For being a small city wedged in among the resplendent red rocks, there’s a lot of interesting trivia about Sedona. As we at Sky Ranch Lodge uncover more little known facts, we will continue to add to this page on our web site. Have fun discovering Sedona trivia!
John Wayne, Graffiti Artist
John Wayne left his mark on Sedona…literally.
When he was filming “Tall in the Saddle” between mid-April and mid-June 1944, John Wayne filmed several of his scenes up Sedona’s Schnebly Hill Road. One day, one of the crew teased John Wayne until the famous movie star picked up a piece of charcoal from the camp fire and wrote “The Duke” on the red rock canyon wall. His signature is still there, preserved forever on one of the turns to the right as you are going up the hill.
Rx Marks the Spot
In 1934, the archbishop of Los Angeles said “No.”
In 1937, a convent of Hungarian Roman Catholic nuns said “Yes” but Hitler convinced everyone otherwise.
What is it? The location for what is now Sedona’s Chapel of the Holy Cross.
Here’s the rest of the story:
In 1932, artist and architect, Marguerite Brunswig Staude, envisioned a church to glorify God. Unfortunately, this woman of strong faith could not find a location and, after striking out in 1934 and 1937, Mrs. Stuade put her plans on hold.
Then, World War II intervened.
Concerned about the threat of a Japanese attack on the West Coast, Mrs. Staude and her husband, Tony, decided to move inland. After buying Doodlebug Ranch in 1941, they settled safely in Sedona.
Moving with her was Mrs. Staude’s dream of building her chapel to honor her deeply religious (and now deceased) parents. Could she build her chapel in Sedona? Maybe but where?
One day, while on a plane ride scouting for a location, she spotted an “Rx” painted at the base of a magnificent red rock outcropping soaring 200 feet into the sapphire-colored sky. Considering that her parents had run the Brunswig Wholesale Drug Co., she considered the “Rx” (the medical symbol for a prescription) as a sign from them on where to build her chapel.
And right above the Rx is exactly where the Chapel of Holy Cross is today!
John Wayne, Supporter of Trees
John Wayne tromped up Schnebly Hill more than once in his movie career. In 1944, he filmed “Tall in the Saddle” in that curvy canyon. In 1947, he came back to film, “Angel and the Bad Man” along that same rustic road.
At Merry-Go-Round Rock, which is about half-way up Schnebly Hill, The Duke stopped to stretch out his arm and lean against a gnarled, many branched Juniper. Since then, tourists and locals alike have leaned against that tree, imitating John Wayne’s pose against the Juniper.
If you listen real careful-like, you might hear a whisper in the wind, a drawl of that famous cowboy warning passersby, “Get your hand off my tree, Pilgrim. You can either leave…or you can go!”
What Do an Abandoned Car and a Wild Ride in a Stagecoach Have in Common?
Answer: Schnebly Hill.
Schnebly Hill is a very steep, very rustic, and in short, a very wild stretch of road.
Think we’re kidding? Watch the runaway stagecoach careen wildly down Schnebly Hill in the 1944 Western, “Tall in the Saddle.” If that scene did not give you pause, consider that there is still an abandoned car at the very bottom of looooong rock slide. About 20 years ago, two tourists made bold by the considerable amount of alcohol they had imbibed, decided to drive up Schnebly Hill in the dark. Not a good decision…
As we wrote, Schnebly Hills is a winding, very steep, and rustic road. (“Rustic” is Chamber of Commerce-speak for “has not been graded since 2005 and has huge lumps in it.”) The only two ways to get up there safely are to either hike the Munds Mountain/Schnebly Hill Trail or take a Jeep tour. Even Pink Jeep Tours puts an extra high lift on the Jeeps to get up this hill!
How Sedona Got Her Big Show Biz Break
He had the clout and he wasn’t afraid to use it.
Who was he? Zane Grey, the famous author of many novels about the rough, rugged, rustic, and romantic American West.
In 1912, he burst upon the American literary scene with his Western novel, Riders of the Purple Sage. No less a literary legend than The New York Times stated that Sedona’s scenery was the protagonist of the novel. (The human characters came in as supporting actors to the Sedona’s abundant natural beauty.)
His next novels soared to the top of the best seller lists. By the early 1920’s, only the Bible and McGuffey’s Readers for young children outsold Zane Grey’ novels—-which is why Hollywood came calling: they were in gold rush of their own to turn his novels into movies.
Dissatisfied with the way Hollywood brought his novels to the silver screen, Grey formed his own movie production company. After a few years, he sold his company to Jesse L. Lasky with this requirement: because Grey believed that Sedona’s scenic beauty was so integral to the story line of his novels, he demanded that the first three movies be filmed in Arizona. Because Grey sold so many novels and his movies did well at the box office, Lasky acquiesced. How unusual was this request? According to 1924 Film Daily Year Book, only a mere 4% of U.S. films were made in a location other than New York and Los Angeles that year.
In 1923, Zane Grey’s novel, Call of the Canyon, was filmed in the West Fork area of Oak Creek Canyon, Sedona.
Even though it was a silent movie, it made a whole lot of noise at the box office.
After the movie’s blockbuster success, a stampede of directors, film crews, and actors descended upon Sedona. In the years 1923-1973, over 70 movies were filmed in Sedona, giving Sedona the well-deserved title of “Little Hollywood.”
Even today, you see a movie, TV show, or commercial being filmed in Sedona.
And that’s how Sedona got her big break into the movies!
More Sunshine Days than Florida??? Where??? Sedona!
Florida might call itself “The Sunshine State” on its license plates but Sedona might beg to differ. On average, the sun brilliantly shines on Sedona more than 300 days each year. Florida comes in with far fewer.
The bonus? We have less humidity!!!! Yeah!!!
Which State Has the Most National Parks and National Monuments?
Arizona, of course!
(You really didn’t think we were going to write about another state, did you? Perish the thought!)
What city is centrally located to most of the national parks and monuments in Arizona?
Where Is the Largest Stand of Ponderosa Pines in the World?
Actually, we are in the southern part of that stand of trees but it still counts!
What Has More Mountainous Countryside than Switzerland?
Sedona and this surrounding area of high mountain meadows!
How Sedona Became an Art Colony
Drawn by the incredible light and the colorful surroundings, artists flocked to Provincetown, Massachusetts. In 1899, Charles Webster Hawthorne opened his Cape Cod School of Art to teach plein air painting. As of 1915, his art school had grown to over 90 students and Provincetown was officially an art colony.
At almost the same time but on the other coast, San Francisco artist, Norman St. Clair left behind the Bay Area fog for Orange County sunshine and started painting in Laguna Beach, California. Attracted by the vibrant colors, seaside landscapes, and lush flora, St. Clair found that Laguna was an impressionist painting brought to life. In 1903, he captured this rainbow of bright colors on his canvas. By blending impressionist techniques with plein air, he was able to incorporate strong color patterns and make the light an important element in each painting. By attracting other artists to this sleepy little seaside town, the Laguna Beach School of Art was born!
Fast forward to the more modern times of 1950’s.
When that pillar of the modern-art world, the great Egyptian-American sculptor, Nassan Gobran, met Max Ernst, the world famous surrealist (and one of the originators of the modern collage), the two collaborated on the dream to make Sedona with its dancing light and resplendent red rocks “a center for the arts” because they believed Sedona could be “an artist’s haven.” By picking the old Jordan apple-packing barn, their dream became a reality on April 28, 1961, when the Sedona Arts Center opened.
(Yes, the pun of “picking the apple…” was intentional.)