated theatrical productions called The Ziegfeld Follies. Blanche left the limelight when her husband Bill was diagnosed with Pulmonary Tuberculosis… They immediately purchased the land and constructed a unique rock house which they later converted into a roadside trading post. The structure was built with stacked rock against a large fallen boulder… The original home remains on the property today… They started serving food to travelers and later found themselves running a full-scale restaurant, trading post and even selling gasoline. The area became so popular, travelers began to refer to the area as Soup Creek or House Rock Valley… After a decade, the Russell’s grew tired of the desolate desert and sold the land to a rancher named Jack Church, who later turned the restaurant into a bar. It wasn’t but three years later when he sold the establishment to Art & Evelyn Greene.”
–  theproperfunction –

“According to author Kay Campbell, who wrote a booklet about the Cliff Dwellers lodges, (Cliff dweller’s old and new: A history of the rock “village” on Highway 89A near Lee’s Ferry – 1998) the Russells sold water they took out of nearby Soap Springs and also sold pigeons out of a coop they kept at the site.” (This booklet is listed on Amazon, but is not available for purchase.)
–  azcentral –

“By the 1930’s, their full-scale restaurant evolved to include a trading post, both of which are just a stone’s throw further down the road. The little settlement, known as Soup Creek or Houserock Valley, included several attendant outbuildings.”
– frametoframe –

Jack Church, who added his own personal touch by turning the restaurant into a bar during World War II. In 1943, third owners, Art and Evelyn Greene, purchased the land. They kept the old dwelling, which then consisted of eight buildings and a gas generator.”
– kitchensaremonkeybusiness –

In 2001, Sandy Nevills Reiff interviewed Evelyn Greene for  the Northern Arizona University. The Greene family established trading posts, restaurants, and motels in the region. Evelyn’s recollection was that  Blanche Russell and her husband had come from New York in about 1920 or 1921. (She says the exact dates are in their archives, which are at ASU.) Evelyn says that Blanche and her husband set up a small business by the road side. Since the husband couldn’t do much in the way of helping, they would ask their customers to help them lay blocks and rocks to  make the buildings.
– archive/transcripts/greenetranscript –

The only verifiable source facts I could find about the Blanche Russell story were  William Russel’s Death Certificate and the Patent for the land:

According to an Arizona State Board of Health’s Certificate of Death, William Pat Russel of Soap Creek, Coconino County, died July 27, 1936 of chronic myocarditis and mitral regurgitation. He was born on May 10, 1864 in Boston Mass, and was 72 years old when he died. He worked at a Service Station. He was married to Blanche Russell (nee Dodge) of Cameron Arizona. His father was Wm. Russell Sr. and his mother was Mary Sheets. He was buried in Flagstaff.
– genealogy arizona –

The Bureau of Land Management holds the document that shows Blanche A. Russell, the widow of William Russell, was issued the Patent for 400 Acres of land on 1/11/1939.

The Bureau of Land Management also shows that Art Greene acquired 40 acres of Blanche’s property (039N – 006E SE¼SE¼ 28) on 4/21/1955.
– glorecords –

The Arizona State University Libraries Archivist was kind enough to look through the Greene Family Collection for me. The only relevant item he found was a negative photostat copy of a 1930’s application for homestead by William Russell for the land Cliff Dweller’s Lodge occupies. (That application was denied by the federal government.)

Google Maps for the area:

Google Map – Blanche Russell Rock Houses (Cliff Dweller’s Stone House)
Google Map – Blanche Russell Rock Houses (Cliff Dweller’s Stone House)

So many questions, so few answers about a woman, who by all accounts, was a remarkably resourceful and adventurous person!

Wouldn’t you love to know ‘the rest of the story’!

I’d Rather Be… Here than There

March is a strange month.

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations –

I’d rather be here where it is warm:

Warm and sunny Arizona

Than there where it is cold:

Cold and snowy Alberta

This week’s WordPress.com Photo Challenge is I’d Rather Be…

Where would you rather be?

This is the Week That Was: March 10, 2018 – TEDTalk Anne Lamott (Video)

When Grammar and Punctuation Walk into a Bar
I’ve posted a new series of quotations on my blog,under the category The Quippery. They are  jokes about Walking into a Bar, but the subjects who do the walking are unusual.

The Trials of Being Senior

The other day, my mom asked Siri to find information on senior self-defense.
Siri: “Looking for information on seniors in Depends.”
After a couple of such unsuccessful attempts, my mom gave up.
– Dawnette Moore Thompson, comment on Mike Rowe’s Facebook Page –

A Belated In Memoriam

Women loved (Alan) Rickman: He wasn’t movie-star handsome – not Kevin Costner male-lead handsome – but he oozed both a predatory sensuality and a kind of indifferent hauteur and the combination was irresistible. His mesmeric baritone could sound knee-tremblingly sexy when he was asking if you’d like fries with that.
– Mark Steyn –

To Be, or Not to Be

The way to do is to be. — Leo-tzu, Chinese philosopher
The way to be is to do. — Dale Carnegie
Do be, do be, do. — Frank Sinatra
– A Three part missive written in about 1968 on the wall at Bud’s Tool Cribs by Bud Crew, a Salesman and an Anonymous person-

Does this describe President Trump?

Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
-Steve Jobs –

Speaking of Donald Trump
It would be hard to pick the best lines he delivered at the Annual dinner of the Gridiron Club and Foundation. He started with

I was very excited to receive this invitation and ruin your evening in person. That’s why I accepted.

and closed with

I just want to say this, this is one of the best times I’ve had with the media — this might be the most fun I’ve had since watching your faces on election night.

Last Trump Reference, Honest!
I heard the Secret Service had to change their commands. They can’t say “Get down!” anymore when the President is under attack. Now it’s “Donald! Duck!”

Prime Minister Trudeau – Can Gender Neutrality be Fun?

Canada’s Prime Minister has admitted he doesn’t have the best track records with jokes. At a recent Townhall Meeting, he responded to a woman who said “… change the future of mankind” by suggesting she say “… ‘peoplekind,’ not necessarily ‘mankind’,” adding that the former is more inclusive. He later said he was just ‘lightly ribbing the woman.’

The Trudeau Government is a leader in women’s rights, equality and power dynamics of gender. In keeping with that, Canada recently passed a bill that would make the country’s national anthem gender-neutral by changing the phrase “in all they sons command” to “in all of us command.”

Personally, I wonder how our vocabulary would change if we were required, either by practice or law, to speak ‘gender neutrality’. Is the word ‘person’ gender neutral? (It contains the word ‘son’.) Is the word ‘woman’ gender neutral? (It contains the word ‘man’.) Is the word ‘human’ gender neutral? And finally, do we have to change ‘Manitoba’ (a Canadian province) to Peopletoba’?

12 Things I Learned from Life and Writing by Anne Lamott

So I sat down a few days before my 61st birthday, and I decided to compile a list of everything I know for sure. There’s so little truth in the popular culture, and it’s good to be sure of a few things…
Number 2: almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.
– Anne Lamott –

What was Mildly Amusing to you this week?