Sunday, April 18, 2010

The House of Apache Fire

Red Rock State Park is reached by a seven-mile loop road off US 89A just southwest of Sedona.

The two rock formations that greeted us as we parked at the Visitor Center presented a clear indication for the name of the park. The day we visited the Park, two artists were putting this scene on canvas.

After a short stop at the Center, we headed down the Bunkhouse Trail to the Kingfisher Bridge. Here we crossed Arizona's famous Oak Creek, which meanders through this scenic park.

We then picked up the Kisva Trail, one of the five miles of interconnecting trails that wind through manzanita and juniper along the rich banks of Oak Creek.

From this trail, we could see the House of Apache Fire, built by Jack and Helen Frye in 1947. The House was named for the smoke from the campfires of the Yavapai Apache employed in the construction.

Branching off the Kisva Trail, the Apache Fire Trail changed from the dirt brown base to a base of red soil. The soil and rocks get their color from hematite, or iron oxide. The Apache Fire Trail rises an easy 100 feet in elevation as it makes its way to the House of Apache Fire.

From this view, we could see the fence around what appeared to be an abandoned House of Apache Fire. Our guess was that there was a story behind its present state.

And there is.

While you look at the views of the red rocks from the House, the story goes like this.

Jack Frye, President of TWA during World War II, and Helen Frye, formerly Mrs. Cornelius Vanderbilt, Jr. and a prominent artist, who was one of the founders of what would later become the Sedona Arts Center, were divorced in 1950 with Smoke Trail Ranch going to Helen.

In the 1970's, Helen became interested in an esoteric spiritual group called "Eckankar, the ancient Science of Soul Travel." Founded in 1964, by Paul Twitchell (died in 1971), the group has since become known as "another American Cult."

She established a Gift Deed in 1976 transferring physical ownership of the House of Apache Fire to the Eckankar group, but under the condition that it not be sold.

It appears that the group developed the House of Apache Fire for the personal retreat of Eckankar's leaders. At this time many damaging alterations were made to the house.

Violating the terms of the Gift Deed following Helen's death, the Eckankar organization sold the property in 1980 to the Anamax Mining Company.

Anamax Mining Company traded the property to the State of Arizona in 1986 for other parcels of land. Through the influence of former AZ Governor Bruce Edward Babbitt, a 286-acres parcel of the Smoke Trail Ranch, including the House of Apache Fire, was converted into Red Rock Park.

The is hope that the home will be restored . . . someday.

1 comment:

Lisa Schnebly Heidinger said...

This is a cogent and clear account of a beautiful place; the best I've read. As great-granddaughter of Sedona Schnebly and a journalist, I'm always delighted to see someone create something as skillfully as you have that shows and tells an important aspect of the Oak Creek Canyon story. Thank you!